OLATHE — When Dan Brooks and Kelsey Mai were first contacted by Cal Jamerson, a produce safety extension associate with Kansas State University, they didn’t really have food safety on their minds. Dan and Kelsey had just completed their first year operating Roots Revival Farm, a small vegetable farm near Sharon Springs, in western Kansas near the Colorado border

“I honestly wasn’t thinking of (The Food Safety Modernization Act ) because we are so small,” Brooks said.

The farm is not currently required to be in compliance with FSMA, because of its small scale, but Brooks expects sales to rise to the point where they will be required to comply

FSMA was signed into law in 2011 with the focus on preventing foodborne illnesses rather than reacting to them.

Brooks and Mai sell vegetables at farmers markets in Sharon Springs, Goodland, and Colby, Kansas, and also through the High Plains Food Cooperative, an online food co-op that connects local farmers with consumers and wholesale opportunities. High Plains introduced them to Jamerson, who in his role with K-State Research and Extension, was conducting on-farm food safety reviews for produce growers.

Jamerson, who is based in Olathe, reviewed their farm and conducted an Introduction to Produce Safety workshop that other farmers attended as well. As a result, Brooks and Mai made changes to improve their food safety practices.

“I stopped washing my greens,” Brooks said. Previously, they had washed salad greens and spinach in a bin of water and then spun them dry. During the on-farm review, they learned that washing their greens using the same tub of water can spread contamination.

Jamerson suggested that they sell their greens unwashed, if possible, or rinse them over a grate. In this way, water washes through, so that if something is contaminated it does not contaminate the whole bin

They also learned that raw manure should be applied at least 120 days before harvest, so now they spread manure only in the fall, and use compost if necessary during the season

The release of FSMA regulations came at a good time for Roots Revival Farm. “It’s good for us because we’ll be able to get food safety taken care of from the start,” Brooks said. “As we build more infrastructure, I’ll keep produce safety in mind.

Brooks and Mai said they will continue to receive FSMA training from Kansas State University. “We’re lucky in the position we are in, to have so much help starting out,” Brooks said

To keep vegetable and fruit growers in the region up to date on FSMA regulations, K-State is offering FSMA Produce Safety Rule Grower Workshops in several locations in Kansas.

— Feb. 23 – Olathe

— March 9 – Wichita

— March 15 – Colby

Separate workshops focused on training for growers interested in attaining U.S. Department of Agriculture certification in Good Agricultural Practices or GAPs are planned for Feb. 16 in Olathe and March 16 in Colby.

Kansas farmers attending any of these workshops are eligible to receive free water testing, funded by a USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture grant. K-State Research and Extension’s produce safety work is also supported by the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

More information and registration for all workshops is available at www.ksre.k-state.edu/foodsafety/produce or by contacting Jamerson at agri@ksu.edu or 913-307-7394.