As the “Farm to Table” movement continues to grow, so has Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. To become a CSA farm, there are a number of regulations farmers must follow to keep both their food and CSA operations safe. In honor of National Nutrition Month, we list the top resources farmers can use to ensure their CSA programs are safe and legal.
CSA programs have exploded in recent years – in 1986, there were two CSAs, and now there are more than 4,000 nationwide. And, as Americans become more conscious about where their food comes from, the eruption of CSAs has strengthened communities’ relationships with local farmers, food systems and their economies.
We love CSAs and the positivity they bring to our famers and their surrounding communities. CSA programs build relationships between farmers and nearby residents, increase access to healthy and fresh foods, and the allow CSA members to save time and money when cooking.
But for farms looking to begin CSA programs, there are more safety and legal measures inherent to these programs than meets the eye.
Not only are these programs a hefty workload for farmers to plan and maintain, but safety measures also add a complicated layer onto an already arduous process. From proper storage and record keeping to legal matters, we want to provide Wisconsin farmers with a list of resources to ensure they’re playing by the rules.
Recommended tips and resources to use before you launch a CSA program
1. Write a food safety plan. Famers know that pathogens aren’t specific to large or small food operations. An annual inspection and safety certification is important for every food operation, but it doesn’t necessarily ensure your farm is safe the other 364 days of the year.
That’s why it is essential to have a food safety plan if you run a CSA program in your community. Having a safety protocol means protecting your CSA members as well as your farm’s financial security and reputation if things go awry.
If a food-borne illness erupts in your community, for instance, you want to have organized records on hand to prove you followed the law and that the pathogens were born elsewhere, not on your farm.
That’s why tools like the On-Farm Food Safety Project exist – to help you put together a food safety plan tailored to your farm’s needs. The website is loaded with information about this fantastic resource.
To see a sample food safety plan, click here.
2. Keep visitors and volunteers safe. From the location of the first aid kit to distribution of demanding work, there are a number of safety precautions farmers should keep in mind when inviting volunteers to assist with their CSA programs.
3. Plant properly. Many farmers feel rushed to plant their fields due to factors beyond their control.
But rushing to make decisions and perform tasks can lead to injury. To ensure your farm remains accident-free during this critical time, be careful to match age and ability to each chore, take breaks, and to follow the rest of our spring planting safety tips.
Starting a CSA program is a wonderful way to grow closer to your community, and we’re here to help Wisconsin farmers do so safely and legally. Reach out to your insurance agent with any questions.