The farm had its external food safety audit yesterday.
“We don’t hear officially for a week or so, but I know we did pass,” said Tracy Pa, Richard’s daughter, who – among other responsibilities – handles the farm’s food safety certification process.
I asked her how she knows.
“Because the auditor couldn’t believe how clean our place was,” she said, “and how orderly the records are.”
There are two different audits – one for the farm, and another for the packing house. “It’s all about worker protection, safety and cleanliness,” said Tracy.
For the farm audit, she said, you even have to show documentation about what the land was used for before you got there.
“Everything has to be documented,” she said. “We are on land that was previously sugar cane land for 90-100 years.
“There’s a cleaning schedule for when to clean your harvest bins, you have to sanitize your knives every day before you use them, we wear disposable gloves when we’re working, and they’re discarded once they touch some surface other than the food itself. They take water samples and test the water quality.”
“These days pretty much everyone requires it,” she said, “like Costco requires it to sell anything to then, and more and more supermarkets, too.”
But back when the farm first received “Food Safety Certification,” in 2003, it was not the norm. “We were ahead of the game,” she said. “It was very unusual then, and everyone looked at us as if we were crazy because we were spending a few thousand every year to get audited. And it’s a lot of paperwork on top of whatever else we’re doing.”
It was primarily as protection for their workers that they started pursuing Food Safety Certification, which they received every year.
These days, “the employees are proud when we pass,” she said. “When it’s over and you tell them we did a good job, they give a sigh of relief.”