The Michigan Safe Food Risk Assessment issued its first certification, April 20, to Grossnickle Farms, owned by Allen and Candy Grossnickle of Manistee County. The Grossnickles grow fruits and vegetables with 60% of their products being sold directly to the consumer. The certificate recognizes the completion of the program's educational requirements.
This educational assessment was developed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and Michigan State University (MSU) to assist fruit and vegetable producers understand and document on-farm food safety practices. This joint initiative has enabled the department to meet its priorities for a safe, secure and wholesome food supply, while promoting Michigan agricultural products and preserving farmland.
"Our customers were looking for a certification that our products are grown and handled in a safe environment," says Candy Grossnickle. "We heard about this pilot program from Murray Stall with the Mason-Lake Conservation District and knew this program would work for our operation and provide our customers with reassurance that the products we grow are safe."
"Any west Michigan farmers interested in Michigan's Safe Food Risk Assessment should contact a participating conservation district office," says Allen Krizek, MDARD's Education Coordinator. "The assessment is a voluntary, free, and confidential process targeting small or part-time producers who sell to markets that do not require Good Agricultural Practices audits or other third party auditing programs."
During 2011, Michigan's Safe Food Risk Assessment was piloted with 12 growers in preparation for broader implementation. Technicians in Berrien, Grand Traverse, Mason-Lake, Oceana, Ottawa, and Van Buren conservation districts are prepared to provide second party reviews and technical assistance to farms in west Michigan.
Technicians will work with producers to develop an action plan towards a certificate of completion. The utilization of practices such as worker hand washing; manure handling; water testing; and pesticide application records are reviewed during the assessment. One of the requirements is the completion of an abbreviated food safety plan.
The Safe Food Risk Assessment and additional information on developing a food safety plan or using a GAP template is available at www.michigan.gov/mdard.