Given the amount of time you spend washing vegetables over the course of the season, it’s important that your wash area is designed to help you get the job done quickly and efficiently. This can definitely save your own time as well as potential labor costs, not to mention farm safety and food safety. As part of an overall sanitation regimen, it can help you increase revenue.
Here are five things to keep in mind if you’re designing a new wash area or want to upgrade your existing wash space.
1. Match Your Equipment to Your Crops
To begin with, you need equipment that matches the produce you are washing. Most farmers wash root vegetables (radishes, beets) on a spray table and dunk leafy greens (spinach, arugula) in a tank of water. It’s also important to have a dry table where washed produce can be sorted and packed. Spend some time thinking about the equipment you need to properly wash all of the vegetables you grow.
2. Have Equipment That’s Easy to Clean
The ease of cleaning your equipment is important for food safety and also impacts the efficiency of your harvests. Given that you should be cleaning your wash area before as well as after every harvest, spending just a few unnecessary minutes on each cleaning can add up to lost hours over the course of the season. Stainless steel surfaces are especially easy to clean and tend to make dirty spots visible. Wood, on the other hand, can be especially difficult to clean and can take a long time to dry.
3. Establish a Workflow
Design your wash area so that all produce moves in one direction. This is a great food safety practice that also helps improve the efficiency of your wash operation. The specifics of this workflow design depends on the particulars of your space, but the principles stay the same. Dirty produce should enter on one side of the wash area, while clean produce should exit from another. Additionally, clean produce should never come back into contact with dirty produce or be placed in an area where dirty produce has been stored.
4. Choose the Best Location
If you’re considering building a new wash area, take some time to carefully choose its location. Would your wash area be protected from direct sun so that your beautiful greens don’t wilt while they’re waiting to be washed? Would the area be protected from the wind so that you and your employees can stay warm on a cold fall day? Would it contain adequate lighting so you can see all the dirt on your arugula leaves? Your wash area’s location greatly affects how effectively and efficiently people work in the space.
If you already have a wash area, spend some time thinking about any issues that you or your crew have encountered working there in the past. Many issues can be addressed with relatively cheap solutions that can pay for themselves with increased productivity.
5. Make Food Safety a High Priority
Considering the food safety concerns associated with washing produce, always make sure to follow the best practices you can find regarding wash area design and produce handling. Cornell University’s Produce Safety Alliance is a great resource for food safety information, and your local extension agent should be able to help you resolve any questions.
Improving your farm’s wash area can greatly improve the efficiency of your harvests and save you time throughout the season.