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Prevention is key in produce safety

BERRIEN SPRINGS, MI -- It is essential to be able to identify risks on the farm; especially when growing fresh fruit and vegetables. 
The Berrien Conservation District has added two new programs, the Produce Safety Risk Assessment and On-farm Readiness Review, to help farmers in Berrien, Van Buren, Kalamazoo and Allegan counties assess their risks when growing, handling, harvesting, storing and transporting their fresh produce. 
The Produce Safety Risk Assessment (PSRA) is completed by a Produce Safety Technician and the Farm Operator and is completely confidential, voluntary and free. 
All information will stay on the farm and is to be used for educational purposes for the operation. A PSRA can be requested by any grower; regardless of acres, produce output, income and method of distribution. 
On average, they can help gauge the level of produce safety risks on the farm within a couple hours. The off-season is a great time to take advantage of a risk assessment. 
An assessment can be requested by contacting the conservation district at (269) 471-9111 ext. 3 or by emailing the Produce Safety Technician, Victoria Toney, at
An On-farm Readiness Review (OFRR) is a confidential, free and voluntary program that helps to assess the grower’s readiness for a state inspection. 
If you are a farm that has an annual gross income over $25,000 on a three-year average of fresh produce sales – you may have to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule. The Produce Safety Technician will have updated information regarding mandatory grower trainings and can help conduct an OFRR. 
An OFRR is something the farm can initiate with the Produce Safety Technician or by request by sending an e-mail to For best results, the OFRR’s should take place during harvest of at least one type of produce being grown on the farm. This will ensure an adequate measure is taken on the farm’s readiness. 
Conservation Practices and Produce Safety are complementary to each other; that is why Berrien Conservation District provides these services. In the surrounding counties that do not have coverage – the Produce Safety Technician can be available upon request.