July Meeting

West Michigan Growers Group

Thursday, July 7th, potluck at 6pm and tour at 7pm

Pleasant Hill Farm 

5859 124th Ave, Fennville, MI 49408

Pleasant Hill Farm was started in 1976. They grow 40 acres of organic blueberries, as well as strawberries, peaches, and other fruit. They also produce maple syrup, raise some vegetables, and have oxen, milk goats, and chickens. They mainly sell through u-pick, online orders, and frozen berries year-round. Find more details at http://www.pleasanthillblueberryfarm.com/

Please bring a dish to pass for the potluck. These events are family friendly. Feel free to invite other growers.


Notes from WMGG’s May Meeting on Food Safety 

“Dear West Michigan Growers,

Below are some summary points about on-farm food safety that came up in our June 2 discussion at Groundswell Community Farms. Thanks very much to them for hosting!

Best regards,

Ben Werling, Phil Tocco, Mariel Borgman and Garret Ziegler


MSU contacts: Please feel free to contact us with food safety questions!


Group GAP

  • This program helps spread the cost of GAP certification amongst groups of small growers
  • Contact Garret Ziegler if you want to learn more: zieglerg@msu.edu


Hand wash stations

  • It’s key for harvesters and anyone handling harvested produce to wash hands after the bathroom, eating or smoking
  • A simple handwash station should include disposable paper towels, a container with water, a catchment for the water, soap (it need not be antibacterial), and waste receptacle.
  • The water container should have a sign posted on it indicating it’s for handwashing


Wash stations

  • The main thing is that food contact surfaces are cleanable
  • One way to achieve this is to cover wood frames with formica.
  • Plastic and stainless steel are also cleanable
  • A very simple wash setup can consist of washed and sanitized plastic washbasins.


Birds and harvest areas

  • If your wash station is outdoors, consider a simple canopy
  • If it’s enclosed or partially enclosed, try to keep birds from getting into nooks by, e.g., placing strawberry netting over them
  • Strawberry netting hung under a roof in an opening is one cheap way to keep birds from flying into partially enclosed packing areas (e.g., with a roof but one wall)


Keeping harvest containers off non-food contact surfaces

  • Ideally harvest contianers should not touch the ground or floors of truck bed, etc. that are not washed and sanitized regularly
  • In the field, keeping havest containers in a pull cart, on a piece of plywood on the ground, or on top of a smaller container is sufficient
  • In truck beds, clean pallets are one example of a way to keep harvest containers off floors


Washing and sanitizing harvest containers

  • The key is to have a schedule
  • For busy growers, one option is to wash them ahead of each harvest, but only sanitize once a week.  Best practice to wash and sanitize before each use.  Do your best to work toward best practices.
  • Washing = removing dirt (visible filth, ie.If you can see dirt, you’re not done)
  • Sanitizing = killing bacteria with a sanitizer like bleach or Sanidate


Recycling wax produce boxes

  • No problem if you use food-grade plastic liners, which will keep produce out of contact with the box
  • Don’t use household trash bags, which contain antimicrobial compounds that can contaminate produce
  • One example shared by a farm is the use of plastic bun tray covers, available from suppliers like GFS.  Whatever you use, it needs to be food grade.



Using Sanidate as a sanitizer

  • Pros

o   Breakdown products are safe, just carbon dioxide and water

o   Compared to chlorine, it does not lose efficacy in dirty water as fast

o   No rinse required after sanitizing produce, no chlorine smell

o   Safe once diluted


  • Cons

o   Dangerous in concentrated form

o   Don’t store in another container than the one it came from

o   Will etch concrete and remove the galvanized coating of metals, so not good for floors or galvanized surfaces.


  • Tips on safe use
  • Need a face shield, chemical resistant gloves, closed toed shoes, long pants, read label for more
  • Mix in a well ventilated area.  Fumes are not good in an enclosed space.”



Ben Werling, PhD

West Michigan Vegetable Educator

Michigan State University Extension

210 Johnson St.

Hart, MI 49420

Office: 231-873-2129

Juice bar looking for chemical-free produce
Sip Organic Juice Bar is looking for certified organic or chemical-free fruit and vegetables for their shops in Forest Hills/Cascade and East town. Contact Geof Harrington geof@siporganicjuicebar.com for more information.
Need extra volunteers?
Earthkeeper Farm has some wwoofers who would like to see and volunteer on different area farms. If you would like extra help on your farm for the day, please email Rachelle@earthkeeperfarm.com. It would be great if you could provide lunch and a little bit of gas money to the volunteers, but its not required.
Donation request from Sacred Heart Parish and Academy
“I hope you are well! My name is Sam Surrell, I am helping procure items for Sacred Heart Academy’s auction in Grand Rapids this coming September and I am wondering if you would be able to donate to our auction? We are hoping to auction off a few CSA Farm Plots as our families would go crazy for these!
Our Academy is 100% independently funded and these events are essential to raising money for our kids. We believe that teaching our children the virtues of hard work, truth, beauty and goodness will make the world a better place. We strive to instill in them the desire to live these virtues throughout the school day and in the community. We believe in teaching our young people manners, respect, and that you must work hard for what you earn in life.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read this request and thank you for any support you may be able to provide. Your donation is tax deductible and I have attached a receipt form. Please call or email me with any questions!
Thank you very much for your consideration,
Sam Surrell
Sacred Heart Parish and Academy
Ph. (616) 459-0948 | Fax (616) 459-0899
Tax I.D. #38-1366944″

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