Scott Monroe

14 articles by this author

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Managing domestic animals in a direct market venue can be very challenging. While best practice is to exclude domestic animals from production and packing areas, produce may be exposed to domestic animals at the point of sale if selling at a produce auction or farmers market. When selling through a direct market venue, growers should take steps to exclude domestic animals from produce. This may mean appropriate signs discouraging or prohibiting pets or a designated area where buyers may tie-up their pets away from the display area. Service animals present a special case. Service animals are protected by both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Indiana Law. Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog that has been individually trained to perform tasks or do work for the benefit of a person with a disability. The tasks or work the animal does must be directly related to the[Read More…]


Figure 2. Pooling of water.Pooling is the collection of water in a low area of the field as is shown in a low corner of this asparagus planting.

Recent heavy rains across much of the state have resulted in widespread ponding and flooding in fields. This creates multiple considerations for those growing produce for fresh consumption.  Flooding and pooling create food safety challenges because of their potential to introduce contaminants (i.e. risk) into the production system. However, with proper management, many of these risks can be mitigated. Following heavy rains, growers should first determine if water in their fields is the result of pooling or flooding. Pooling is more common than flooding.  Pooled water generally accumulates in lower areas of the field or between rows, especially if raised beds are used. The key distinction between flood water and pooled water is that flood water originates from an uncontrollable source such as a river or creek.  Standing water that originated from a river or creek would still be considered flood water. Pooled water can cause damage to crops, but[Read More…]


I have recently received calls from growers who use surface water to irrigate produce crops. Their concern was that the results of their current water tests were very different from their last tests and that levels of indicator organisms appeared to have increased dramatically. Ponds and lakes that are used for irrigation can be very dynamic. Research has shown that levels of indicator organisms can change dramatically in a very short time. Because surface water is open to the environment and unprotected, changes in temperature and weather can affect ponds and lakes. During the spring and autumn seasons, ponds and lakes undergo inversions, stirring up sediments that have settled on the bottom of the pond. Rainfall can also cause bottom sediments to be stirred up. Bottom sediments may contain any number of materials. Soil particles from runoff are one of the primary components. Decaying bits of plant and animal debris may also be found in bottom[Read More…]


With the 2016 growing season upon us, many produce growers will soon be collecting water samples from irrigation and postharvest water sources for microbiological analysis. Using proper techniques to collect water samples will help to prevent inaccurate testing results. When collecting water samples, one should start with the appropriate collection container. Many laboratories will only test water samples that are received in their containers. Consequently, it is important to select a lab, determine their individual requirements, and obtain the appropriate containers prior to collecting samples. Generally, containers used for water sampling will be large enough to hold at least 100 ml of water. The interior should be sterile and the container should be sealed to prevent contamination. Sampling containers may also contain crystals or tablets when received from the lab. These tablets or crystals are made of sodium thiosulfate and are place in the container to neutralize any chlorine that[Read More…]


In January 2016, Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, otherwise known as the Produce Rule, became law. This rule, as part of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, sets a standard for produce food safety. The water testing component of the produce rule requires growers to regularly test irrigation water. While a previous article dealt with water testing requirements, I’ve received questions as to exactly who is required to test water. As a result, I wanted to review the steps in determining whether or not one is held to the water testing requirement. The first step is to determine if you are covered by the produce rule. An excellent flowchart to help determine coverage may be found at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/UCM472499.pdf. If you’re gross produce sales averaged $25,000 or less in the last three years or you are growing produce for your own personal consumption only, then your farm is[Read More…]


The Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Rule addresses many issues with regard produce food safety. One issue not addressed is the issue of biological soil amendments of animal origin (i.e. manure). When issuing the rule, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chose to leave blank those portions of the rule dealing with the required interval between manure application and harvest of covered crops pending a comprehensive risk assessment by the agency. FDA has initiated its comprehensive risk assessment process by publishing a request for scientific data, information, and comments in the Federal Register on March 4. There will, most likely, be other requests for comments as FDA investigates the issue and incorporates its findings into the produce rule. The entire request, along with instructions for submitting comments, can be found at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/03/04/2016-04712/risk-assessment-of-foodborne-illness-associated-with-pathogens-from-produce-grown-in-fields-amended  


In January 2016, Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, otherwise known as the Produce Rule, became law. This rule, as part of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, sets a standard for produce food safety. Not all growers are covered by the rule. An excellent flowchart to help determine coverage may be found at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/UCM472499.pdf. For those growers who are covered by the rule, there is a training requirement. Growers will have from 2-4 years, depending on farm size (defined by gross sales), to comply with training requirements. The general requirement of the produce rule is that all personnel who handle covered produce (i.e. commodities covered under the rule) or food contact surfaces or are engaged in supervision of those personnel must receive adequate training, appropriate to the person’s duties, upon hiring and at least once annually thereafter.  The rule goes on to say that personnel must[Read More…]


In January 2016, Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, otherwise known as the Produce Rule, became law. This rule, as part of the Food Safety and Modernization Act, sets a standard for produce food safety. Not all growers are covered by the rule. An excellent flowchart to help determine coverage may be found at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/UCM472499.pdf.  Those growers who are covered by the rule will have from 2-4 years, depending on farm size (defined by gross sales), to be in compliance. All growers will then receive an additional 2 years to comply with the water testing component of the rule. The water testing component of the produce rule requires growers to regularly test irrigation water. Growers irrigating with surface water (ponds, lakes, streams, ditches) are required to collect and test 20 samples over a two-year period in order to establish a baseline. Once the baseline is established, 5 samples[Read More…]


In November 2015 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published the final version of Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption, otherwise known as the Produce Rule, in the Federal Register. Sixty days later, in January 2016, the rule became law.  The Produce Rule is one of several new regulations mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was signed into law in January 2011. I have had many growers ask whether or not they are covered by this new rule. FDA has put out an excellent flow chart to help determine coverage.  It can be found online at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/UCM472499.pdf. When determining coverage, there are some key questions that growers should ask: What is the value of my produce sales? Growers whose produce sales have averaged $25,000 or less for the past three years are not covered by this rule. What crops am[Read More…]


​There are certain questions within our culture for which there are simply no good answers. For example, how many times have we heard the classic question, “If a tree falls in a woods and there’s no one to hear it, does it still make a sound?” One question I’ve been asked recently, for which the answer is equally elusive, is “How long must I wait to grow vegetables after applying manure to the field?” With the 2015 season quickly winding down, it will soon be time to start making plans for next year’s crops. Part of those plans will undoubtedly include the question of manure use. While manure is a good source of plant nutrients and organic matter, it may also contain human pathogens that can be transferred onto fresh fruits and vegetables. After manure is applied to a field, the bacterial community in the manure changes as it adapts[Read More…]