Grant Award: $6,000
April and Wesley have constructed a wash, pack and cold storage building to maximize product quality and safety at their new vegetable farm. They carefully designed a building based on research and tours of ten successful packing facilities. This building helps the farm meet Good Agricultural Practices and standards set by the Food Safety Modernization Act.
“A packing facility will dramatically improve product quality, efficiency and safety,” April said. “It will allow us to cool our product immediately after harvest, keep transportation costs to minimum, and maximize product quality while ensuring consumer safety.”
The building also helps them increase sales. “Without a packing facility and cold storage, we can only sell what is harvested daily as opposed to harvesting and storing long-term,” April said.
The 18-foot by 22-foot building has a washing tank, screen drying table, workstation tables and shelving for storing market baskets and boxes. The space is good for hanging garlic and onions and also curing winter squash and sweet potatoes.
April and Wesley have designed the flow of the produce packing system to be in one direction to minimize cross-contamination. The building has ample light to adequately spot defects in produce, with three clear skylight panels and three 6-inch recessed can lights with LED flood lights. One sink is solely used for hand-washing. The cooler unit is refrigerated using CoolBot technology, which turns an insulated space with an air conditioning unit into a cooler.
2016 is the first season that Living Roots Farm is selling produce to the public. The farm has a permit to sell at a stand on-site, and it is also within a 20-mile radius of four different farmer’s markets. April and Wesley have also established relationships with several restaurants.
Both April and Wesley grew up on farms, and Wesley recently owned an organic farm in Ohio. April graduated from the Raw Food Institute and is a certified Raw Food Educator and Health Coach, offering classes on growing, harvesting and preparing a variety of vegetables. Both are graduates of the N.C. Farm School, a Cooperative Extension program that offers business training for farmers. They plan to eventually turn the business into an educational farm that provides opportunity for individuals, particularly children, to learn where their food comes from and establish a healthy relationship with food.