On large, commercial vegetable farms the harvest crew has the responsibly to pick, pack and bring in the product from the field. Employees are trained in food safety so they understand handwashing and sanitary handling. Harvesting is the only activity they do. The crew does not weed, trellis, cull or prune while harvesting. Harvesting is its own activity.
On Iowa’s smaller produce farms, the harvest crew may be a handful of people – or only one or two people on the really small farms. But the concept of the “harvest crew” should still apply. Harvesting is its own activity.
For best food safety management, the harvesting activities need to be the primary focus of the field worker during that time. Hands and equipment are washed, and product is collected and moved to the packing area or cold storage quickly. Distractions should be avoided.
Conduct a pre-harvest walk-through (assessment) to look for wildlife damage and create a plan for harvest. The assessment can also help you identify other items to add to the to-do list after harvesting – fixing the fence, weeding the cucumbers, staking the tomatoes. Leave your phone in the packing area to help you focus on the task at hand (and motivate you to finish quickly). Once the harvest is complete and the food is transferred to the holding facility, your attention can shift to the other tasks for the day.