Published Jul 22, 2011

Food-Handling Practices Field Day

By Sally Worley

On Sunday, July 10, Jan Libbey and Tim Landgraf hosted a field day at their One Step at a Time Gardens near Kanawha. On this hot day, their mature trees and and a steady breeze made for a pleasant outdoor classroom.

When their farm was a smaller scale, Jan and Tim started out with a simple wash tub setup with screen tables for drying. They needed a place to cool and store products, so they purchased an egg cooler. Tim used the compressor from this cooler to build a walk-in cooler that cools to 50-55 F. 

As the farm grew, they needed a better-suited washing space, so Tim created an open-air washing system. This simple but functional system includes a single drain line that drains far away enough from the washing area to prevent a muddy mess. The hose is a durable roll-flat hose that gets driven on daily and stay in place from spring to fall frost.

The washing stations are made up of food-grade tubs cut in half. Each wash station has a lid to keep out debris. Drying racks are included in the washing system, and the entire system is shaded by a roof. Jan, Tim, and farm employees appreciate the sun protection the roof provides. This roof also provides some relief to the produce being harvested, and keeps out bird droppings.

Jan and Tim next invested in a used walk-in cooler and a new compressor for this cooler. This cooler runs year-round at 32-33 F. This cooler is in a garage that gets pretty warm in the summer. They have added a plastic strip curtain to the garage and plan to add a window air conditioner to help keep the area cool.

Last winter Tim drew up plans for his open-air washing station as part of a Fruit and Vegetable Working Group project. He also drew up plans for an upgraded washing system that is enclosed in a hoop. Plans for both can be found here.

Jan and Tim emphasized that what they do is not just farming, but a food handling business. They look at every item they harvest through the eyes of the buyer and subscribe to the mantra: “When in doubt, throw it out.”

To ensure high quality and safe products, Jan and Tim created a farm food safety plan. They described this plan as “not rocket science, just common sense.” The plan includes farm safety guidelines as well as records, logs, and documentation such as their annual water test. For more information about their farm food safety plan, contact Jan and Tim at

Click here for the handout Jan and Tim created for this field day.

Margaret Smith, representing the Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Working Group, who co-organized the field day with Practical Farmers of Iowa, provided these post-harvest resources for growers to refer to:

Jan and Tim purchased a power washer that more efficiently and effectively cleans their beets, carrots, and radishes. Jan also demonstrated her high-tech hands-free raspberry picker, consisting of a quart-sized container  with a string attached.

After the presentation Jan and Tim led a post-harvest activity for broccoli, chard, basil, parsley, and radishes. Each crop had a crew assigned that follow along to Jan and Tim’s instructions for the project.

The event ended with a dessert potluck. I must say, that is a wonderful way to end a field day.