Cleanliness is essential in the farming industry. From grocery stores to manufacturers, a wide variety of companies and industries rely on products from farms. As a result, contamination can endanger employees and consumers further down the supply chain. When dealing with things people will ingest, thorough sanitation becomes an even more significant concern. Farms may be the front lines between disease and a vulnerable population. A contaminated operation can contaminate millions of people, but a sanitized one will protect them. There’s a lot to learn from how farmers clean and sanitize their equipment. Farm sanitation best practices are relevant to any industry looking to improve cleanliness.
General Cleanliness Guidelines
How each farm maintains cleanliness varies, but all should follow general sanitation guidelines. The first step in maintaining a safe environment is knowing what to clean and how often to do so. For farmers, the answer to these questions is relatively straightforward: Clean everything every day. Frequent cleaning applies to employees, too, and not just equipment. Anyone handling dirty machinery is exposed to the same contaminants, so regular handwashing is essential. Other basic hygiene practices, like wearing appropriate protective equipment and taking care around risky materials, also apply.
Farms generally involve a lot of dirt and animal waste. In an environment like that, it’s necessary to clean every piece of equipment after use. With considerable amounts of grime or debris, the cleaning process often follows several steps to ensure complete sanitation. First, farmers need to remove any large pieces of debris either by scraping or knocking it off. Then they use tools like pressure washers to clean the rest of the contaminants before sanitizing. It’s easy to confuse sanitizing with cleaning, and while they’re closely related, they’re separate steps.
Cleaning vs. Sanitizing
It’s tempting to stop after cleaning something, but employees should also sanitize equipment after washing it. These terms may sound like the same thing, but there’s an essential distinction between them. Cleaning is the process of removing dirt and other visible contaminants from an equipment surface. Sanitizing, or disinfecting, refers to treating the newly cleaned surface to kill microorganisms like bacteria. They’re different steps in the process, and farmers can’t afford to skip either one. Sanitizing has to happen after cleaning because unless a surface is clean, disinfectants won’t be effective. If farmers washed equipment without sanitizing it, they could leave harmful microbes on their tools.
Avoiding Microbial Contamination
Farmers need to consider a few different kinds of contamination. The first type is microbial contamination, which involves microscopic organisms like bacteria or viruses. If farmers don’t prevent it, these microbes could get into people’s food and spread disease. Since microbes are invisible to the naked eye, farmers can’t rely on cleaning things when they get dirty. To take care of microorganisms, they have to disinfect all surfaces regularly, and some more than others. High-touch items like power switches and porous materials like fabric are particularly vulnerable to microbial contamination. The key to preventing microbial contamination is thorough disinfecting. Farmers have to use powerful sanitizers, and use them with care, to avoid microbe buildup. The cleanest farms also pay extra attention to high-risk surfaces, sanitizing them more frequently.
Avoiding Chemical Contamination
Running a farm usually includes using a considerable amount of chemicals. From pesticides to equipment lubricants, there are a lot of things that could be dangerous if consumed. Farmers need to take steps to keep these substances out of the food they produce. The best approach is to use food-grade chemicals exclusively. These substances won’t harm people if they get into their food. However, even with these materials, it helps to follow some extra precautions. Checking equipment for leaks helps ensure no lubricants or oils seep out into the soil. Even detergents and sanitizers can be harmful if in food, so keeping them separate is essential. Farmers should clean and sanitize equipment away from any food, so their cleaning chemicals don’t get into anything else.
Avoiding Physical Contamination
Farm equipment itself can contaminate crops if it breaks or leaves behind debris. Physical contaminants like pieces of metal or wood can endanger people if it’s in their food. Apart from presenting an injury hazard, it can decay and taint its surroundings. Avoiding physical contamination mostly involves taking care of equipment. Making sure there are no loose or broken pieces ensures nothing will fall off into the crops. Frequent maintenance and gentle use also help to that end. Many smaller farms rely on used equipment to save money. Some rental services offer thorough 140-point inspections, which ensure farmers get machines that won’t contaminate their products. Going to these reliable vendors will help farmers avoid physical contamination from faulty equipment.
Choosing the Right Cleaners and Sanitizers
Farmers also need to take extra precautions regarding the cleaning materials they use. The difficulty in selecting the proper cleaners and sanitizers lies in balancing efficiency with safety. Some chemicals are excellent at killing microorganisms but may be unsafe to use around food. Bleach is a popular sanitizer, but farmers often dilute it with water to make it less dangerous. On the other side of the spectrum, vinegar is perfectly harmless but isn’t an effective sanitizing agent. Farmers have to choose chemicals and concentrations according to their specific needs. Many farms are certified organic, and to maintain that title, they need to be even more selective. On top of finding a medium between safety and efficiency, they also need to use organic materials.
One of the most crucial takeaways from farm sanitation practices is that cleanliness is an ongoing operation. Even periodic cleaning may be insufficient. To maintain a safe level, employees need to clean high-touch surfaces every day. That’s the bare minimum. Sanitary standards protect the safety of employees, partners and customers, so farms can’t take them lightly. Gaps in a farming operation’s cleaning process can mean medical disaster down the line. By following these best practices, farmers help ensure the safety of countless people who will consume their products.