Knowing Your Roots

Archive for July, 2014

Farm Perspectives – Produce Traceability Initiative

 

Many years ago there was a connection between the consumer and the farmer and that connection created a level of trust.  Before the days of large national retailers local produce was a way of life and it was likely that you knew the farmer that grew the food that was being sold at your corner grocery store.  If you didn’t know him, you knew of him and where he was from.

As retailers grew, so did farms.  Instead of selling produce locally the geography of markets expanded, national chains developed distribution centers and produce was shipped further and further away from where it was grown.  This expansion created a disconnect between the producer and the consumer despite the fact that the produce was just as healthy and just as good for you.

Traceability - Bushmans Inc BlogThe Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) is designed to do many things, but one of the most important is to help foster that connection between where the food is grown and the consumer.  By being able to trace food back to its place of birth a consumer has a much higher comfort level with that produce and in the consumer’s mind creates that connection back to the land, which is something we should support and embrace as producers.

Of course there are other practical reasons to embrace PTI, the least of which is quickly becoming mandatory when doing business with larger retailers. Being able to trace produce back to the field level is no longer a luxury.  It is quickly becoming a requirement to participate in the marketplace.  Growers who resist implementing PTI will ultimately find themselves on the outside looking in and will ultimately have difficulty finding outlets for their product.    (more…)

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Behind the Scenes: Potato Late Blight, There’s Blight on the Wisconsin Landscape!

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Late blight caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s and 1850s.

This disease and its related problems caused massive hunger, starvation and poverty, resulting in mass emigration from the region.  This disease is still a concern today.

The fungus which caused the Irish potato famine is still active today.  It was identified in Portage County just last week.  It can cause serious problems for potato, tomato, eggplants and other solanaceous crops today.  Phytophthora infestans (“infests”) is the cause of potato late blight.  It is a fast moving, community disease that growers, home gardeners and garden center managers must take seriously and properly manage to ensure a healthy, adequate food supply.

There are many concerns for Wisconsin vegetable growers every year whether farmer or home gardener.  Weather, growth problems, pests, water, market demand—but one pest problem, foliar or leaf blight, is especially challenging.  This can commonly attack tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and cucumbers.  These diseases cause perfectly healthy appearing green plants to break out in brown spots, turn yellow and die prematurely.  Many home gardeners run to their local garden center for a remedy.  But by the time leaves begin to yellow and the brown spots appear the disease may have progressed to a point where there is no stopping it.

On the farm, vegetable growers face the same threat from foliar blights every year.  Potato and vegetable growers in Wisconsin have worked closely with University of Wisconsin researchers for decades, to understand the science behind that makes these blights tick.  Through research, we have developed and implemented innovative disease management strategies to both avoid and combat plant disease problems.    (more…)

From Field to Fork: We all have a stake in a healthy food supply

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Today’s consumers desire to understand the health and nutritional benefits of the produce they buy. That’s why the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), an industry-wide effort aimed at creating a quick and efficient traceability process by electronically tracking produce from the farm fields to supermarket shelves, is vital.

The purpose of PTI is to protect overall consumer health and safety ― an initiative that we at Alsum Farms & Produce, Inc., are involved in and committed to as a Wisconsin potato farmer. The traceability system provides Alsum and other grower’s quick visibility from the packed product back to the farm and field through a lot numbering system to ensure a healthy and nutritious Wisconsin potato.

“As a Wisconsin potato and vegetable grower, we are embracing the new initiative and putting the technologies in place to provide consumers more knowledge and confidence in their potato offerings at the supermarket,” says Larry Alsum, President & CEO of Alsum Farms & Produce. “Alsum Farms & Produce became PTI compliant on December 1, 2013.”

The initiative utilizes GS1 system standards to standardize product information, case level tracking, and electronic recordkeeping to provide traceability from farm to store. The use of standards across the produce industry enhances the ability to narrow the impact of potential recalls or similar issues, protecting both consumers and supply chain members.

The good news is potatoes are rarely consumed raw and as a result, have been classified in the low-risk food-safety category. Yet, consumer health, safety, trust, satisfaction, and loyalty are necessary and important for every supplier to be proactive.

Like Alsum, Wisconsin potato growers, packers and shippers recognize this importance and have taken the Produce Traceability Initiative a step further. With the coordination and assistance of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA), the Wisconsin potato industry has conducted education and training sessions to create a common understanding, utilizing a consistent software program and resources to share co-packer product information. This approach has allowed Wisconsin growers, packers and shippers to implement a standardize traceability process and best practices to meet the growing demand for value-added produce.

Consumer’s interest to connect with the farmer and understand today’s farming practices is growing. The Produce Traceability Initiative provides infrastructure, transparency and allows the industry to help provide consumers accurate information about the many health benefits of produce, the advances in technology and sound practices used in bringing wholesome produce to the market.

Behind the Scenes: Working together to protect our water—The Little Plover River

Blog 29Harvesting the bounty of the Central Sands is already underway –peas and snap beans are on the way to consumer’s plates and sweet corn, potatoes and carrots are just around the corner.  As we watch and enjoy this remarkable productivity unfold, it is a good time to reflect on what makes it all possible. The Central Sands themselves and the underlying aquifer of groundwater laid down by glaciers 25,000 years ago and constantly recharged by rainfall, snowmelt / runoff are the corner stones in the foundation. Maintaining the delicate balance between the water resource and the needs of everyone who uses and depends on it is an ongoing challenge that we all must be a part of so future generations will enjoy the benefits of this unique area.
One particular area of focus is the Little Plover River watershed in northern Portage County. The Little Plover is a trout stream and an important drainage outlet that meanders its way westward from its headwaters east of the ancient Johnstown glacial moraine through wetlands, woods, farmland, and the homes, parks, businesses, and industries of the bustling Village of Plover to its confluence at the Wisconsin River south of Stevens Point. In recent years, the Little Plover has experienced highs and lows, which have ranged from flooding and ruined basements in some years to reduced flows in others. Although the little stream has persevered through it all and remains a great place to fish and enjoy the outdoors, everyone who lives in the watershed is concerned about its future and is working to secure it.   (more…)

Farm Perspectives – Produce Traceability for Beginners

Grower Blog 1 - 7 1 2014

When people refer to the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), they are talking about the guidelines set for all produce companies to achieve case-level electronic traceability for their fresh produce. Case-level electronic traceability means an individual case of produce can be traced back to its packaging location, grower and more just by scanning a barcode. The seven guidelines in the PTI ensure that all companies, including growers, packagers and retailers, are speaking the same language when it comes to tracing produce. The barcodes placed on cases now all contain the same information, such as packaging date, lot number and other pertinent information. RPE became PTI compliant on Jan. 1, 2014.

The main purpose of produce traceability is to protect consumer health and safety. Although potatoes have never had a large-scale recall and are a low-risk produce item as they are cooked before consumption, it is important to be prepared.

Although manual recall systems may work well for a company with a basic product, for a produce company that is sending potatoes from one lot to 15 customers in 27 different packages, a manual recall simply isn’t fast enough. That’s when software like the barcodes implemented by the PTI is necessary to effectively execute a recall, especially when a company has only a two-hour window to do so.   (more…)

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