Whether you sell at a farmers market or have a full farm store, you will need to provide your customers with a suitable way to cart your fresh veggies home. While some consumers may bring their own bags, you can't depend on this to be the case for everyone. Instead, you will need to provide a safe yet environmentally viable method for packing up produce. The following advice can help you ensure that your produce is safe from the time you pick it until your customer gets it home.
Tip #1: Skip the washing
In most cases, washing in water isn't a good idea unless your operation is big enough to support an industrial produce cleaning operation. Otherwise, opt for dry brushing instead. This simply means that you use a soft brush to remove visible soil and dirt form the surface of the produce. This works well for most items where the excess soil comes off easily, such as on squashes, tomatoes, melons, and other surface grown veggies.
Tip #2: Avoid water contamination
If a vegetable must be washed, then have strict wash station protocols. The station must allow for handwashing before the handling of the vegetables. A metal non-porous rack works well for washing for root vegetables, such as carrots, which are typically the type most likely to need this treatment. A sharp spray of water will rinse off dirt without forcing contaminants into the vegetable. Avoid submersing the vegetables to clean them, since a sink full of water can become little more than a bacteria bath if a contaminant is introduced.
Tip #3: Use actual produce bags
Don't opt for the cheapest bag option from the packaging manufacturer. Produce bags are made specifically to breathe, which prevents ethylene gas from building up in the bag as the vegetables ripen. Too much ethylene results in vegetables that go bad more quickly. The thin, slightly porous produce bags help prevent this. Fortunately, you can buy the bags on rolls and in bulk from a supplier. They can even provide you with roll stands so that dispensing them to your customers is easy.
Tip #4: Offer a recyclable option
The customer base that visits a farm stand or farmers market is likely more conservation minded, so it's well worth it to invest in the recycled produce bags offered by many suppliers. Just don't go so far as to allow direct bag recycling at your farm stand. Direct recycling is when the customers bring back their used bags for other customers to use, which can lead to cross contamination. Instead, you can set up a collection program for the used bags, and then drop them off at a plastics recycler that handles plastic bags.
For more help with solving all of your food packaging needs, talk with a packaging supplier, such as KNF Corporation.