Challenges when Training Family on Produce Safety Practices

Can’t work with ‘em can’t work without ‘em.

, Produce Safety Technician

Many of Michigan’s produce farms are family farms. Working with family can be both challenging and rewarding. Working on a family farm, myself, I understand the ups and downs and volatile emotions that come with working on the farm with family.

Training family on produce safety practices can also be a complex task. For farms covered under the FSMA Produce Safety Rule it is required that personnel who handle produce receive training. Personnel includes family members who work on the farm, paid or unpaid. A few things to keep in mind while training family members include the importance of formal and informal training, bridging generational gaps, accessibility leads to success, being a great example, and creating a sense of ownership:

Formal and Informal: While it can feel weird to conduct a formal training with family members, taking the time to do so can be a great way to show just how important produce safety is. A formal training should be followed up with informal training such as consistent reminders on proper produce safety practice and of course retraining when it is noticed that policies are not being followed.

Bridging generational gaps: Generational gaps can also make training family members difficult. Training children on the importance of personal hygiene for example can be very difficult. In this case it may take many reminders on the importance of hand washing and, in many cases, parents will need to keep a close eye on children to make sure produce safety practices are being performed. Another generational gap situation may be “older” farmers who can be set in their ways. It can be uncomfortable be teach those who once taught you and there may be push back from older generations on new policies and procedures.

Accessibility leads to success: Providing family members the right tools to easily perform produce safety practices will make compliance with your standards much easier. For example, provide a hand washing station close to where activities take place so that it is easy to wash hands before handling produce. Providing the right tools for the job will help them help you!

Being a great example: Practicing what you preach will let family members know how important produce safety practices are to you and the farm. If you are training workers on farm produce safety practices but are not performing them yourself, family members won’t feel that they have to either.

Creating a sense of ownership: Empowering family members to be involved in the farming operation and taking ownership and pride in the produce your farm grows and sells, can result in buy in family members buying into important produce safety practices, Having family onboard when it comes to safety will help provide your customers with a high quality, safe product. After all that what it’s all about!

Looking for more resources on training family members or farm workers, or want to get in touch with your local produce safety technician for one on one assistance with produce safety? Head to the Michigan On Farm Produce Safety website at