Food safety regulations get tighter
You can still buy watermelon and cantaloupe at roadside stands throughout southern Indiana. But if you’re the grower and you want to market your produce wholesale, it’s no longer business as usual. Staying in business today means investing in a packaging facility that meets strict food safety codes.
Joe Mouzin and his son, Mike, Vincennes, raise 80 acres of melons. They sell wholesale through a broker. “It’s basically come to: Get bigger or get out in the wholesale business,” Joe says.
• Wholesale melon business goes to bigger scale in southern Indiana.
• Mouzins built a building dedicated just to washing, packing and shipping melons.
• Regulations require large specialty producers to go big or get out.
That’s primarily because most brokers only want to deal with producers who have a federal certificate. To get it, they must complete several steps, including washing and packing in an approved facility.
The Mouzins built a 100-by-60-foot facility to meet requirements. While it looks like a toolshed and it’s only used during melon harvest, it’s dedicated to melons and only melons.
“Requirements are strict,” Mike explains. “We use netting to keep birds out, and we have a rodent protection program. The emphasis is on keeping everything clean.”
So clean, in fact, that there are even requirements for grease they must use in their forklifts. “We can only use white food-grade grease,” Mike observes.
“It was either go this route or lose out,” Mike concludes. “We elected to put up the building and comply with the rules so we could still sell wholesale melons.”
This article published in the April, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.