An Examination of the potential impacts of food safety management programs on community farms




Hughes, Kathryn

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On-farm food safety management programs are increasingly a part of business for horticultural and livestock producers. Originally designed for export oriented food manufacturers, they are now promoted to smaller and domestically oriented farms as well. This thesis explores the potential impacts these programs can have on on small scale, ecological and locally oriented "community" farms. The food safety management approach explored involves a HACCP analysis, "Good Agricultural Practices" and an audit-based verification system. The research is based largely on interviews with community farmers on southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Findings indicate that in addition to the (widely acknowledged) financial disadvantages that these programs can present to small scale businesses they can also have significant socio-cultural impacts on community farms specifically. In particular, food safety programs can require farmers to focus on food safety objectives to the exclusion of other priorities. This can compromise their ability to practice ecological methods of food production. Also, the HACCP programs explored impose a commercial-style administrative model onto farms to facilitate a textually enacted demonstration of "safe food production". Such an approach does not account for the social regulatory mechanisms in place in localized markets and could require considerable reorganization for community farms. Finally, HACCP programs redefine the role of farmers such that their authority and autonomy are diminished, and the nature of farm work becomes managerially oriented. The impacts identified suggest that the community agricultural sector merits particular consideration in the development and implementation of food safety policies and programs.



farms, farming, agriculture, Vancouver Island, B.C.