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American Food & Ag Exporter

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Food Safety And Sustainability Go Hand-in-Hand At Ocean Mist Farms

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, September 6, 2007

Ocean Mist sent over some news:

OCEAN MIST FARMS EXTENDS GREEN INITIATIVE TO STAFFING

Ocean Mist Farms, the leading grower of artichokes and other fresh vegetables, in its ongoing commitment to sustainable agriculture, is creating a new position dedicated to environmental stewardship.

Afreen Malik, currently the manager of food safety, will take on the added responsibility of managing the company’s environmental activities said Joe Pezzini, vice-president of operations.

“Afreen understands the importance of these two functions and is in a unique position to direct our environmental initiatives across the company,” Pezzini said. “As farmers, we understand the importance of caring for the land and the footprint we leave behind.”

Ocean Mist is a leader when it comes to green initiatives.

For example, 90 percent (moving toward 100 percent) of the company’s farmed acreage utilizes drip irrigation to reduce water consumption and fertilizer usage.

The company uses energy efficient lighting in its offices and implements conservation measures in its cooling facilities through lighting, variable speed evaporator fans, electronic forklifts and a cardboard recycling program.

The company has long been a proponent of integrated pest management practices to reduce pesticide use and farms artichokes organically.

“We see a need for this new position because it is important to us and to our customers,” Pezzini said. “We fully realize this will only grow in importance with time.”

Malik has been with Ocean Mist since 2004. As manager of food safety, she has been integrally involved in directing the company’s food safety program from “Farm to Fork” as well as enhancing product traceability and recall protocols.

Prior to joining Ocean Mist, she worked with Frozsun Foods/Sunrise Growers. Malik is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

We suspect this won’t be the last we hear about companies creating positions that combine food safety with sustainability. After all, food safety is, in a sense, a subset of sustainability. How can it be sustainable if your product is dangerous and causes illness or death?

Yet the trend poses some challenges. After all, environmental stewardship often conflicts with food safety. If you have a river running through your farm, the “green” side of things may call for the maintenance of a riparian area encouraging the growth of native species of vegetation and animals.

The food safety perspective is to rip all that out and mow it flat so no nasty animal that might bring a problem onto the field is anywhere near. In fact laying asphalt over the area might be even better.

The key is for the company to define its priorities so that individuals in these types of positions have firm guideposts on how to balance these choices.

It is a big job. Food safety does not seem to be getting easier, and pressures from the perspective of sustainability and social responsibility are increasing. We wish both Malik and Ocean Mist Farms well.

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