Volume 8, Week 23, January 25–31, 2015
Our friend Alyse has a dream to operate a commercial kitchen. I felt it would be quite educational for her to work through the permit process with the various regulating agencies. I think it would be educational for everyone to get the benefit of the tuition she’s paid over these past six months, and to better understand what goes into what we do.
We already had a very nice sanitary facility on the farm that was recently approved (about six months prior) by the county, state and feds to process fruit into a dehydrator so she didn’t need to build a new facility, just get an existing one repurposed, should be a cake walk wouldn’t you think?
Well, first task was to get a nice drawing of where all the equipment would be placed in the existing facility. We hired someone who knew all the rules and code and indeed, this was the smoothest part. Only took a few weeks for the county to say: “Sure, go ahead and build it just like that.”
Just like that took a couple months to get built, but by Halloween, with everything in place, she was sure she’d be baking by Thanksgiving; I heard that laugh.
County fire marshal signed off the $25,000 hood over the $1,000 stove. County health was very happy with the facility. The water tested clean, but they wanted to see the permit for the well…from 1988! What Mr. Peterson, you don’t have the permit? I guess you’ll just have to drill another well; unbelievable! Fortunately, I’ve never thrown away a receipt in 40 years, so up in the attic I go, find the 1988 box, find the receipt to the well driller and my were they disappointed at the county to have to use their “approved” stamp.
Next was the state guy who pretty much just looks at what the county did and collects another fee.
With all of this in place, Alyse was off to our organic certifier, CCOF. Each ingredient along with its supplier has to be listed and approved. And each recipe has to be meticulously approved and the label that’s going on the product has to be approved by CCOF. Once that’s done, the entire facility must be physically inspected by CCOF if you want to put the word “organic” on your product. In retrospect, this was as difficult as everything else combined.
Since it takes about a month to get through this process, it behooves a chef to be working about 3 months out, and be thinking of what seasonal produce is coming, what does she want to prepare with it, what ingredients need to go with it, and who will supply those ingredients.
Once all this is done, and you have all of your county, state and organic certificates in place, the state needs to come back out, see the certificates, collect another fee and you’re good to go. This happened last Friday and Alyse did the Snoopy dance. She has three recipes approved and eight more pending. The three should be available before the next newsletter.
This week, I have our CCOF audit and inspection of the farm and packing facility on Tuesday, and we have our food safety audit and inspection on Thursday. In addition, over the course of the year, the trucks get inspected by the CHP. The chickens get a compassion audit to assure we’re being kind to them and I always ask for an OSHA visit just to assure we’re operating safely.
What’s hard to believe is not one of those inspections existed 40 years ago when I started. But we just take it all in stride; it’s what we need to do so you can