BF 125: Agriculture Engineering on Small Farms for Post-harvest handling

Training Objective

Planning for Postharvest Facilities: Washing, Packing and Storage
The postharvest handling of produce is a critical farm operation that can impact quality, safety and profitability. This workshop will focus on postharvest infrastructure and equipment as they relate to farms. Fresh produce is alive even after it is harvested and we will explore how that influences best practices in washing, packing and storage.  The session will cover the basics of produce safety as they relate to postharvest handling.  We will discuss how to plan for flow of product, people and water to support efficiency, quality and safety. Building concepts, materials and construction details will be reviewed.  We will discuss wash line equipment options, the various benefits of different designs and their downsides. Cold storage options will be discussed along with a review of ideal long-term storage conditions and how to maintain them. Finally, we’ll cover other tools used in postharvest handling that help tie all of the other topics together.  Time will be left at the end of the workshop or some one-on-one review of plans and farmer-to-farmer sharing of lessons learned.

Topics covered will include:

*         Introduction to post-harvest physiology and produce safety

*         Planning for flow of product, people, and water

*         Infrastructure: Buildings, utilities, design, materials, and construction

*         Equipment: Wash lines, cleaning and sanitizing, coolers

*         Tools: Containers, hoses, cleaning tools, thermostats



Chris Callahan is the Extension Associate Professor of Agricultural Engineering at the University of Vermont. His work focuses on the application of the engineering practice to food systems. Specifically, he is engaged with food producers, processors and distributors to improve efficiency, quality, safety and cost control through integration of technology, systems integration and process controls. Research and educational programming includes protected culture (e.g. greenhouses, high-tunnels), postharvest practices and storage (e.g. food safety, materials, water management, environmental control, drying systems, humidification systems, refrigeration systems), energy use in the food system (e.g. farm-based biofuels, renewable energy systems, energy efficiency measures), and development of specialized harvest and postharvest equipment (e.g. hops harvesting, hops drying, meat curing). He also currently serve as the Director of the Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety (NECAFS), one of four regional centers supporting the training, education and outreach related to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). He maintains a blog with resources related to this work at, and his complete CV is available at