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Food Safety Guidelines Could Alter Sustainable Farm


Alexandrea DaCosta / WUFT News


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Swallowtail Farm is working to cultivate a more sustainable farm through the use of fertilizer made from their own animals’ manure.

However, due to the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act rules by the FDA, the farm’s sustainability approach might be in jeopardy.

The farm, located at 17603 NW 276th Lane in Alachua, has been using this method since its founding in 2o09.

The fact sheets on the proposed FSMA rule explain domesticated and wild animals can possibly cause contamination of the soil, as pathogens may be introduced into fruit and vegetable production systems through animal feces.

The FDA hasn’t confirmed when Swallowtail would need to adhere to the FSMA guidelines, Eckhardt said.

Stewart Watson, a spokesman for the FDA, said the agency is “currently revising portions of the proposed produce safety bill.” He said revisions will be released for public comment later this summer.

Watson said under the new revisions, topics such as water quality standards, standards for using raw manure and compost and certain provisions affecting mixed-use facilities, like are being modified. Exemptions for small farms are also being revised.

Noah Shitama, the founder of Swallowtail, said most farms are specialized in either produce or livestock. He believes the key to farm success is to maintain both.

Jane Nesbit, a partner with the farm, said the farm’s mission of sustainability is important for the community’s existence.

“The animals eat and they leave a lot of manure, so they’re restoring and refurbishing the soil everywhere they’re moved,” she said. “I think they’re definitely helping with the sustainability of the farm.”

Watson said due to some conflicting responses from farmers regarding the original FSMA, the FDA wants to encourage people to be a part of the revision process and comment on the revised language of the proposed act when it is released this summer.

Shitama said for his farmers, it’s about trying to create a balance. To grow vegetables, a farm needs fertility, and fertility comes from the manure animals produce.

The more fertilizer a farm uses from outside resources, the less sustainable that farm is, he said.

“The more things that you can produce on a farm, the less you’re going to need from outside the farm to produce,” Shitama said. “I feel like animals are at the heart of that equation.”

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