Because We Love Our CustomersThis Memorial Day, while others were camping, having bonfires, visiting with family, and attending Veterans services, we were spending our time in service to our customers. It was rainy, cold and windy outside. Too yucky to work outside, so you see, this was the perfect time to make some headway on our new wash/pack facility.
We had a beautiful facility at our old place built with love by Barry, his Uncle Jim and some great help from my nephews but the move has us building again at the new farm. (And just when we thought we were quite through building!)
Our wash/pack facility is very important to us. It is the place where we can ensure the quality and freshness of our product for our customers. It is where our cooler is located so the herbs are properly cooled to seal in freshness and make them last longer once they reach their destinations. It's where we have our sinks to wash and sanitize our tubs and totes so the food inside is safe from bacteria. It's a clean room where we package our product for sale in grocery stores and restaurants and to our share holders - this makes sure the cleanest product comes to your door. All in all, we follow Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to make sure our product is the safest, freshest, and as long lasting as it can be.
As a part of GAP, we make sure our water is tested so it is certified as safe. We track the cooler temperature to make sure things are stored at the proper temperature. We keep logs of how clean the facility is. We make sure items are stored properly, like cleaners away from food and everything up off the floor. We make sure all lights are covered with a 'cage' to prevent glass from entering anywhere near food items in case one gets accidentally broken. We have at least four sinks - one for handwahing, a separate one for washing tubs and totes, one for rinsing and one for sanitizing. We have a large counter for air drying tubs and totes - air drying is cleaner and safer than drying with towels once an item has been sanitized. It's a lot of work, a lot of log keeping - but it's worth it to know that our product is safe and fresh.
We actually started the project a couple weeks ago when we tore out all of the ceiling and walls to get back to bare bones. We then had the electrician come and update all the wiring and ensure it could handle our cooler and our other electrical needs.
By Saturday night we had removed the old leaky window that was causing the water damage on the exterior wall, framed in an opening for a new window to come, made a hole in the other wall for the cooler unit and had all of the insulation installed.
By Sunday night we had put up the vapor barrier, and framed in one wall of the cooler. We also had the air conditioner that we use for the cooler all cleaned up and serviced. Our cooler runs on a system called a CoolBot. More information about this can be found on their website at www.storeitcold.com. I know that we are not following their cooler installation instructions so if you're reading this and trying to learn to build a walk in cooler yourself - don't follow us! We have a special circumstance in that herbs, Basil especially, do not like to be too cold. Our cooler temps are normally a little higher than anyone storing vegetables or other foods. Normally, you would not use bat insulation around a cooler...
By Monday night we had both walls framed in, the doorway is framed in and we made the sure door will fit and open and close properly and we had the ceiling insulated with the rigid insulation. With the temps we keep in our cooler, we needed to have a total R value - the heat retention value of the insulation - to be at least 20. We're over that so we'll be happy once we're done. It sure doesn't look like we did a lot on Monday but let me tell you - cutting and fitting the rigid foam insulation in a tight space over your head - especially with 9 foot ceilings and I'm 5'3" is tough work! We also got our shelving unit put into the cooler - you see, once the door is on, it's too big to fit in so it needed to be fit into the cooler before the door and walls. Now we'll just have to work around it until we're all done.
We're a long way from finishing but its a really good start. We'll need to place the rest of the rigid foam insulation on the cooler walls. We will then fill all seams and gaps with expanding foam and caulk, insulate the back sides of the cooler walls and the rest of the room's walls, put up wall board or sheating, install a window, install the cooling unit, install the plumbing, install the sinks - and a counter for them to sit on, bring over our stainless steel work tables, paint, install the lights, outlets and switches, and let us not forget - reside the outside where the old window came out and maybe a new walk in door so it's cleaner and more airtight. It will be hard work but worth it to know our product is cool, clean and fresh for our customers! We'll give you a tour when we're all done!