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The Daily Dirt

Testing Our Well Water

By Chris Edwards, Mayflor Farms

This blog post was made possible through a grant provided to Global Growers by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

 

While the water rules surrounding the FSMA Produce Safety Rule continue to swirl and change as the FDA attempts to make them less murky, we continue to test our well water at Mayflor Farms.  We test not only because it will soon be required but also to make sure we are providing the best for our customers with clean water. Thankfully, working with Extension makes this an easy test to take.

 

On our farm, we test our 250 ft. deep well for bacteria and metals. We use our well for irrigation, and inside our farm house we use city water. If you are only using city water, you can go on your municipality’s website and download their publicly available water report. Other farms may test surface water like lakes, ponds, or rivers.  According to the University of Georgia (UGA), “Ponds and streams should be sub-sampled at various depths and positions across the body of water. Sub-samples should then be combined to create one sample.” Thankfully, working with Extension makes water testing easy.

 

First, find your extension office through the UGA website or give them a call at 1-800-ASK-UGA1. Once you know where your office is, you can swing by and request a water test kit for free.  Your agent will be able to explain to you how to properly take the test.  

Once you’ve arrived back at your farm with your water test, there a few steps you should take to ensure a good sample. As always when thinking about food safety on the farm, you should wash your hands! Then, follow these sampling tips and instructions below courtesy of UGA for testing your irrigation water total coliform and escherichia coli in crop protection and irrigation water.

 

  1. Samples are accepted for analysis on Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you need a next day shipping label from us, please add an extra $10 to the actual fee of $36 required for the laboratory test.  NO SAMPLES ARE ACCEPTED ON FRIDAYS. Please make checks out to UGA-FEW Lab.  Payment is due upon receipt of sample unless prior arrangements are made.
  2. Samples must be accepted for analysis within 24 hours of the collection time.  Therefore, collect and ship samples on the same day.  If using overnight shipping, please collect and send samples on Monday through Wednesday only.
  3. Provide the information requested on the opposite side of the form. (Form available at extension office)
  4. Select the appropriate sampling area needed to obtain a representative sample of the crop protection or irrigation water.  For either irrigation or crop protection water from either a well or surface source, collect the sample at the point of use, just prior to application in the case of irrigation or in the case of crop protection water, just prior to filling the spray tank.  If you need help selecting a sampling location, contact your county extension agent or GAP auditor.
  5. Fill the bottle completely, leaving only a small air space.
  6. The white substance in the bottle is a dechlorinating agent.  Please do not rinse the bottle.
  7. Place sample in the same box, seal sample box, affix UPS shipping label and call UPS at 1-800-742-5877 to determine your local pick-up/drop off place and time for “Next Day Air” packages.  Or hand deliver to the Ag Services Lab, 2300 College Station Rd, Athens.”

 

Some agents will let you bring the sample to their office and they’ll mail it off for you. Remember, bacterial samples have a time sensitivity to them and must be mailed within 24 hours so the labs can actually identify the bacteria.

 

Conducting a water test may seem scary, but it’s an easy task that gives you and your customers the confidence that you are providing safe produce. If you have more questions about food safety on the farm, reach out to Farmer Services Director, Michael Wall, at michael@georgiaorganics.org.

 

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