We are hoping to host harvest dinners at our farm next year, but I’m having a hard time finding information on what kind of kitchen/food safety considerations are involved. I am assuming we need a commercial kitchen, but I have received mixed information on that. Does anyone know what kind of equipment/infrastructure is required for serving food at a farm?
Whereabouts are you located? Local health requirements differ depending on the region, which sets them. We are in York Region and put in a commercial kitchen this year to do pickles/ preserves and to bottle maple syrup in. We built it into a sea container, York Region allows you to have one in your residence, but as far as I know it has to be separate from your own kitchen. We were definitely overwhelmed starting out but it is actually easier than you think. York Region had a good document "Opening a Food Premise in York Region’ I think it was called. Good place to start and for the most part actually, lists just about everything the health inspector will look at. You can google it or call into York Health Line. Your region probably has a health line to call into talk to health inspectors too.
The way I understand is, if people are on your premises purchasing food, (except for some farm-gate sales exemptions for unprepared farm products), technically you need a health inspection. I would call your local health unit first and chat with them about what you want to do and what your current setup is. They might be able to work with you a bit, offer suggestions to get you up and running as easily as possible.
Here are really the main things we found they cared about in our kitchen, i.e. where the food is prepared ( I think they are considerably more lenient where it is served):
-Surfaces must be non-porous and easily cleanable (laminate counters and vinyl plank floor were fine for us, as well as painted wall)
-Must have a dedicated handwash sink with papertowel & liquid soap)
-must have a 3 compartment sink if using re-usable utensils, 2 compartment if utensils are 1x use
-must follow proper procedures on holding foods at certain temps etc
If you are on a well too, you will likely need a small drinking water system inspection, which requires some form of treatment (UV/ chlorine etc.)
It is a lot to learn but if you have any qustions ask away.
Thanks so much for the info! We are in Peterborough County. I think we will start with contacting our health unit. Thanks again and I’ll reach out if I have any specific questions!
I don’t know if this is what you had in mind, but on our farm when we were doing harvest dinners, I would get a local chef to pick up the produce from the farm that week and they would cater all of it in their own certified kitchen, then would bring it back to the farm to be served on the day of the event. Honestly it was so much better than trying to deal with food safety issues, or even the time it would take for us to do the cooking ourselves! Food for thought!
That’s a great thought, thanks Denis! Perhaps we’ll start with something like this for our first year.
We built one in our barn. Have existing plumbing and space is essential to keep costs down. Ask your local health unit for a copy of the food premises act. In my experience, inspectors hadn’t read it thoroughly and their advice didn’t necessarily reflect the Act. We saved a lot of money and time by being 100% informed. Sold our farm this year. Our new location will have a very small commercial kitchen.