The Inside Job
Initial consultation with the environmental health folks at Carmarthenshire Council helped us set about designing a unit on the farm that was both practical and fit for purpose. Limitations in the available floor area required a creative approach to our interior design. In order to comply with the highest standards required by the environmental health it was necessary to adopt a compact and 'bijou' approach.
With the majority of the exterior works complete, we set about making a start on the internal layout. Early discussions with the environmental health officers highlighted the need to physically separate the raw processing side of our production from the ambient side. Initially, we had considered using time segregation to prevent possible cross-contamination during our production cycle. However, in reality, when the expected increase in production was factored in, it was felt that time segregation alone would not be a viable option. As a result, the internal space was divided into three distinct sections that comprised an office/entrance room, raw processing area and an ambient packaging area. Internal studded walls were erected, first fix electrics and plumbing installed and then the internal plastering was started.
The floors of the existing part of the old building were still pretty rough and needed levelling with cement before the final 3mm of screed could be used to create a super-level floor. I generally love putting my hand to most things, but levelling a floor with cement did seem a little daunting at first. Our local and very experienced plasterer gave me a quick masterclass in the dark art of making things pretty flat, using a bucket of sloppy cement, a trowel and a good eye. After a little reassurance from the plasterer, followed by his speedy exit (it was Saturday afternoon after all), I was left to my own devices. After several hours of frantically mixing the cement (that's Liz) and spreading across the floor by hand (that's me) we'd completed the whole job. Once again, we proved that teamwork makes the back hurt! ('Dream work!')
Once the screed was dry, we applied a couple of coats of epoxy resin paint to seal the surface. The next job on the expanding TO DO list was to fix the hygiene boards to the walls. Hygiene boards gave us a perfectly flat and washable surface that could easily be kept super-clean all the time. Along the edges where the floor meets the walls we used a rubber skirting that simply adhered to the wall and floor, creating a dirt and bug-free barrier that could easily be kept clean... fully mop-able interior throughout!
Over the next few days our farm track took a hammering as an endless chain of delivery vehicles, contractors and tradesmen turned up. We had ordered a walk-in chiller for our raw processing area. The sales person insisted we pay for a site visit before they could commit to processing the order. We opted for a modular system that was relatively cheap and cheerful. However, when the surveyor arrived, he informed us the site was not suitable, as all the heat extracted from the chiller would be expelled into the room that the chiller was sited in. Because the room was fairly small, we were told this would adversely affect the running operation of the walk-in chiller. It was suggested we opt for a different system that would expel the hot air outside the building, and therefore keep the internal temperature of the unit cooler.
It's amazing, when I look back at the amount of stuff that needed to be done to get this unit up to the required standard for the environmental health. All our hard work was finally rewarded when The Baker's Pig received a 5 star Food Hygiene Rating from Carmarthenshire County Council... Hooray!