As the consumer demand for locally grown fruit and vegetables increases, so does the expectation that all farms will follow agricultural best practices. Education and outreach efforts are critical to ensure that growers are fully equipped with knowledge of how to operate a farm under good agricultural and management practices.
Increasingly, producers are recognizing that to remain profitable, they need to expand their business to include more value added products and marketing venues. With these business expansions, education in business management, food regulations, good agricultural best practices, and traceability are critical.
The Produce Safety Alliance Grower trainings contain the most current information on the FSMA Produce Safety Rule and Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). This training is recommended for anyone interested in a GAP audit for their farm.
Some produce buyers may ask farms for assurances that safe food handling practices were followed on the farm and during delivery. Growers can provide documentation of food safety assurances through a buyer’s onsite review of their farm, a certificate of attendance at a food safety training, a self-audit, or with documentation of a third-party audit.
The self-audit allows you to assess the Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) in use in your business. The objective of a self-audit is to identify, review, confirm or document food safety procedures and practices. Self-audit checklists contain questions that will be asked during the on-site audit and is an excellent pre-audit tool for growers, packers, processors and distributors. The Checklist for Retail Purchasing of Local Fresh Produce is one tool that can be used for a self-audit.
Food Safety Plans
Developing, implementing and auditing a food safety plan are an essential step in obtaining GAP certification. The Iowa Produce Safety team has created a toolkit with templates and logs to help farmers create a Harmonized GAP (HGAP) food safety plan.
The Harmonized GAP standard has been aligned to the FSMA Produce Safety Rule. HGAP audits are an additional tool that farmers can use to demonstrate to buyers that they are implementing the requirements set forth in the Produce Safety Rule. While the HGAP audits are not a substitute for FDA or state regulatory inspections, the alignment helps farmers by allowing them to assess how ready they are to comply with the rule. The alignment also streamlines complex regulatory requirements for the specialty crops sector and facilitates market access for the specialty crops industry.
Here are two videos to explain more.
Introduction to the Harmonized GAP Standard
Writing a Food Safety Plan for Harmonized GAP Audit
With the increasing focus on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) to verify that farms are producing fruits and vegetables in the safest manner possible, third-party audits are being utilized by the retail and food service industry to verify their suppliers are in conformance to specific agricultural best practices. Third-party auditor companies and government agencies provide audits for GAPs certification.
There are several companies that provide third-party audits for Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) certification in Iowa. Visit their sites and contact them for information on setting up an audit. (This list is not all-inclusive).
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- Quality Fresh, LLC - Scot Bowman, 330-575-9401
The Iowa Produce Safety Team is available to answer questions about GAP audits and assist farms with their plans. Contact Teresa Wiemerslage for more information at 563-794-0599.