Farms (of any size)

Farms are the first steps in the farm-to-fork continuum. Conventional or organic, the safety of the US food system begins with your farm! Consumers want to know you! USDA has a “Know your farmer” push going on. Let your customers know that you understand your responsibility to grow food under Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) by getting your farm tuned-up and annually audited by a third-party auditing company.

Examples of Good Agricultural Practices

To get a good understanding of what are best practices, here is a list of the current GAPs for different raw agricultural products.

Western Growers Association GAPs

Canada’s GAPs

Getting started on your farm tune-up

Transforming your farming operation to the highest standard takes work, but you will enjoy what you have achieved once you are done.

  1. First, know that you will get through this and your farm and business will be better for it!
  2. Next, give us a call and we will set up an 1.5 hour appointment to walk through your farm and give you a specific “to do” list. See our education team contact information here.
  3. We will be using our “blue sheet” checklist, so download it yourself to get a head start on the process.

Getting your chemical shed and records in order

The off-label misuse of a chemical is one of the things that can cause an “automatic failure” on a GAPs audit. It can also be a violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) of 1947.  Therefore, it is important to get your chemical shed cleaned up. Chemical storage cabinet/shed must be:

  • self-contained and used only for chemicals
  • ventilated
  • locked
  • labeled (we’ll give you the sign!)
  • inventoried
  • organized: dry chemicals above liquids, and all chemicals arranged by type (insecticide, herbicide, fungicide, etc.)
  • Do not ever leave containers in the field, whether full, partially full, or empty.
  • Dispose of chemicals and containers as per label instructions.

It is also important that your workers have Worker Protection Standard training for an audit.  More information on this and proper pesticide use, can be found here.

Getting your farm GAPs manual done

Whatever auditing company you use, you will need a GAPs manual that is tailored specifically to your farm. For convenience and cost (it’s free), we use the manual generator.  Here’s how to get the manual done in about 10-15 minutes.

  1. Log-on to the site here.  Select your audit type from the menu to begin.

Getting your water sources tested

Farm water, if it is not “city water” can contain pathogens in it.  Under certain circumstances, these pathogens can adhere to the outside of a raw agricultural product or in very rare instances, be taken up inside the plant. For a GAPs audit, you will need to have your water tested for E. coli per 100 ml.  Here is the Hawaii Department of Health’s list of certified laboratories.  If you find a lab you like, make sure they do the required tests and check on the costs.

Getting your trace-back system in place

Product tracing is the ability to capture and record vital information at every step in the food supply chain in order to track ingredients and products back to the point of harvest/production and forward to the point of sale/service. Product tracing provides a documented history of food ingredients and products and allows tracing and verification in the event of a foodborne illness or animal disease outbreak to determine the origination and destination of ingredients and products. Here is a simple version of the idea of trace-back to get you familiarized with the idea.

Preparing for your first audit

Once you have all the large pieces in place – manual, SOPs, logs, clean farm – we will conduct a “mock” or pretend audit of your operation to see where you are.  We will run the mock audit like a real audit so you will get a feel of how the auditor will work with you.

Preparing for your next audit

Congratulations, you have been running a year or more under Good Agricultural Practices! Now, you just need to verify if there have been any changes. Use this checklist to confirm that you are on the right path.