GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) 101:
The farm is the first step in the farm-to-consumer farm marketing system. Conventional or organic, the safety of the food system begins with your farm. Understand your responsibility to grow food using GAP and get a basic understanding of what these practices are by viewing the video and checking the list below.
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The produce industry’s best practices include:
- Making sure the farm has well-maintained toilets and hand-washing facilities with potable water & hand soap for hand washing.
- Making sure employees are washing their hands before harvesting and handling produce.
- Using a proactive pest management strategy for rodents, birds, deer, pigs, slugs and snails.
- Keeping animals and their fresh manures away from active fields and orchards.
- Using the right crop protection chemicals, fertilizers and composts according to their labeled (legal) directions, and recording every use. And, educating growers on how to follow the US EPA Worker Protection Standard rules.
- Making sure that produce, and harvest baskets with holes, do not come in contact with the soil or unclean surfaces.
- Using appropriate quality water for irrigation and crop rinse as indicated by a water test from an approved laboratory.
- Making sure the packing shed, food contact packing surfaces, and refrigerators are well maintained and not a potential source of contamination.
- Labeling each sell unit with farmer contact information, “Grown in Hawai`i,” and the appropriate field and harvest information to allow trace-back to a specific field within 2 hours.
Let your customers know that you understand your responsibility to grow food under Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) by getting your farm tuned-up and annually audited by a third-party auditing company. To get a good understanding of what the best practices are, here is a list of the current GAP for different raw agricultural products.
Examples of GAP:
- FDA: Guidance for industry: Guide to minimize microbial food safety hazards for fresh fruits and vegetables (1998, most likely updated in 2011. This is farm, greenhouse, packing house, etc. guidance)
- FDA: Guidance for industry: Guide to minimize microbial food safety hazards of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables (2008) (probably will be updated in 2011)
- FDA: Guidance for industry: letter to firms that grow, harvest, sort, pack, or ship fresh cilantro (March 2011)
- FDA: Guidance for industry: Guide to minimize microbial food safety hazards on leafy greens; draft guidance (July 2009)
- FDA: Guidance for industry: Guide to minimize microbial food safety hazards on melons; draft guidance (July 2009)
- FDA: Guidance for industry: Guide to minimize microbial food safety hazards on tomatoes; draft guidance (July 2009)
- American Mushroom Institute: GAP for mushrooms (2010)
- California Avocado Commission: GAP for avocados (2010)
- California Strawberry Commission: GAP for strawberries (2005)
- Michigan State University: GAP for blueberries (2010)
- New Mexico Chile Task Force: GAP for chiles (1998)
- University of Idaho: GAP for potatoes (2009)
Western Growers Association GAPs
- California Leafy Greens GAP – August 2013
- Green Onions GAP – February 2010
- Tomato GAP – July 2008
- California Melon GAP – November 2013
Proper compliance of practices is crucial for the safety and success of your farm. For more information and educational materials, watch the video below or visit Cornell University’s GAPs and Cornell University’s Produce Safety Alliance.