Monday, October 6, 2008

Jake's Farm: Fresh Produce Safety Training

Today, Chris and Missy at Jake's Farm were kind enough to let 22 growers and extension agents "pick apart" their farm in a mock USDA GAP and GHP audit. GAP (good agricultural practices) and GHP (good handling practices) are a hot button issue after the E. coli/spinach outbreak in 2006 and this summer's Salmonella outbreak on peppers from Mexico.

Dr. Keith Baldwin of NCA&T led the audit- a checklist of items that are awarded points. The audit involved aspects of the farm from irrigation water contamination, to wild and domestic animals, to worker hygiene, manure use and traceback of products. Dr. Baldwin stated that as food illness outbreaks are in the mainstream news and consumers become increasingly concerned with the safety of their food, these certifications are eventually going to become a requirement. A timeline has not been set, but Chris said it best when he stated that growers must "lock arms" and work together as the regulations come into play.

Overall, the mock audit was a success and everyone learned a lot. Probably the most important lesson was to document all the steps you take to make your farm and produce safe. Also, check with your produce buyer to see if they have a preference to a 3rd party auditor. On average, audits take 2-3 hours and cost from $200-$300 and are done annually- so make sure that you and your buyer are on the same page.

If you would like more information on GAP and GHP certification, please contact me or visit the National GAPs program website at Cornell. The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project has put together some excellent resources.