Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Food Safety News: Bridging the GAP: Bringing Big Food Safety Regulations to Small Farms

Bridging the GAP: Bringing Big Food Safety Regulations to Small Farms

Food Safety News, Oct 24, 2011

For large farming operations, food safety audits are commonplace. Most buyers require them before purchasing produce. However, small farms are rarely inspected by auditors, because the cost of implementing a safety plan can be too expensive.

That's where Bridging the GAPs - a program designed to help small and mid-sized growers find a way to meet food safety guidelines - comes in.

Organized by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), the initiative will allow modest-sized operations to reach broader markets such as schools, grocery stores and restaurants, most of which now require Good Agricultural Practices certification.

Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) is a set of protocols approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that farmers can follow to prove they're growing and harvesting in a way that minimizes the risk of crop contamination.

However, because these standards require extra time, equipment and sometimes land, they are often daunting or even prohibitive to small and mid-sized farmers.

At a farm in Bellingham, WA this month, farmers, state and local health officials and community members gathered to begin a dialogue on how to make GAPs easier for modest farms to swallow. The group toured Cedarville Farms, a family-operated, 7-acre organic farm, in order to get a first-hand look at the obstacles that stand between small farms and GAPs certification.