You’re not alone! GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) audits are a relatively new phenomenon that have only recently been making headlines. You’ve probably heard that GAP audits can be expensive, overwhelming, and tedious. Luckily, we’re here to help! By breaking down the USDA GAP Audit and the Produce GAPs Harmonized Food Safety Standard Audit and taking the certification process step by step, things don’t seem as overwhelming. Completing a GAP audit can actually be a great investment for many farms, and creating a food safety plan (an integral part of the certification process) tends to make farms more sanitary and organized.
This site was created to help mid and small scale farmers (and farmer advocates) take three important steps:
- Makes sense of the food safety audit and certification programs available to them
- Decide if a GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) Audit is right for their farm
- Navigate and complete the certification process
Although there is not currently legislation that makes food safety audits and certifications mandatory for small farms, many consumers (including some major grocery stores) are now requiring their farmers to complete GAP audits. Additionally, the Food Safety Modernization Act may require farmers to follow a GAPs Program (called the “Produce Rule”) – basically, this would make farms go through many of the same steps as the GAP certification process. For some farmers, getting GAP certified now will prepare them for this new legislation.
Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) are a building block for successful farms, and getting GAP certified can be a great business move for some farms. This site will explain the two main audits and help farmers begin the audit process.
How to Use this Site:
The tabs on the top of this page are arranged in order – we recommend going from left to right. The next page will explain the basics of Good Agricultural Practices, and then you can check out the specifics of the different GAP audits. After that, you may want to take a look at the Costs Page.
Finally, once you have a good basic understanding of GAP audits and Food Safety Certifications (or if you already do), it’s time to start The Certification Process! In this section, you’ll find the basic process your farm will need to go through, broken down into the following twelve steps:
1. Understanding the Audits
2. Deciding if a GAP Audit is Right For You and Within Your Budget
3. Deciding Which Audit (and Audit Sections) You Want to Complete
4. Deciding Which Crops to Get Certified
5. Getting Your Water Tested
6. Deciding Who’s In Charge
7. Creating a Food Safety Plan
8. Implementing Your Food Safety Plan
9. Performing a Mock Audit and Mock Recall
10. Scheduling the Audit
11. Audit Day: What to Expect
12. After the Audit (and Being Prepared for an Unannounced Verification Visit)
This site is a hub of great information, and we hope it will become an invaluable resource for you! Please note that there are other nonprofits and extension agencies that provide amazing food safety information and have great content on their websites. Therefore, we will provide links to these resources when relevant. We believe this will give you direct access to some of the best food safety certification information available online.