KIMBERTON, Pa. — After many months of preparation, Red Earth Farm became Harmonized GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certified in August 2016. On Jan. 17, the farmers at Red Earth, along with Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture supervisor Brenda Sheaffer, will host an educational event discussing Red Earth’s decision to become certified, what the process entailed, and how certification has changed their farm’s business and practices.
GAP certification will eventually be mandated under the Food Safety Modernization Act for farm businesses of a certain scale; for many farms, however, access to wholesale markets already relies on certification, whether they are at the requisite scale, or not. Harmonized GAP certification incorporates both harvesting practices in the field with post-harvest handling practices into one certification standard. This is a good opportunity for farms potentially interested in GAP certification to talk with a farm that has recently gone through the process, and for agriculture service professionals, as well as industry representatives, to gain a better understanding about this certification, in general.
Many growers, once they decide to pursue GAP certification, can feel overwhelmed at where to begin the process, as well as what they need to do and how to do it.
— Amber D. Vallotton, Horticulture Agent, Virginia Cooperative Extension
During this event, the Red Earth team will detail the process by which their farm came into Harmonized GAP compliance — including the establishment of record-keeping systems, standard operating procedures for harvest and processing of produce, and the development of their processing and packing facilities to requisite levels. A tour of Red Earth’s updated packing-processing facility, as well as discussion regarding Red Earth’s Food Safety plan, will take place. Sheaffer will present on Red Earth’s journey from the certifying agency’s perspective, and will be available to answer questions from the audience about Red Earth’s certification, as well as about the GAP process, in general. Red Earth was Harmonized GAP-certified in August 2016 and has passed multiple audits in the months following.
With the increased national attention on food safety, and buyers’ insurers’ concerns about liability, we expect that more and more buyers will be asking growers about their food safety plans.
— University of Vermont Cooperative Extension
This event will run from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and include lunch. Registration is $15 for PASA members, $20 for non-members. For more information and registration, please see the event title at www.pasafarming.org/events/farm-based-education.
The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture is one of the largest and most active sustainable agriculture organizations in the U.S. Through our SOIL Institute education programs, regional marketing assistance for farmers, advocacy, and public outreach, PASA seeks to promote profitable farms that produce healthy food for all people while respecting the natural environment. PASA’s hallmark event, the Farming for the Future Conference, draws thousands of participants from more than 30 states and six countries each February. For more information, visit pasafarming.org.