With rising interests in buying locally-grown foods come food safety expectations from consumers. Good Agricultural Practices, or GAP, certification can be used by fruit and vegetable growers to meet buyer requirements for food safety. "Consumers are now wondering who is producing their food, as well as is if it's being produced in a safe manner," says Dr. Angela Shaw, Assistant Professor of Food Safety at Iowa State University.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is holding GAP workshops this fall for farmers who sell directly to consumers and those considering sales to retail foodservices. "It's an educational opportunity across the line," says Shaw, one of the workshop instructors. "We have all sizes of growers."
Three levels of workshops
The one-day workshops are offered as Level 1: KNOW, Level 2: SHOW, and Level 3: GO. Level 1 is training for growers who provide food to consumers through community–supported agriculture or farmers’ markets, or are considering retail foodservice sales. Training covers good agriculture best practices and market considerations. "It's a basic knowledge of what the hazards are," Shaw says. This includes biological, chemical and physical. "We go through things like soil history, location, water quality, how to handle your fertilizer and manure, wildlife, and most important, thinking about hygiene."
Level 2 workshops guide farmers in the development of a written farm food safety plan. Farmers considering sales to retail foodservices such as grocers, restaurants, hospitals and other institutions, and those interested in adding value to fresh produce and selling products in a convenience form will have the tools to demonstrate GAPs are in place after attending the workshop. Farmers then can offer food safety assurances to buyers. "This is getting the farmer to write down what is the plan of action for their farm for food safety," Shaw explains. "A basic food safety principle is if it's not written down, then it never occurred."~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
Level 3 is intended for farmers interested in GAP certification. Although there is currently no legislation requiring it, certification is required by some foodservice retailers. "With this workshop, we bring in an auditor and we do a farm crawl," Shaw says. "It's an opportunity for growers, if they're going for GAP certified, to ask questions." GAP certification requires an auditing process, and this workshop provides an interactive way to understand the process. "It's an easy way for us to have a whole lot of growers come and be educated by an actual auditor."
ISU Extension and Outreach faculty and specialists instructing the workshops include Angela Shaw, food safety; Paul Domoto, horticulture; Catherine Strohbehn, food safety and local foods systems; and Linda Naeve, value added agriculture. "We really bring our expertise and experience in addition to our basic knowledge," Shaw says. "It's very interactive." The workshops are funded through a grant from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Services Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.
2013 GAP workshop schedule:
Council Bluffs Workshops – Iowa Western Community College, 2700 College Road
*Level 1 – Nov. 12; registration deadline Nov. 5
*Level 2 – Nov. 21; registration deadline Nov. 14
Des Moines Workshops – DMACC Continuing Ed Center at Southridge Mall, 1111 East Army Post Road
*Level 1 – Oct. 8; registration deadline Oct. 1
*Level 2 – Oct. 15; registration deadline Oct. 8
Dubuque Workshops – Dubuque County Extension Office, 14858 W Ridge Lane
*Level 1 – Oct. 3; registration deadline Sept. 26
*Level 2 – Oct. 24; registration deadline Oct. 17
Iowa City Workshops – Johnson County Extension Office, 3109 Old Highway 218 South
*Level 1 – Sept. 24; registration deadline Sept. 17
*Level 2 – Oct. 1; registration deadline Sept. 24
A date has not yet been set for Level 3 workshops, but will likely be announced within the next week. Updates to the schedule are available at the Iowa GAP blog.
The fee is $25 per workshop with discounts for farms and multiple level participation. Attendees will receive a certificate of completion following the program. Registration can be made online. For more information or to book a date, please contact Heather Snyder at 515-294-9020 or email at [email protected].