Ten farms and the Iowa Food Hub achieved USDA GAP certification in 2017 through the cooperative efforts of the Iowa GroupGAP Network.
GroupGAP is a USDA farm food safety program that provides the specialty crops industry the opportunity to supply and buy fruits, vegetables, and related products that are certified as being produced using Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).
By allowing farmers, food hubs, and marketing organizations of all sizes to band together and pool resources to achieve USDA GAP certification, GroupGAP is helping more farmers supply fresh, local produce to retail and institutional markets, and providing buyers and consumers alike with more purchasing and product options.
Participating farmers receive access to food safety plan templates, technical assistance, and a collaborative peer network of growers. Wholesale buyers receive verification that local suppliers are certified to USDA food safety standards.
The traditional GAP approach is to audit individual farms. This makes each farm responsible for the full administrative and financial burden of compliance. The GroupGAP approach provides an umbrella of support, with the network, regional partners, and participating producers addressing food safety compliance cooperatively.
Each participating farm received an internal audit and unannounced audit during the production season. In addition, three members underwent an external audit by the USDA.
The following farms were certified through Iowa GroupGAP in eastern Iowa: Luther College Gardens, Decorah; River Root Farm, Decorah; Kymar Acres, Waukon; Nature Haven Farm, Garnavillo; Garden Oasis Farm, Coggon; Buffalo Ridge Orchard, Central City; Organic Greens, Kalona; Aronia LIFE, Keota; Bluebird Farm, Lisbon; and Northern Ridge Berry Farm, Oxford. Iowa Food Hub in West Union also received GAP certification as a distribution center.
The Iowa GroupGAP Network is supported by the following organizations: Iowa Food Hub (group host), Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa Valley RC&D, Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, Wallace Center at Winrock International, USDA Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS).
The network is open to other organizations and farmers interested in participating and contributing to the network’s success. Learn more at www.iowafoodhub.com.