For more than four generations, Amish farmers in the Kansas City area have abided by a simple tenet: farm sustainably and care for the earth to preserve their way of life for future generations. Good Natured Family Farms (GNFF), a cooperative of 18 Amish family farms in Missouri, is using GroupGAP, a new USDA audit program, to help them safeguard their future by building strong markets for the high-quality, local foods they produce. In August, the group made USDA history as the first to receive an official USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification through our new GroupGAP program.
Since 2002, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has provided the traditional USDA GAP audit program to the fruit and vegetable industry. GAP is a voluntary program that verifies its participants follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines and industry best practices to minimize risks of food safety hazards when producing, handling, and storing fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops. In 2016, AMS conducted nearly 4,000 traditional GAP audits.
The new GroupGAP option has only been around since 2014, and began as a two-year pilot program. This new style of audit was developed to make food safety certification accessible to all growers—including small and mid-sized producers. The program allows farmers, food hubs, and other organizations to pool their resources and go through certification as a group, rather than individually.
GroupGAP is designed to increase opportunities for the entire industry to supply and buy GAP-certified produce, opening doors for family farms and cooperatives like the GNFF farmers in Kansas City. The program officially became the newest food safety certification option offered by USDA in April 2016. Since then, AMS has conducted 10 GroupGAP audits representing more than 300 operations.
If you own or manage one of America’s more than 186,000 produce farms, or you’re thinking about starting one and want to know more about how to get your farm certified for food safety, learn more about our Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) & Good Handling Practices (GHP) options.