Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)
In recent years several types of fresh produce have been implicated in illnesses. Ultimately some of these outbreaks were caused by cross contamination and are the result of how the produce was handled by the end user. Troubling however for the farming community is the fact that some of the outbreaks have been traced back to the farm where the produce commodity was grown. In light of this, consumers are looking more critically at their food source and wanting reassurance that they are being provided with safe fresh fruit and vegetables.
There have been no food illness outbreaks traced back to Kentucky grown produce and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, and producers alike, want to continue this trend. Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) is a set of production guidelines designed to reduce the likelihood of microbial or other contamination of fresh fruits and vegetables. It focuses on utilizing safe techniques and inputs on all levels of the farm to fork food chain. When a farmer utilizes GAP principles in their production it means they are proactively taking steps to reduce the possibility of producing unsafe produce and meat products.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, and the Kentucky Department for Public Health have joined together to ensure that Kentucky producers have the tools and information they need to reduce the risk of contamination from troubling pathogens.
The first part of Kentucky's GAP Training Program is education. A curriculum has been developed that has been given to county Cooperative Extension Agents to present to local producers. During this class producers learn the best practices that will reduce the risk of their product becoming contaminated. Upon completion of this class the farmer receives a certificate issued by the KDA, a GAP Training Certificate. The certificate is a component of the requirements to allow raw product samples at Kentucky Farmers' Markets and Kentucky Farm Bureau Certified Roadside Markets.
The second step is the completion of a self-audit utilizing workbooks received during the GAP training class. This process allows the producer to go over his or her operation step-by-step to identify possible deficiencies in their production practices and make the necessary adjustments to ensure GAPS are being followed. Using the self-audit materials allows for a record of the steps taken which better allows the farmer to address future concerns.
GAP Certification and Third Party Audits
A third level to GAP is Third-Party Audit Certification. Much like the process of organic certification, an inspector visits a farm and walks through the production, harvest and transport system with the producer and verifies that GAP is being used. This level is usually only required for producers selling to large buyers. For producers choosing to seek this certification the Kentucky Department of Agriculture has resources to assist you.
A Kentucky Horticulture Council Third Party GAP Audit Cost-Share Grant is available for 2017. See Third Party GAP Audit Cost-Share Application to the right under Forms & Documents for more information regarding this cost-share grant. The Kentucky Horticulture Council Cost-Share grants are funded through Kentucky Agriculture Development Funds.