A. Kreske, D. Ducharme, C. Gunter, R. McReynolds, & B. Chapman
For small produce farmers, verification of good agricultural practices (GAPs) certification has been raised as a roadblock to entry into institutional markets. Currently there is a plethora of anecdotal information as to the technical and resource barriers associated with GAPs verification but there is a lack of actual data, collected in a structured manner, to confirm or refute concerns.
The objective of this study was to observe current on-farm practices and cost of GAP implementation to better understand barriers, and direct strategies and resources to better enable market access.
Case studies were conducted using a combination of quantitative (costs and time calculations) and qualitative (in-depth interviews and self-diaries) collection methods with small fresh produce farmers (n=12) who were going through the process of attaining USDA GAPs certification. The farms, all less than 30 acres with multiple commodities were selected based on growing method, commodity diversity, labor, harvest seasons, and quantity of land. Preliminary onsite surveys were conducted to compare current practices to USDA GAP guidelines resulting in a risk practice score. The farms participated in monthly onsite interviews discussing on-farm practices, risk reduction strategies, GAPs requirements and economic impact.
Survey results (n=12) demonstrated the lack of policy documentation (0%), traceability program (8%), and worker training (33%). Farmers expressed GAP implementation cost as an issue related to inadequate storage (83%), treatment of irrigation water (75%) and packaging (50%). Barriers identified in this study included interpretation of GAP principles, unclear buyer expectations, and site-specific risk recognition.
This case study was effective in identifying process and cost barriers to GAP certification, providing site-specific consultation, and determining parts of GAP certification not applicable to small farms. Onsite visits facilitated the development of resources to overcome barriers and strategies to mitigate the cost of implementation for small farms attempting GAP certification.