The natural foods industry is currently moving toward voluntary compliance with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). GAP is a set of food safety guidelines and standards issued by the FDA and USDA designed to improve food safety practices on farms. GAP is similar to Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) programs required of food processors. These standards create another challenge for many small organic producers to meet when marketing their produce. Maintaining high organic standards, good sanitary conditions and the ability to verify these criteria without going bankrupt will be a major challenge for many growers. But, food safety and sustainable agriculture techniques are very closely linked; healthy and safe food comes from healthy soil and safe post-harvest techniques.
The purpose of this project was to demonstrate how organic methodology is safe and free from contaminants, both in the field and post-harvest. How that safety and integrity is preserved was also demonstrated from soil maintenance to harvest, handling, storage and transport. GAP will be designed to meet the new USDA organic regulations and the sanitation practices recommended by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health services for soil improvement, harvesting, cleaning, storage and transport. These documents can serve as models for other growers who wish to incorporate GAP in their farm’s certification.
In her extensive soil and plant trials, the producer found no evidence of E. coli 0157:H7, the one that is of concern for human health. Through her sound and careful management practices, which included the composting of manure, she was able to provide fresh produce for her customers.