Preparing small and mid-size growers of fruits and vegetables for on-farm food safety certification

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2009: $162,119.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Dr. Joan Thomson
Penn State University

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Fruits: apples, apricots, berries (other), berries (blueberries), peaches, pears, plums, berries (strawberries)
  • Vegetables: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, cucurbits, greens (leafy), lentils, onions, peas (culinary), rutabagas, sweet corn, tomatoes, brussel sprouts


  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: extension, participatory research, workshop
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    A series of highly publicized multistate outbreaks of food-borne disease over the last five years have been traced to contaminated fresh produce. Follow-up investigations have consistently documented unsanitary field or packinghouse conditions. To assure a safer food supply, commercial buyers of fresh produce are increasingly demanding, as a condition of purchase, that suppliers develop a food safety plan documenting Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and that they submit to a fee-based independent, third-party farm inspection (TPC) as evidence of GAP compliance. This project focuses on growers who sell produce to wholesale markets in Pennsylvania. Grocery store chains who buy from local growers are providing the contact information to target these suppliers. Educational resources and a food safety template, based on the USDA GAPs audit program for produce growers, will focus on how to document GAP compliance through a written plan and steps necessary to attain TPC. Both training and technical assistance will be offered. Leadership. Co-PIs Joan Thomson and Luke LaBorde collaborate to strengthen the economic viability of local food systems, developing educational resources and curricula based on audience assessments. Dr. LaBorde is the primary Pennsylvania contact for on-farm food safety.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Milestones/Performance targets

    Milestone 1: Build communication pathways and increase awareness
    Year 1
    Form a Project Advisory Committee of growers, USDA/PDA auditors, grocers, and extension educators to receive updates on the progress of the project and to obtain feedback on the program. Develop and distribute GAP educational brochures, write articles in newsletters, and deliver presentations at grower meetings and workshops to the 1700 known produce growers who are members of the State Horticulture and Vegetable Growers Associations. PFMA and PDA will be regularly updated about training plans who, in turn, will communicate this information to their grower suppliers.

    Milestone 2: Workshops and educational resources
    Mid-year 1 – Year 2
    Finalize and field test a GAP template plan, based on the USDA audit standards, to help growers systematically organize and document procedures required in the USDA audit which will minimize audit fees by increasing inspection efficiencies. Deliver 12 GAP workshops to a total of 600 growers who have immediate or near-term TPC requirements.

    Milestone 3: Continued technical assistance and research Year 2 –Year 3
    Supplement formal training on USDA GAP requirements and procedures with farm site visits through Penn State Extension. Analyze workshop evaluation data and survey growers on harvesting and packing practices to re-focus our training efforts

    Performance target: 1700 Pennsylvania produce growers will receive GAP educational information. 600 will attend GAP workshops and 300 will write a food safety plan. 150 will submit to and pass a USDA GAP audit.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.