- Fruits: apples
- Crop Production: organic fertilizers
- Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, participatory research, technical assistance
- Production Systems: general crop production
- Soil Management: organic matter
- Sustainable Communities: partnerships, sustainability measures
The consolidation of Good Agricultural Practices materials and review with collaborating producers to develop training materials and a manual for organic producers were the main focuses of this project. Additionally a tour of organic-certified and GAP-certified operations allowed for growers to openly discuss issues and observe an inspection in action. GAP presentations developed for this project were also translated into Spanish. Consolidated materials were used to update an NMSU extension GAP website. “Organic Good Agricultural Practices for New Mexico” provides organic growers with a point-by-point evaluation of a USDA GAP audit and gives recommendations to challenges faced by organic producers. Implementation of GAPs depends on the commitment of the producer, and they must find value in GAP-certification, but having appropriate resources and assistance is vital for full implementation of a food safety plan.
Small-acreage (farmers’ market) and organic growers are concerned about food safety issues; however they lack management, time and financial resources to implement food safety programs like Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs). The cost of the certification alone can be very substantial. Small-acreage growers moving their fresh produce through local farmers’ markets are conscience about food safety but need to take the final steps in an established food safety program such as GAPs.
Organic producers can easily apply GAP practices into their operations with some minor modification and management (1). In 2005, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service (NMSU-CES) completed a human pathogen risk assessment of New Mexico crops (2). The major finding of this study is that growers most at risk are small-acreage farmers because of their lack of resources and management. Additionally, only one outbreak when severe illness or death occurs can devastate a business and adversely affect an entire produce sector (3). Food-borne illness outbreaks have been linked to farm-level contamination of California lettuce and spinach, Guatemalan raspberries, Mexican strawberries and cantaloupe (4).
While highly publicized produce-related outbreaks raised consumer awareness of food safety problems, current data demonstrate that the proportion of food-borne illness outbreaks associated with handling of fresh produce is very low (5). However, to ensure a safe food supply, it is imperative that those who handle raw produce at every stage, from the field to the point of consumption, understand and implement safe handling practices to prevent contamination and outbreak of disease (6). Contamination sources and pathways have been identified that exist in a farming operation that could contaminate fresh fruit and vegetable crops (7). Not only are consumers at risk of food-borne illness from contaminated produce, but farm workers can become ill and then become reservoirs of Hepatitis (8) and Salmonella (9).
Since 2001 NMSU-CES has been an active collaborative partner with Cornell University by participating in GAP materials and program development and statewide presentations. NMSU-CES is well equipped to aid small acreage organic growers to fully implement a GAPs program.
1. Suslow, T. 2002. Postharvest Handling For Organic Crops. Publication 7254 University of California ANR Communication Services Website: http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu.
2. Pennock, R.D. and Flores, N.C.,(2006) Report 26: Good Agricultural Practices: What Growers Should Know. Available on the Web at:
www.chiletaskforce.org and cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/taskforce/
3. Presentation Title: Trends in Food Safety from a California Perspective Presenter: Trevor V. Suslow, Extension Research Specialist. University of CA, Dept. of Vegetable Crops. firstname.lastname@example.org
4. GAPs Manual – Rangarajan, A., Bihn, E.A., Pritts, M.P. & Gravani, R.B. (2003). Food Safety Begins on the Farm (A Grower Self Assessment of Food Safety Risks). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Department of Food Science, Department of Horticulture.
5. Analysis of Produce Related Food borne Illness Outbreaks. (2004, April). Watsonville, CA: Alliance for Food and Farming. Retrieved from: http://www.foodandfarming.info/documents/85876_produce_analysis_604.pdf
6. U.S.D.A. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (2001, September 30). Outbreaks associated with fresh produce. Incidence, growth, and survival of pathogens in fresh and fresh-cut produce. In Analysis and Evaluation of Preventive Control Measures for the Control and Reduction/Elimination of Microbial Hazards on Fresh and Fresh-Cut Produce. Retrieved from: www.cfsan.fda.gov/~comm/ift3-4a.html
7. Beuchat, L. R. (1998). Surface decontamination of fruits and vegetables eaten raw: A review. Food Safety Unit, World Health Organization. Retrieved from: www.foodsafetynetwork.ca/food/who-surface-decontam.pdf
8. Fiore, AE. Hepatitis A Transmitted by Food. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2004 ;38:705-15.
9. MMWR Weekly: Human Salmonella Isolates — United States, 1983 December 14, 1984 / 33(49);693-5
Several materials from other universities, state and federal agencies, and private auditing/certifying firms have been consolidated into one GAPs resource manual. This manual will be standardized with National Organic Program for organic practices forming the O-GAPs manual.
*Collaborating organic producers will be trained in current GAPs practices.
*Consolidated O-GAPs manual will also be standardized with the practices of collaborating organic producers.
*Collaborating organic producers implement O-GAPS by first conducting a risk assessment, then follow full implementation for at least one organic crop.
*Collaborating organic producers will pass a NM Department of Agriculture GAP audit during the following growing season.
*Collaborating organic producers will be tested on their knowledge and use of GAP practices before initial GAPs training, and they will evaluate the implementation of this program.
*Results will be demonstrated during an on-site organic producer field day associated with the NMSU-AES Research Center Field Day (Alcalde, NM) and at specialty crop conferences held throughout the state.