July 24, 2018| Partnerships

Good Agricultural Practices, or GAP, are voluntary audits that verify fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards. As consumer demand for fresh, local food has grown, so have instances of foodborne diseases.

Certification in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) helps ensure that the fresh food that reaches consumers has been grown and prepared safely, and opens up new markets for producers. But for many small farmers, achieving certification is much easier said than done, requiring considerable training, knowledge and resources.

Many commercial markets will not purchase from producers who do not have GAP certification. For small-scale farmers who don’t have the training or resources to navigate the process, this poses a barrier to tapping into new markets and becoming economically viable. Currently, only 16 producers in the state of Maryland are GAP certified.

The Filling in the GAPs program was initiated to support a healthier food system in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Conservation Fund has partnered with FRESHFARM Markets with support from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) to provide GAP training and certification support to help local, small and growing farms enter new distribution markets and sustain economic viability.

Funding for this project was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service through grant 15-FMPPX-VA-0306. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.