GroupGAP: USDA's New Cooperative Approach to Farmer Food Safety Certification
The stories of some of GroupGAP's trailblazers.
GroupGAP is a new service (available Spring 2016) from USDA to audit farmers to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). Small farmers are feeling the pressure to get third-party certified as more buyers are requiring GAP certification, and as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) puts them under new regulatory oversight.
In GroupGAP, a food hub, support organization, or central business entity collaborates with producers to establish site-specific best practices for complying with a food safety standard. The group develops and implements a quality management system (QMS) built to an international standard that can be measured, analyzed, reviewed, and continually improved.
We present the experience of a few of the trailblazers - Groups who have already received GroupGAP certification. Why did they seek this certification? How much did it cost? Will they keep up their certification next year? What supports are available? What makes group a good candidate for GroupGAP? What were challenges and successes?
Answers to these questions and more!
Phil Britton worked for 6 years in quality systems in the medical device industry, and currently works for Cherry Capital Foods implementing a collective food safety system called GroupGAP. Phil was involved in the 2014 implementation pilot of GroupGAP by the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange, and provides similar assistance to other groups across the country. Phil, a yooper, lives with his family in Marquette, MI.
Donna is Assistant Chief of the Audit Services Branch, and has been intricately involved in the development of the USDA GroupGAP Certification Program. Donna has worked with the processed and fresh fruit and vegetable industry in her role as a USDA agricultural commodity grader and marketing specialist since 1989. She has extensive experience in the application, development, and auditing of quality systems.
She is a professional member of the American Society for Quality and the Institute of Food Technologists, and is a Certified Quality Auditor.
Donna holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Florida College of Agriculture.
Lindsay Gilmour is the owner of Organic Planet LLC and currently plays two roles professionally; as a personal chef, and as a consultant, educator and advocate for regional food systems. Lindsay has over 35 years’ experience in the food industry and 11 years in Value Chain Coordination. She was co-manager of the USDA Group GAP Pilot Project for Fair Food in Philadelphia, successfully shepherding 110 small-scale farmers in 2 grower cooperatives through USDA Group GAP certification. She continues to provide food safety support and education for individual farmers and orchardists and is co-managing a project for the Wallace Center working with a Mississippi farming cooperative to develop their food safety program. Previously she worked on farmer outreach and product development for Common Market Philadelphia, seeking out new suppliers and products, and working with farmers to develop their farm food safety programs. And for Fair Food, Lindsay managed a Farm to Institution Program, and developed and taught an educational series for farmers on selling to the wholesale marketplace. Lindsay is trained in Produce GAPs Harmonized Food Safety Standards. She is qualified as a USDA internal auditor for the Harmonized Standards, is a trained internal inspector for ISO 9001 quality management systems for agricultural enterprises, and has experience developing successful quality management systems for Group GAP.
Garland Robertson is a grants management specialist with USDA Agricultural Marketing Service where he is responsible for monitoring Specialty Crop Block Grants administered to States. He has held this positions for 2 years. Prior to joining AMS, he was employed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) where he worked as an Education Program Specialist for 7 years. While at NIFA, he served as lead program specialist for the 1890 Land Grant Colleges and Universities Capacity portfolio (1890 Facilities, Capacity Building, 1890 Extension and Evan-Allen grant programs) totaling $120M in FY2014. Preceding his employment at NIFA, he served as a Soil Scientist with Natural Resources Conservation Service for 4 years. A native of Louisiana, Garland received a Bachelor’s degree in Plant Science from Southern University. He continued his education by obtaining a Master’s Degree in Soil Science from Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, Alabama.
Jeffrey Stoltzfus has been working as an Extension Educator with farmers for the past 29 years. The first six years were spent with Penn State Cooperative Extension in soil nutrient management and water quality projects. The past 23 years have been with the Eastern Lancaster County School District as an Adult Agriculture Educator covering the area of vegetable and crop production and marketing. It is in this role that he worked with Fair Food and the Wallace Center to pilot the GroupGAP food safety system. Jeff is transitioning into a new position with Penn State Cooperative Extension as a food safety educator based in Lancaster County. He lives on the small farm he grew up on, raising pumpkins and beef cattle with his wife and two daughters.
Allison Walent, Certification Programs Manager Emeritus at Organic Valley, got involved with the Food Safety Program development at CROPP after she was recognized for her ability to build programs and develop people. At Organic Valley she collaborated with her colleagues to build the Quality Management System; which governs the on-farm Food Safety Program. In Allison’s free time, you may find her experimenting in her own garden or exploring the beautiful rolling hills of the Kickapoo Valley in SW Wisconsin.
Steve Warshawer, with his wife and family, operates Mesa Top Farm and Ranch, producing eggs, raw milk cheese, beef and produce. He operates the year round Beneficial Farms CSA, a multi-farm CSA, that has the honor of being the oldest CSA in NM. Steve and is the National Good Food Network Food Safety Coordinator. He serves on several government and industry advisory and technical committees ensuring that the voice of small and sustainable farming is heard. He is also is the Value Chain Facilitator for La Montanita’s Co-op Distribution Center, a food hub in Albuquerque, NM.