14 Iowa farms certified via GroupGAP in 2018

March 29, 2019

Fourteen produce farms achieved their Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) food safety certification at a discount in 2018, thanks to their participation in GroupGAP training facilitated by ISU.

GAP is a voluntary USDA farm food safety program. Certified farmers verify that they’re producing, packing, handling, and storing their fruits and vegetables as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards.

The GroupGAP program allows farmers, food hubs, and marketing organizations of all sizes to band together and pool resources to achieve USDA GAP certification.

National pilot site

Iowa Food Hub in West Union joined the program as one of the national pilot sites in 2015. Since then, they have served as the Iowa GroupGAP hub. In 2017, the program expanded to include farmers in the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City region. The group formed the Iowa GroupGAP Network.

woman and two men in garden GroupGAP
Jason Grimm (right) of the Iowa GroupGAP Network interviews a farm worker during an internal audit of Garden Oasis Farm near Coggon.

“GAP certification is important to Iowa farmers, but the annual cost makes it prohibitive to small farmers expanding into wholesale markets,” said Teresa Wiemerslage, field specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “GroupGAP can be an affordable option for certification for groups with 20 or more farms.”

GAP certification is a requirement of some large produce buyers, and can be a barrier to market access for Iowa farmers. This annual certification cost ranges from $800 to $1,300 in Iowa. With GroupGAP, the cost to producers in 2018 would have been $634. Cost-share funds from a Specialty Crop Block Grant through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship further reduced that cost to $100 per farm.

2018 highlights

Highlights for the year included growth of the group in interest in certification by new farms. Member farms report that their certification gives them access to markets ranging in value from $8,000-30,000 per year.

The 2018 annual report also describes several challenges in 2018. These included recruiting and maintaining qualified internal auditors, rising audit costs, and group host Iowa Food Hub suspending its operations.

The Iowa GroupGAP Network receives support from the following organizations: Iowa Food Hub, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa Valley RC&D, Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, the Wallace Center at Winrock International, and the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.