The Clark Produce Auction became GAP/GHP certified this summer, which was followed shortly by 15 or more growers getting their GAP certifications. This was a community- wide effort that took much time and was successful because they were both sincere and diligent. I thought it might be helpful to review the steps that were taken and include some additional information.
It is rare to meet a vegetable grower who 'wants' to get GAP certified, just to 'do it'. For the Clark community, it became a serious issue as a major buyer made it known he'd have to pull his business unless they did. And at least one other buyer was saying something similar. Furthermore, their buyers had been pushing on this issue for some years; they really couldn't dodge it anymore.
The training or educational steps they took started small and kept building. Here's a recap:
The audit cost per grower was $405. For anyone that 'passed', they were issued temporary certificates at the time. Several growers had items to follow up before they could get even a temporary certificate; this usually involved water testing or usage. After passing, official certificates came in 2-3 weeks. The growers I spoke with said the auditor generally spent 60% (or more) of his time going over the paperwork. A couple of interesting comments were:
My comment is, that if someone told me 18 months ago that the Clark auction and almost all of its principal growers would be GAPs certified, I would have said 'no way!'. This is a great example of teamwork, from the Clark growers, to our colleagues at Missouri Department of Agriculture, and a number of us at MU Extension. Lastly, their customers who requested this are satisfied and purchasing.
It is important for growers seeking to be GAP certified to check with their buyers first. Verify with them which GAP certification they will be satisfied with- GAP/GHP, Harmonized GAP, or other. Many buyers are still ok with GAP/GHP, but there seems to be a shift to wanting Harmonized GAP. It is also important to check with your buyer(s) on the certification company or organization you plan to use (such as USDA, Primus, or other organization), to make sure they are acceptable.
REVISED: October 3, 2019