PUYALLUP, Wash. — The organic farm at Washington State University’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center will be the subject of a mock Good Agricultural Practices audit, and farmers are invited to observe.
The audit will be conducted as part of the Tilth Producers and WSU Small Farms Program farm walk at the facility on Monday, July 26, from 12:30 to 4 pm. It is free and no advance registration is required. The farm walk audit is a joint project with the Washington State Department of Agriculture Farm-to-School Program.
The WSDA offers voluntary GAPs audits to fruit and vegetable producers that, in turn, can lead to GAP certification by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A successful audit can open new markets for producers, as institutional buyers are increasingly requiring them.
“Many small to mid-size farms are interested in partnering with schools to provide food, but don’t have the food safety certification that may be required,” says Tricia Kovacs, WSDA Farm-to-School Program manager. “This will provide a low-pressure environment for farmers to explore whether GAP certification is a good fit for them.”
“This is a great opportunity for growers to see how an audit works and to ask questions of a WSDA GAPs inspector, and WSU and WSDA experts,” says Doug Collins, WSU Extension Small Farms educator. “It will take the mystery out of volunteering for an audit.”
The audit program verifies that a farm has operating procedures in place to minimize the risks for microbial product contamination. The audit covers manure management, harvesting, worker sanitation, packinghouse operations, storage, transportation, product traceback, and related food safety issues.
WSDA GAP auditor Chuck Dragoo will conduct the mock audit, and Tricia Kovacs and Becky Elias with the Farm-to-School Program will discuss the importance of GAP certification to institutional markets. WSU soil scientists Craig Cogger and Andy Bary, and Extension Food Safety Specialist Karen Killinger, also will be available to discuss farm procedures and answer questions.
More information on Good Agricultural Practices and the WSDA audit process can be found at http://www.agr.wa.gov/Inspection/FVInspection/GAPGHP.aspx.
More information on WSU Puyallup Organic Farm and programs is at http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/soilmgmt.