You may want to participate in a mentoring or training program to help prepare for a GAP audit. Many university and college Cooperative Extension departments and NGOs offer mentoring and training programs. They can provide you with specific training (in direct marketing, produce regulations, GAP preparedness, etc.), can show you how to conduct on-farm risk assessments, assist you in developing food safety plans specific to your farm operations, and guide you through preparing for a GAP audit. They may even be present during your audit to ease any concerns.

Assess On-Farm Risks

Assessing on-farm risks allows a grower to identify food safety contamination hazards present on their farm. There are several primary sources of contamination:

  • Humans

  • Soil and Soil Amendments
  • Agricultural Water
  • Animals
  • Equipment and Tools
  • Facilities

Each source can be a means for the spread of biological, physical, or chemical hazards. It is important to examine each stage of the flow of products and identify which risks might exist. Based on a thorough assessment, GAPs or best practices can then be incorporated at the different stages of pre-planting, production, harvesting, post-harvest handling, and marketplace handling in order to reduce and mitigate the risks. Using this assessment, you can create your food safety plan, which will become a working document for your farm.

Develop your Food Safety Plan

Consumers and retailers demand accountability when it comes to producing, buying and selling fresh produce. Developing, implementing and auditing a food safety plan are essential steps in obtaining GAP certification and can reduce both health and business risks for consumers and growers. The food safety plan is comprised of information on land use, worker health and hygiene, restroom and sewage, water use, animals, manure, harvesting and packing equipment and containers, and traceability.

Since each grower’s conditions and operations are different, food safety plans need to be farm specific. Check with the contacts previously mentioned to see what resources they can provide, such as audit templates that can be downloaded and edited to include specific farm information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Still have questions about GAP certifications?


Taking advantage of the wide variety of available resources can help you get the greatest benefit from the program.

Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension created an Assessing On-Farm Produce Safety Risks fact-sheet series; each bullet below links to the corresponding publication. This series documents the multi-stage process of preparing for GAP certification and is an example of the type of resources available to growers. Additional produce safety resources and training modules can be found at the Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety Clearinghouse.

To prepare for an audit, growers will find that a checklist can be very beneficial. Each USDA audit standard has its own checklist which details the farm operations covered under that standard.