GAPs Are Important In Stone Fruit

The reputation of your fruit business and its long-term viability can be influenced by many factors. Customers who experience high-quality, delicious and safe-to-eat fruit purchased at a fair price will likely be return customers. However, if someone becomes sick or dies from food associated with your operation or in an operation that grows the same commodities as you, the outcome can be disastrous.


If you are a large-scale, wholesale fruit grower, you are likely implementing Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) already. Your customers probably require an annual third-party food safety audit and evidence of product traceback capability. A comprehensive crisis management plan should be in place to deal with a product recall and periodic mock recalls should be performed.

Time To Get Busy

Maybe all the buzz about food safety these days has not yet translated into specific action by you on your farm and you are worried about what to do or how to get started. You already do all that you know to do to ensure that your fruit is safe to eat, but you admit that there may be some “gaps in your GAPs,” so to speak. You realize that it is time to get busy.

Being willing to admit that you lack certain knowledge and taking steps to gain it is wise. Fortunately, training opportunities for producers to learn about good agricultural practices and food safety are available in many states. Extension professionals from the local land-grant universities, federal and state government experts, produce industry leaders, and others provide classroom instruction with real-world examples, to drive home important concepts. These may be one or two-day intensive programs at specific locations.

If you are unable to attend such trainings because of cost, where they are offered, or the time that they are available, what can you do to train yourself? Fortunately, there is considerable information available online through the National GAPs Program Network for Education and Training (www.gaps.cornell.edu) at Cornell University’s Department of Food Science. Some of this information is available free and some can be purchased and mailed directly to you. One such for-purchase publication is entitled: “Food Safety Begins on the Farm: A Grower’s Guide to Good Agricultural Practices for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables.”

Maybe you would be interested in taking an online course on the topic. “GAPS01: Implementing GAPs: A Key to Produce Safety” (www.ecornell.com/gaps) is an excelled online produce safety course. This three-week course is offered through the National GAPs Program and it is quite affordable ($50 course fee) since it is currently subsidized by USDA grant funding. You can take it in the convenience of your own home, participating at any time of the day, and you can spend as little or as much time as you have each day. Of course, you would need a computer and Internet access, but it was designed to work even in areas where you only have a dial-up connection. The price for this course will likely increase in September 2010 when the grant funding expires, so enroll before then to take advantage of this price.

A Learning Experience

Since my training is in horticulture and not food safety/GAPs, and because I wanted to expand my knowledge about these topics both for my Extension program and as part of the HORT 455/655 “Just Fruits” class I teach each fall, I decided to take this online GAPs class in March. I did the course in the evenings from my home. Topics included: worker training, hygiene, and health; agricultural water use; postharvest water use; soil amendments; cleaning and sanitation; traceability and recall; crisis management; implementing a food safety plan, etc. Some of the topics actually led to some interesting dinnertime discussions with my wife and children!

Class size is limited and you are encouraged to interact with other class participants through a discussion board. An online instructor will interact with you by eMail and has posted “office-hours” to participate in discussions. There are pre- and post-course tests, quite a bit of material to read, four assignments for evaluation, and two self-tests. I would estimate that I spent 20 hours to complete (and pass!) the course.

Besides the excellent content and attractive presentation of the materials, two parts of the class were particularly rewarding for me. First, I really enjoyed reading the discussion board comments of other class participants (mostly fruit growers from all around the U.S.) as they shared experiences, horror stories, changes implemented in their operations, and particular insights based on the course content covered, etc. Second, I was fascinated to read the case studies of real foodborne illness outbreaks and how scientists discovered the cause and what was learned in the process.

If you haven’t developed a produce safety plan for your operation, you should seriously consider developing one. A great tool to use in this exercise is the publication: “Food Safety Begins on the Farm: A Grower Self-Assessment of Food Safety Risks.” This workbook is available at the Cornell GAPs website noted already.

May you have a productive and profitable harvest season as you supply safe-to-eat, delicious fruits to eager and hungry consumers!

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories

All Vegetables Stories >All Fruits Stories >All Nuts Stories >All Citrus Stories >

The Latest

Food SafetyUSDA Issues Updates To Food Safety Modernization Act
September 19, 2014
Water testing, definition of applicable farms based on produce sales among clarifications to proposed rules. Read More
GrapesThird Straight Record Crop For Washington Grapes
September 19, 2014
Numbers expected to climb as more vines planted in the state. Read More
GrapesFrench Winegrowers Face Higher Labor Costs
September 19, 2014
French wineries may come under added financial pressure as the government considers imposing social charges on wages paid to harvest workers with short-term contracts. Read More
IrrigationCalifornia Boosts Local Water Control
September 19, 2014
Governor Jerry Brown signs historic legislation to strengthen local management and monitoring of critical groundwater basins. Read More
VegetablesSakata Seed America Shows Heart Through Charitable Prog…
September 19, 2014
Company’s corporate giving mission bears fruit for the American Heart Association. Read More
Insect & Disease UpdateAdditional Aid Coming For Florida Citrus Growers Gouged…
September 17, 2014
Through USDA’s Tree Assistance Program, eligible growers can cash in on cost share for diseased tree removal and replanting. Read More
FruitsFlorida Fruit & Vegetable Association Seeks Fresh A…
September 17, 2014
New partnership bolsters Fresh From Florida program. Read More
CitrusFDA Announces Cooperative Agreement To Implement Nation…
September 17, 2014
Agreement will provide information to help plan and carry out the produce safety rule in partnership with state regulatory agencies. Read More
NutsAchieving A Super-Premium Walnut Crop
September 17, 2014
What are the best ways to get high quality walnuts that are light in color and fully developed? Read these 8 harvest best practices to find out. Read More
NutsAlmond Growers Highly Dependent On Groundwater
September 17, 2014
Fully 87% of large growers use groundwater to irrigate their trees. Read More
NutsWarm Winter And Drought Casting Doubt On Pistachio Harv…
September 17, 2014
Though Rabobank report says that one billion pounds still attainable by 2019. Read More
Crop ProtectionBagrada Bug On The Move In California
September 16, 2014
Find out more on management tactics and what counties are impacted by this invasive pest. Read More
Cucurbits14 Stand-Out Melon Varieties [Slideshow]
September 15, 2014
Browse the slideshow below for information on these exceptional melon varieties from the nation’s leading seed breeders and distributors. Read More
Grower Achievement AwardView Highlights From The 2014 United Fresh Washington P…
September 15, 2014
Browse this slideshow to view photos from the 2014 United Fresh Washington Public Policy Conference, including pictures of this year’s Grower Read More
Apples & PearsCanneries Hope To Encourage Growers To Grow Pears For P…
September 15, 2014
Higher wholesale prices offered as means to boost canning pear acres. Read More
FruitsDeadline Nearing For Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistanc…
September 15, 2014
Fruit growers who suffered losses due to frost or freeze in 2012 could be eligible for assistance through USDA’S Farm Service Agency. Read More
BerriesBotrytis Gray Mold Pressure Increasing With Humid Weath…
September 15, 2014
Michigan State University researcher offers tips to reduce the spread of spores. Read More
Fruits5 Mistakes You May Be Making With Your Orchard’s …
September 15, 2014
These deadly sins may be hurting your customers’ experience — and costing you money. Read More