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Opening New Markets for Small Farms by Expanding Hawaii¿s USDA GroupGAP Food Safety Certification Program


The vast majority of Hawai'i farms are smaller than 10 acres7 and because of low volumes and inconsistent production, most sell directly to consumers at farmers? markets, roadside stands, or CSA programs. Access to larger, more consistent markets is a significant challenge for small farms due to a perceived high cost and complexity of food safety certification. New market access for small Hawai'i Farms necessitates the adoption of food safety certification, a key requirement for most of larger commercial and institutional markets. The overarching goals of the Opening New Markets for Small Farms by Expanding Hawai'i?s USDA GroupGAP Food Safety Certification Program are 1.) to inform and educate Hawai'i producers about the Hawai'i GroupGAP (HGGAP) program and the requirements needed to attain USDA Harmonized GAP certification through the program, and 2.) to expand the number of farms in the Hawai'i GroupGAP program in order to reduce costs to participating farms and ensure the long-term sustainability of the program.Objective 1 is to inform and educate Hawai'i produce farmers through a combination of in-person and virtual outreach and education events focused on the importance, benefits, and financial value of food safety certification including access to new markets. These events will dispel the widespread perception that food safety certification is unnecessary, too expensive, and/or too difficult for most small farms to attain and will demonstrate the growing need for food safety documentation required to access many new markets. Farmer outreach will be focused on 4 types of events: 1.) GroupGAP webinars will introduce farmers to the USDA GAP food safety certification process and Hawaii Group GAP (HGGAP); 2.) Harmonized GAP H-GAP) Farm Days will provide a hands-on experience where farmers observe on-farm activities related to GAP implementation and documentation; 3.) HeavyConnect (HC) Demonstrations will showcase new digital technology that reduces the administrative burden of food safety record keeping and audit preparation; and 4.) Partner Outreach Events will address a wide range of GAP-related topics including food safety, pesticide handling, water testing, and new market access with participation from non-governmental and community-based organizations, University of Hawai'i (UH) extension, and local distributors.Objective 2 is to expand the number of participating farms and the statewide reach of the HGGAP program. Expanding participation in HGGAP will help to stabilize the costs associated with auditing the group farms by reducing the number of external audits needed for 3rd party verification. Long-term sustainability of HGGAP depends on continued certification success and documentation of increased sales from farms entering new markets. Increased participation resulting from targeted outreach will position HGGAP to pursue non-grant funding from private philanthropic and institutional supporters who are poised to invest in an upward track record of success leading to increases in local production. During the project performance period two cohorts of farms will be accepted into the HGGAP program and have the opportunity to receive the training and technical assistance needed to obtain their USDA Harmonized GAP certification.

Kelly, Kevin
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