Food Safety On The Farm Red Tape

Filling in the GAPs

Business in motion, we turned to the company that had agreed to purchase our produce. Chartwells, Legacy Charter School’s dining services provider, promotes locally grown produce and supports local farms like Woodside City Farm. There was only one thing standing between us and our first major buyer – GAP Certification.

GAP, which stands for Good Agricultural Practices, are the basic environmental and operational conditions, as well as the growing and harvesting practices needed to safely produce fruits and vegetables. Simply put, it’s a voluntary audit program focused on food safety. Although it’s market-driven, meaning a buyer makes the choice of whether or not they require it, meeting GAP standards will also help us meet produce safety rules under the Foods Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

GAP Principles

There are four principles of GAP that guide the point system:

  1. Prevention of microbial contamination
  2. Implementation of a Food Safety Program
    1. Follow all applicable laws
    2. Traceability, record keeping & documentation
  3. Four W’s + Surfaces
    1. Water, waste, workers & wildlife
    2. Surfaces – hands, containers, harvesting tools, etc.
  4. Accountability

As we read through the audit’s sections and point system, uncertainty began to set in. Not only would we need to design a food safety plan from scratch, but we would also need to consider food safety in terms of workers’ health and hygiene, our harvesting containers and equipment, bathroom facilities, and so much more. While many of the guidelines are common-sense farm practices, we were still intimidated to say the least.

*Ding*! One new email from the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA). Upcoming event: GAP Workshop at Greenbrier Farms. Timing really is everything.

High tunnel at Greenbrier Farms. Photo courtesy of CFSA.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with CFSA, they are the oldest and largest sustainable agriculture organization in the Southeast. Their mission is to help people in the Carolinas grow and eat local, organic food by advocating for fair farm and food policies, building the systems that organic family farms need to thrive, and educating communities about local, organic farming. CFSA offers workshops, regional conferences, farm tours, and initiatives targeted at helping new farmers get off the ground too.


The workshop was a success! Broken down and explained in perfect farm-speak, GAP certification no longer seemed so daunting. CFSA Local Produce Safety Manager, Patricia Tripp, led the workshop and walked us through each of the audit’s sections. She patiently answered each of our unique questions and, in addition, passed out useful resources for us to take home. We also toured Greenbrier Farms and learned how becoming GAP certified improved their business and left them even more confident about the quality of their food. Since the workshop, Patricia has gone above and beyond answering follow-up questions and providing recommendations.

Overall, the main takeaway from the workshop is that food safety begins with worker health and personal hygiene. As we get closer to being an operating farm, we plan to take full advantage of CFSA’s one-on-one training too. This will also include a mock audit to help identify potential risks and better assess our practices.

If you’re interested in learning more about GAP or other tools and/or resources for farmers, check out the upcoming CFSA events HERE!


Red Tape Welcome

Getting down to business: Making use of the resources in our own backyard!

The world was ours – well, at least the grant was. We were on the moon! After coming back down to Earth, however, reality was there to greet us. We had zero experience building a business from the ground up. What setbacks should we anticipate? What financial arrangements did we need to make? And scariest of all, what if our on-paper ideas simply didn’t translate to the real world?

Our growing concerns sent us scrambling for answers – and with the help of South Carolina’s Small Business Development Center, answers we found! The SBDC’s mission is to advance South Carolina’s economic development by helping entrepreneurs grow successful businesses, and with the help of Clemson University, they operate 21 centers across the state in both urban and rural areas.

Greenville’s SBDC doesn’t usually get urban farms knocking at their door, but that didn’t hinder Business Consultant Rance Bryan, who also consulted Greenville’s beloved Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery in their early days. Rance helped us clarify our goals and decide what type of business we needed to register as (an LLC). But wait, we haven’t shared the best part – this service was completely FREE. If you’re an entrepreneur (although we prefer ecopreneur), you cannot afford to overlook this resource!

South Carolina Small Business Development Centers – advancing South Carolina’s economic development by helping entrepreneurs grow successful businesses.

Liability Insurance

Thanks to the SBDC, we knew what we needed to do next: Hire a Tax Accountant and purchase liability insurance. Karen Winters, an Enrolled Agent of Winters-Smith Associates, LLC, specialized in small businesses and didn’t waste any time getting down to business. She gave sound suggestions on record keeping, opening bank accounts, and introduced us to a number of helpful tools.

After countless hours of research and analyzing quotes, our partners over at Project Host (Gardening For Good) recommended we speak to Jennifer Hincapie, the Vice President of Furman Insurance. Unlike other insurance companies we reached out to, Jennifer invited us to her office to discuss our project goals. After taking the time to understand our unique needs, the quote she gave us was the cherry on top!

With business taken care of, we were able to get back to our veggies – this time with peace of mind. If you’re interested in starting your own business, take advantage of the resources we have here in the Upstate.