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

Added by North Shore EVP • Last updated June 3, 2024
Author: North Shore EVP
Type: Project (Food Safety Outreach Program - FSOP)

The vast majority of Hawai&i farms are smaller than 10 acres 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 that usually require some form of food safety documentation, if not full certification, is a significant challenge for these farms due to a perceived high cost and complexity of attaining food safety certification. The lack of both food safety certification and access to new commercial and institutional markets is a key bottleneck that keeps farm size and capacities stunted, and relegates locally-grown food to less consistent buying channels. To fill this void, large buyers turn to non-Hawaiian suppliers who are food safety certified although this increases Hawai&i?s dependency on imported food, already thought to be at about 90%. Without the leverage and consistent demand of large buyers, farmers do not have an incentive to upgrade and scale their operations. As a result, Hawaii remains largely dependent on outside sources for the majority of our food supply, and is increasingly in peril of supply chain disruptions resulting from global issues such as pandemics, natural disasters, and political conflict. Additionally many Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are unable to access culturally appropriate foods if they cannot grow them themselves.The Opening New Markets for Small Farms by Expanding Hawai&i?s USDA GroupGAP Food Safety Certification Program will address these issues through a strategy of outreach and education, technical assistance and training, and USDA Harmonized GAP certification to increase the number of small food safety certified farms in Hawaii. Outreach and education in the form of webinars, on site Farm days, and follow up consultation, will give farmers information about the costs, processes, and benefits of food safety certification. Those farmers interested in pursuing certification will receive technical assistance and training to ensure that they and their farms are ready to enter the Hawai&i GroupGAP program. Farmers successfully completing the GroupGAP program, including passing two internal and one USDA external audit, will become Harmonized GAP certified. The certified farms will then have the ability to sell to a number of new buyers from our growing buyer network, resulting in more locally grown, certified food entering the Hawai&i supply chain and reducing our state?s dependence on imports. Local residents will be able to purchase food grown in the state rather than flown into the state. Overall this positively impacts the economy by growing businesses and keeping Hawaii dollars working in Hawai&i.