Throughout my tenure in farming, I’ve been privileged to befriend and network with many small-scale and emerging farmers doing phenomenal work on their farms and producing quality fresh produce for various markets. However, it’s no secret that buyers are becoming more and more demanding of wanting to procure from farms that are certified with GAP and comply with the minimal food safety standards. So what does that mean for the small scale/ emerging farmer?Should small-scale farmers be exempt from GAP or should certification be a standard minimum requirement for ALL farmers?It’s obvious that the answer you would likely get from most small-scale/emerging farmers is that they should be exempt from GAP because of their opinion of the complexities and financial requirements associated with GAP certification.

This complexity and financial requirement, is it a perception or a reality? I don’t quite have the answer yet, as my farm is not certified. However, we have embraced the principles of good farming practices that involve record keeping and documentation.

Personally, I’m of the view that it’s a farmers’ ethical responsibility to ensure that whatever we produce on our farms should be safe for human consumption. And therefore modelling good agricultural practices on our farms should be paramount. GAP certification is just merely a stamp of approval that a farm is compliant after an audit has been done.

As stated above, my farm is not GAP certified however we do keep records of every activity that occurs on our farm, from planting dates, fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides used. We are cognizant of the fact that hygiene is important to everyone working on the farm and we all wear protective clothing on a daily basis, as we need to protect ourselves, our crops and our environment. And all of our record keeping is done on the most simplified method of using an A4 handbook and then subsequently entered into our digital app (which is available to every farmer for free). For the farmers that I know of who are GAP certified, they have negated the claims that GAP is complex and expensive to implement and instead they have outlined the importance of it and how it can be done successfully, but it all starts with the farmers change in mentality and willingness to learn and transform their farms.

Not so long ago, I had lunch with a friend, also a farmer, who shared a short story with me about attending an agricultural course in Kenya and found that all the small scale/emergingKenyan farmers in attendance were GAP certified and viewed GAP as a necessity.

I think it’s important to see the opportunity for GAP, as it will not only increase the demand for local fresh produce but open channels for exporting for the small scale/emerging farmer. It may also create competition for the commercial farmers who are very comfortable in their supply to established markets and will provide buyers with more choice from their procurement side.

Furthermore, I do think that government, higher educational institutions, profit, nonprofit and farmer organizations have a role to play in putting an emphasis on the need for GAP. In the unique case of South Africa where we have 11 official languages and the average age of the farmer being over 60 years of age, much needs to be done by these organizations to ensure that appropriate training methods are embraced and facilitation of GAP is accommodating to the individual farmer and that qualified personnel can train the most simplified GAP principles which can be easily implemented on every farm. Its a start and the practice itself should be more of a moral and ethical requirement from the farmer rather than a certification requirement due to the high levels of hygiene risk that everyone participating in the agricultural supply chain is exposed to, leading to the end consumer.

I’d like to hear what your thoughts are, as we can all learn from different viewpoints.