The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) is offering a free food-safety guide to assist growers with Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Good Handling Practices (GHPs). The 204-page guide, entitled, “Bridging the GAPs FARM GUIDE – Good Agricultural Practices and On-Farm Food Safety for Small, Mid-Sized, and Diversified Fruit and Vegetable Farms,” is available in print and for download here in both English and Spanish. It was compiled as part of WSDA’s Bridging the GAPs project, which focuses on communicating effective food-safety strategies, providing information on regulatory changes, and sharing marketplace guidance for small, mid-sized and diversified farms. The guide reflects lessons learned from the project team’s outreach and education, including farm walks, GAP auditor trainings, survey work and industry engagement. According to WSDA, small farms face market requirements or preferences to become GAP/GHP certified even though the certification is not currently required by state or federal regulations. However, more buyers are requiring GAP/GHP certification for growers and processors to sell into markets such as schools, hospitals and retail outlets. “Meeting the GAP/GHP standards may be daunting for smaller farms or those that are highly diversified, with multiple types of fruits, vegetables and livestock activities that may affect their operating procedures, documentation and audit process,” WSDA’s website states. Auditors are interested in working with small farms to achieve certification and solutions that meet food-safety goals in ways that work for smaller farms, but their experience has been with larger single-crop operations and/or farms with complex handling and packing operations, according to WSDA. The guide includes practical information on GAP/GHP audits, developing food-safety plans, traceability and product recalls, worker health and hygiene, on-farm review for handling animals, and safe harvesting and transportation practices, among others. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent Census of Agriculture, 88 percent of all U.S. farms are considered small.