Across the country, hundreds of fresh produce operations of varying size and scope have been certified to the CanadaGAP® Program, proving they have a system of procedures in place to minimize the risk of contamination to product. CanadaGAP certification allows these operations to remain competitive in the marketplace and reduce the number of food safety audits they must undergo.
The following testimonials illustrate some of the benefits that come with implementing CanadaGAP.
Operation: Cabbage, broccoli, kale
Employees: 12 (winter), upwards of 40 (seasonally)
“We have had the strongest demand for our product in the history of our business since we became CanadaGAP certified.- Anita de Dreu, Co-owner and Office Manager
In April of 2014, de Dreu farms began to prepare for CanadaGAP certification for the first time, and passed their audit that year with their old facilities. Later that year, the farm built a new 14,000 sq. foot facility primarily for increased cold storage of cabbage. It also has a more convenient area for packing product, storing packaging, and a lunch area for their employees.
They became CanadaGAP certified at their customers’ request, and it has had a positive effect on their business. Anita de Dreu explained that “we have had the strongest demand for our product in the history of our business since we became CanadaGAP certified.” It has also led to them obtaining new customers who will pay a higher price for their product.
De Dreu says an added benefit to CanadaGAP is that it has started them on the path of having systems in place. They are doing a better job of managing their overall business and have incorporated systems into all aspects of their business, not just food safety.
“We have a Food Safety culture in place now and we all take pride in growing a good product with these standards.”
Operation: Tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, strawberries and cabbage
Employees: 180 (seasonal)
“Once farmers realize the CanadaGAP Program addresses things they are already doing, like monitoring water quality, hand washing, managing manure, etc., it doesn’t seem so daunting.”
—Mary Shabatura, Owner
Owner Mary Shabatura is a long-time member of the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers’ Association and remembers when the industry resolved to mandate the Canadian Horticultural Council with creating a food safety program for horticulture (now CanadaGAP). “I think that was one of the smartest things we did,” she says.
A farmer for over 30 years, Shabatura is responsible for food safety on her 800-acre farm.
“At first glance, it (the CanadaGAP Program) can be overwhelming,” she says, adding that once farmers realize the program addresses things they are already doing, like monitoring water quality, hand washing, managing manure, etc., it doesn’t seem so daunting.
Shabatura says another benefit of the program is that it has become a very well-recognized standard (benchmarked as meeting the requirements of the Global Food Safety Initiative in 2010), which was what the Canadian industry greatly needed.
Operation: Greenhouse vegetables
Employees: 65 full-time staff plus additional seasonal workers
“Pre-packaged SOPs and documentation—especially in Microsoft Excel format—are handy for producers…”
—Suby Kaur, Food Safety and Quality Assurance Manager
Established in 1996, Windset Farms has four facilities in multiple locations spanning a total of 148 acres. Windset was introduced to the CanadaGAP program by Loblaw Companies Ltd. Food Safety/Quality Assurance Manager Suby Kaur explains that while Windset also maintains its own food safety program (in order to meet various customer requirements), the CanadaGAP Program is “the most straight forward to implement in a pack house.”
“It’s very user-friendly,” she says, noting that the already-written SOPs and documentation provided to the farm—especially Microsoft Excel format—are handy for producers, who are able to personalize the records provided to them, without having to “re-write the book.”
“It’s great because the audit is the same, the standards are the same (as other food safety programs), just the processes are different—they’re adapted to fresh produce production.”
Windset Farms is also a marketing agency for several independent farms—ranging in size from two to 30 acres—that are certified under the CanadaGAP Program. Kaur says the CanadaGAP Program helps to keep the quality and food safety standards at all farms consistent across the board.
Operation: Apple orchard (15 varieties) packing house and storage facility
“CanadaGAP provides us with the security that all farms (we pack for) are following the same standard of food safety.”
—Michael Van Meekeren, Co-owner
Van Meekeren Farms co-owners Stephen and Michael Van Meekeren are second-generation farmers. The operation has been involved with the CanadaGAP Program since 2006. They became CanadaGAP-certified in 2009, since this was a requirement of Loblaws, one of their primary buyers. “We saw where the industry was going and wanted to be on board,” said Michael.
He said the CanadaGAP Program provides the farm with a good record of the procedures that have long been in place, such as water testing, recording of agronomic inputs, etc. Van Meekeren Farms also packs apples for a number of other growers. “Since we’re representing several other farms, (CanadaGAP) provides us with the security that all farms are following the same standard (of food safety),” he said, adding that certification under the program has also been beneficial for marketing purposes.
Operation: Potato production, shipping, packing and storage
“The CanadaGAP manual really helps you stay organized. It covers your whole operation and helps you maintain a good food safety program.”
—Patrick Keenan, Field Manager
Rollo Bay Holdings consists of a three-year rotation of potatoes, barley and hay. The company is one of the largest agricultural entities in eastern PEI.
The operation also includes a packaging plant with an automated processing line for grading, sizing and packaging, temperature and humidity controlled storage for up to 40,000,000 lbs raw product as well as a refrigerated warehouse for storing packaged product.
The company is owned by brothers Ray and Alvin Keenan and sells primarily to retailers and food service companies, and also ships potatoes to international customers in the U.S. and the Caribbean.
Field Manager Patrick Keenan and his colleague Basil Attwood are responsible for implementing the CanadaGAP Program on the farm. The operation was certified to the program in December 2010. Keenan describes the program as “in-depth and simple to use.” He finds it very user-friendly. “The manual really helps you stay organized. It covers your whole operation and helps you maintain a good food safety program.” He pointed out another key benefit of the program is the fact that it is entirely customizable to a particular operation