Food safety is an element that must be addressed when implementing farm to school efforts. School districts need to consider the farm where the food is produced and ensure that the appropriate practices are in place to help prevent potential food-borne illness. Here are some important food safety tips that schools should follow when working with local farmers.

The foundation of all farm food safety efforts are Good Agricultural Practices, or GAPS. GAPs are voluntary guidelines for produce farmers to reduce the risk of microbial contamination related to food-borne illnesses on their farms. GAPs include worker training, adequate toilet and handwashing facilities, animal control, water quality, soil amendment use, and cleaning and sanitation. Farms of all sizes should be using GAPs to manage food safety risks.

Third-party GAP certification is one way that produce farms can validate their food safety efforts. However, annual GAP certification is expensive and most farms are not certified. Fortunately, there are other ways to validate on-farm food safety efforts.

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What can schools do?

  1. Ask the farm if they have a farm food safety plan, or have attended food safety training.

  2. Ask the farm to complete the Retail Checklist for Purchasing of Local Produce

  3. Ask the farm for references – other schools or wholesale buyers.

  4. Schedule a visit to the farm to see their operation and products.

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What can farmers do?

  1. Attend GAP or FSMA PSA Grower Training.

  2. Create and implement a food safety program for your farm.

  3. Complete the Retail Checklist for Purchasing of Local Produce and give to schools.

  4. Conduct a self-audit of your farm and share the results with schools.

  5. Invite ISU Extension and Outreach to do a Farm to School validation visit for your farm. An Extension specialist will can visit your farm to verify your food safety practices and provide a written report. The visit costs $100, plus mileage.

For more information on GAP and certification, contact Teresa Wiemerslage, ISU Extension field specialist,, 563-794-0599.


IDALS Produce Safety Rule webpage