MARQUETTE — Ten farms across the Upper Peninsula are a part of a pilot program exploring new ways to address small farm food certification.

The farms are assisting the U.P. Food Exchange and the USDA in developing a Group Good Agricultural Practice (Group GAP) model. A Group GAP works together to achieve the proper food safety certification so smaller farms can comply with federal regulations.

It was a long and challenging process to make sure the farms are complying with regulations.

“There’s some language in there, there’s some stands that don’t quite fit the farms of our scale [farms participating range in size from five acres to a half an acre], so a lot of the work that we did as group administrators was to interpret that language and make them accessible to small farms,” UPFE-Group GAP documents coordinator Neal Curran said.

“Our first little glitch was to even identify what was meant by some of the things,” Hannah Brisson, owner of Hannah’s Garden in Marquette said. “So we were kind of hung up at first on was the manure I was using raw or composted. And because I hadn’t taken its temperature in four different places each time it was turned, it had to be considered raw manure, even though it was two years old and it was so well composted that I could have put a spoonful in my mouth and washed it down with water.”

“We’ve had to do quite a bit of changes as far as where our processing plant is, how we do things, things we didn’t even think about,” Lucy Pier, owner of Bluberry Pier Farm in Menominee. “It really opens your eyes about the things that really should be going on farms. It really was a big change, a very big change.”

By participating in the program, farms will be able to expand their consumer reach.

“Having these food safety requirements kind of allows them to access a wider market for their products, it also build consumer confidence and is making these small farms more viable in the marketplace,” Curran said.

“This (Group GAP) gives you an opportunity to let your consumer know that you have a very healthy and environmentally safe farm and that everything that comes from there is wholesome, and that’s the main thing,” Pier said.

The MSU Center for Regional Food Systems is writing a case study about the Group GAP project that will be available in 2015.

A list of participating farms:

  • Ski County Farm (Sault Ste. Marie)
  • Blueberry Pier (Menominee)
  • Hannah’s Garden (Marquette)
  • Reh-Morr Farm (Eben Junction)
  • Rock River Perennial Garden & Greenhouse (Chatham)
  • Slagle’s Family Farm (Felch)
  • Sleepy Hollow Farm (Munising)
  • Treasa’s Treasures (Munsing)
  • Anya Farms (Chassell)
  • Wintergreen Farms (Ontonagon)

If you would like to participate in the program next year, visit the U.P. Food Exchange’s website.