The commission, with input from experts, drafted a commodity-specific GAP manual in 2011 that addressed practices specific to avocados, Melban said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the final version.
“We got buy-ins from all of the handlers,” he said. “They liked the idea of one uniform manual.”
Many already close
Scott Bauwens, director of sourcing for Murrieta, Calif.-based West Pak Avocado Inc., was chairman of the commission’s committee that helped draft the GAP manual.
What he and others have observed is that many growers don’t have to make a big leap to become GAP certified.
“What growers are finding is they’re already doing 95% to 99% of the practices already required for GAP certification,” Bauwens said.
What may be missing in many cases is documenting those practices, he said.
Funding from a Specialty Crop Block Grant helped the commission develop GAP educational materials and workshops specifically designed for growers and harvest crews. All of the materials and workshops are in English and Spanish.
More than 500 growers and harvest crew leaders attended workshops held in 2012 throughout the Southern California avocado growing regions, exceeding expectations, Melban said.
As of the end of 2012, about 20% of ranches had been GAP certified, he said. And the commission is striving for more than 50% certification by the end of this year.