Frequently Asked Questions
Below we’ve tried to cover questions that we are often asked. If you do not see an answer to your question below, please contact us via our contact form and one of our staff will respond as soon as possible.
How does the NSEVP business model compare with other distribution and retail models?
Our model is unique to Hawaii. As a non-profit organization our commitment is to farmers and communities in the region, not shareholders or out-of-state owners. Together our food safety certification program, food hub packing facility and community learning center work in unison to deliver the best prices we can to participating farmers and increase the food production and create new jobs in agriculture on the North Shore.
Is the organization just for Hawaii?
Currently our Group GAP program is focused on serving North Shore farmers on Oahu. We hope to take what we learn to other communities statewide in the future.
What is a food hub?
A business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.
How does the food hub work?
The food hub will but food safety certified produce from local growers and fulfill high volume contracts with buyers such as hotels, grocery stores, schools, and hospitals.
Will you take both organic and conventional products?
Yes! Organic produce is in high demand and working with farms to increase market access is a high priority for the food hub. We want to support ALL North Shore farmers, organic and conventional growers alike, and provide the best produce to our clients.
How can the food hub help me?
NSEVP wants to become your partner in food safety certification and access to new markets. Our Group GAP food safety certification program qualifies you to sell to our food hub and, when constructed, the food hub will be ready to buy as much produce as you can grow. The hub will lower your cost of production by picking up at your farm, handling all post-harvest work, and doing all of marketing and sales needed to move your product s to market.
How will a market be created/found that the food hub will sell to?
The Food Hub is already working to establish commitments from large buyers seeking locally produced, food safety certified produce. Our current clients are all on Oahu, but we expect to market North Shore produce across the state and, depending on what farmers grow, establish export markets that provide the best margins to the hub (and prices to the farmers!).
How will the food hub provide information to farmers on what buyers are looking for?
The Food Hub will develop demand projections based on historical sales and expected demand from existing and new clients. These data will be evaluated to produce a forward-looking schedule of products that the Food Hub will look to purchase from participating farmers.
Will farmers selling to the food hub have to sign exclusivity agreements?
No! Farmers will not be required to sign an exclusivity agreement with the Food Hub. In fact, we encourage participating farms to keep their existing accounts. We will ask farmers to sign a participation agreement whereby they will commit to selling some portion of their production (to be determined by the farmers) to the Food Hub and will be prohibited from selling to the Food Hub’s clients.
How long does a farmer have to be in an agreement with the hub?
We need to receive input from farmers, but we expect that the participation agreements will be evaluated and renewed annually along with the Group GAP certification.
Will the food hub allow farmers to use facilities to create their own value added products?
The Food Hub will be a food safety certified packinghouse facility with little capacity to produce value-added products (except for such items as pre-cut veggies or salad mix). There are currently no plans for shared use of the facility however we do plan to have refrigerated space for rent to local businesses. North Shore EVP has received many inquiries about community kitchen and slaughterhouse facilities, so stay tuned!
What is the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA)?
Signed into law in 2011, the Food Safety and Modernization Act is the most comprehensive U.S. food safety regulation overhaul since the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938. The law provides a creation process for food safety rules and accompanying guidance. Rules and guidance are drafted by the governing authority, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with input from other government agencies. They are then presented for industry and public comment before a final rule is issued.
What does FSMA cover?
FSMA includes standards on how fresh produce is grown and handled. It covers the processing and manufacturing of food for human or animal consumption. It also provides provisions for third-party monitoring and certification and addresses food safety issues in the transportation process.
What kinds of businesses are affected by FSMA?
A business is likely to be affected by FSMA if it raises livestock, grows produce, or processes, transports, or distributes food for human or animal consumption.
How long do food hubs and their producers have to comply?
Businesses comply with a rule based on an effective date. Some effective dates have passed, and some will not occur until 2018. Effective dates tend to be graduated, with small farms tending to have later effective dates.
What is Group GAP?
The USDA Group GAP is a farm food safety audit program that allows a group of producers to attain GAP certification as a group. USDA food safety audits are all currently “one farm, one audit.”
Isn’t food safety certification difficult?
By standardizing the on-farm documentation process our Group GAP program builds a network of farms that share safety and quality standards. Through training we will reach the goals of accessing new markets, diversifying revenue streams, and increasing production and profitability. This approach makes it easier than ever for your farm to become food safety certified.
How does the food safety partnership work?
We are implementing a Group Good Agricultural Practices (Group GAP) food safety certification program. The participating farmers will develop an overarching Quality management System for the group and NSEVP will serve as the data manager and responsible party for all participating farms. Through Group GAP, the hub will help farmers develop individual farm safety plans, provide food safety training, and conduct inspections at each farm.
How long is the GAP training and certification process?
For farms that are selected to participate in the initial cohort, the process may take about 15 months. Once the Group GAP program is certified by USDA, that time may be reduced to about one year. Maintaining GAP certified status is a continual process of adhering to a farm food safety plan and passing internal and external audits.
Is there a certain amount of people you need in the group?
From conversations with Group GAP experts across the country we believe that an initial cohort of 12-15 farms is optimum. We plan to certify approximately 40 farms within 3 years, starting a new cohort about every 10 months.
How much does it cost for a small farmer to become and stay food safety certified?
We do not know the cost to an individual farm to acquire and retain their Group GAP certification. However certification costs will be heavily subsidized for early adopters. Our research indicates that the Group GAP program is the best approach to keeping food safety certification costs as low as possible and those costs are reduced as more farms participate in the group.
Will your organization help with water quality issues?
At this point in time there is uncertainty surrounding the FSMA water quality standards and we are waiting for final rules from the FDA. Nonetheless, NSEVP is committed to the success of our participating farms and will work with them to address any water quality issues that may arise.