DS Cole Growers has been one of the first companies in the US that started to work with regulators on both GCP and SANC at the same time. But what are these certifications and what are the benefits? “In short, GCP (Greenhouse Certification Program) allows us to self-inspect our young plant liners that're shipped to Canada and the SANC program (Systems Approach to Nursery Certification) allows us to ship our products smoothly from state to state, without any inspections,” explains Chris Schlegel, Head grower at the nursery.
Chris Schlegel in the greenhouse.
Greenhouse Certification Program: for shipments from the US to Canada
Since 2015, DS Cole was involved with GCP. It is a compliance program that allows their trained employees to self-inspect their young plant liner shipments destined for Canada and according to Schlegel, it makes them more flexible. “This certificate is very valuable for us as it allows us to make last minute changes for orders to Canada.”
The program requires four audits annually that are conducted by New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets, & Food (NHDAMF) personnel. Adherence to the Pest Management Plan is a key component to the program. A complete and current list of all plants in the facility, including their countries of origin, must also be maintained.
Systems Approach to Nursery Certification: for interstate shipments
More recently, just one year ago, they became involved with the SANC program. “We do a lot of state to state shipping and we therefore have to comply with all kinds of different regulations per state. The goal of this program is to make sure that the plant is produced in a way that fits all regulations and therefore makes sure that we make healthy plants. The goal of the program is to focus on how plants are produced rather than how they appear at the time of a single inspection. This means that pest risks are assessed and managed throughout the entire production chain. The purpose is to be able to show that our product reaches standards not in terms of sustainability, but in terms of cleanliness. This is in reference to the products being insect and disease free. It also involves a partnership between growers and state plant regulators to ensure that management practices are undertaken and documented appropriately.”
Combining the two
As there is quite some overlap in the certification regulations, they decided to combine the two in one manual, and they were one of the first in the US to do it. “It has been quite some work, but with the tremendous help of the folks of NHDAMF, we managed to do it. “
Advantages and challenges
On top of allowing them to self-inspect their shipments to Canada and ship interstate, the programs also helps them to keep their growing practices consistent. “Certificates give our staff good guidelines to follow and it therefore helps us pay attention to the structured protocols to keep our growing practices consistent from year to year.”
The main challenge they are encountering is that of their large assortment, the many trials they are conducting and the COVID-19 situation. “We grow over a thousand varieties of young plants and CGP requires us to have a list of all plants that we have on site and where they are coming from. So, also for the trials we need to make sure this list is complete. On top of that, the many varieties require different handling and all our employees need to be aware of it and need to scout pests and diseases as fast as possible. We therefore organize a lot of trainings, but due to social distancing, it takes more time as we have to do the trainings in smaller groups.”
Besides the GCP and SANC certificate, DS Cole Growers obtained more certificates. “For well over a decade, we have been MPS ABC certified. An important part in that is the issue of environmental awareness and sustainability. Producing a high quality crop in a manner that is minimizing the impact on the environment and our employees. Over the years, we therefore changed our pest management plan to one that uses beneficials as a first choice and chemical treatments only as needed.” The other certificate DS Cole obtained just over a year ago is USDA GAP.