Community Accreditation for Produce Safety (CAPS) is a voluntary program that helps farmers adopt best practices for produce safety, and recognizes them for doing so. CAPS is a program of the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers’ Association (VVBGA) with operation coordinated by University of Vermont (UVM) Extension. CAPS content and policies are guided by an advisory board of farmers and agricultural service providers.
CAPS uses an online platform combined with intensive technical support to help small and medium-scale farmers meet market expectations and comply with the intent of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule (PSR). Begun as a pilot with 22 farms in 2015, CAPS has increased participation to 145 farms in 2020. Though CAPS is a Vermont-based program, 28 of the participating farms are in five other states and one Canadian province.
CAPS was designed by farmers, extension educators and regulators to help farmers 1) learn about produce safety practices that are compliant with the PSR, 2) write customized produce safety plans, 3) have their plans reviewed and scored by a panel of peers and experts, and then 4) revise their plans and document their implementation. Farms that complete these requirements and fully comply with the CAPS standards earn accreditation and an e-certificate. Farms review and revise their plans annually to maintain accreditation.
What is CAPS-Plus?
CAPS-Plus adds a third-party, on-farm audit to confirm the information in a farm’s CAPS records. Some wholesale buyers including those at Hannaford and Wegmans and Price Chopper supermarkets have agreed to accept CAPS-Plus from growers in lieu of USDA GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) audits, which are no longer offered by Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.