What is CAPS?
Community Accreditation for Produce Safety (CAPS) is a program of the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association (VVBGA). CAPS is a voluntary, practical approach to documenting the use of practices that reduce food safety risks on farms that grow fresh produce. The CAPS advisory board of farmers and service providers has identified 18 practices that are required for accreditation. CAPS uses the capsvt.org platform to help you write a plan for these practices and subsequently you upload evidence that you implemented them. The evidence is documents and pictures that are in your on-line farm folder, which is then reviewed for completeness by your peers before certificate of accreditation is granted.
What CAPS isn’t
CAPS is not a regulatory program nor is it a guarantee of food safety. CAPS is not a substitute for complying with food safety laws, though it can be a part of that compliance. CAPS is simply a system for the VVBGA to establish its own food safety best practices and recognize member farms that apply them.
Most Vermont produce farms are be exempt from most FSMA regulations, but they will still need some way to maintain credibility with their buyers as market expectations around food safety become more stringent. Further, CAPS will help to reduce the already low risk posed by locally-grown produce, demonstrating the commitment of our farmers to quality and accountability.
Who pays for CAPS?
The development of CAPS is supported by local produce buyers such as Black River Produce, Hanover and Middlebury Coops, and City Market. UVM Extension and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, (through a Specialty Crop grant) have also contributed. The VVBGA board has invested $5,000 per year. Costs are primarily for a coordinator and for CAPS web site development. Grower fees are small but important part of the funding mix.
How do you participate in CAPS?…no commitment until April 1.
- If you are new to CAPS, and want to check out the platform (farmers or others), feel free to explore for free! Just start an account at capsvt.org and look around.
- To actually use the CAPS platform to help your farm, however, you must be a VVBGA member . Please register for VVBGA membership here if you want to participate.
- As a member, you can use the CAPS platform, with personal farm folder, for free.
- If you want a CAPS certificate, you need to draft or revise your produce safety plan before the April 1 deadline, and pay the $100 per farm CAPS fee here*. If you miss this deadline, you will need to wait till next year. *Financial and technical assistance is available-contact coordinator below for more information.
- Returning CAPS farms only need revise their plans if needed and renew by April 1.
- If you are a farmer new to CAPS, create an account here and draft your produce safety plan before April 1. Please note—you don’t need to pay the fee to start CAPS now, and draft a plan.
- If you choose to enroll in CAPS, you will get feedback on your draft plan and will finalize it by June 1.
- During the growing season you upload the additional six documents required to show implementation of your plan (see visual below)
- CAPS entire Farm Folder is due by Nov 1, when your farm folder is reviewed for completeness by a team of farmers and agricultural service providers. You will have a four weeks to fix any problems or add missing elements. Then you become accredited for the following year. At the end of each year you ‘roll over’ your plan, making changes as necessary.
Who do you contact with questions about CAPS?
Han Estrin of UVM Extension is coordinating the CAPS program, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (802) 380-2109 (phone or text).