All Vermont Growers should get on Produce Safety by April 1!

Regardless of size and markets, ALL produce growers should identify and limit food safety risks within their operations.  Here are three steps for Vermont growers to get on board:

Step-1-– ALL growers write a CAPS Plan by April 1–This is free for VVBGA members and only takes a few hours at !

Step 2--Get a CAPS Certificate—For a 3-party review of your plan, and a CAPS Certificate of best practices, register for CAPS by April1, and complete the program by November 1. ($100 fee)

Step 3--Get a CAPS-PLUS Certificate if  your market requires a third-party on-farm audit, email Hans at if interested.

For more information and photos, see CAPS overview HERE .

To be eligible for the CAPS or CAPS-Plus certificate,  You must submit your produce safety plan and pay the $10O fee** HERE by April 1, 2018

  • If you miss this deadline, you need to wait till next year …so DON’T wait until the last minute!  And don’t stress because this is only a ROUGH draft—you will have the merry month of May to revise it!
  • Just starting CAPS?  Create and account and draft a new CAPS Plan (takes about 2-4 hours) at .
  • Renewing CAPS?  Simply review/revise your existing plan from last year and submit!

Instructions for tasks to complete by April 1:

  1. If you have yet to, create and account at  and set up your farm folder.  This is free, easy and only takes a couple minutes. DO THIS NOW if possible…so you can get on our auto reminder list!
  1. If you have yet to, complete  the CAPS on-line produce safety plan -This is a guided short-answer survey to describe your current practices.  If renewing CAPS, simply review/revise your existing plan.
  1. Submit this plan for review by April 1 at the latest!!  Please submit your draft plan even if you don’t want a CAPS certificate.
  1. If you have yet to, register here for CAPS by April 1 and pay the $100 fee**—this will make you official—and is a separate step from creating an account!

** technical and financial assistance is available to help make CAPS equally accessible for all VVBGA members—email Hans for more info.

Feel free to contact me any time—I am here to support you with CAPS!

Hans Estrin

VVBGA CAPS Coordinator–Produce Safety Specialist, UVM Extension Brattleboro Office

Office:802 257 7967, Cell: 802 380 2109



Time to Revise and Finalize your CAPS Documents!

The CAPS review is complete, and now it is time to check your review and finalize documents for your 2017/18 farm folder–You have until Dec 29 to finish!

Below screen shots (or PDF HERE) show how to view your scores and comments, and then revise, and finalize your CAPS documents :

CAPS Revision instructions 1  

CAPS Employee Training due July 17!

All CAPS farms are required to have and follow a simple common sense Health and Hygiene (HH) policy, confirmed from their account by July 17.   CAPS farms with employees are further required to verify that employees have received HH training.

These three standards are included in this training, at a minimum:

  1. HAND WASHING: Workers must thoroughly wash hands, after going to the bathroom, before returning to work, or as needed.  Need entertainment? …Please feel free teach the method demonstrated in this totally unofficial demonstration of the 10-Cent Hand Wash.
  2. SICK POLICY: If sick, workers should take care, rest up to get better quick! If sick with symptoms of an infectious disease (i.e. fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice), workers should not handle raw-eaten produce. Workers should always contact a supervisor if sick, and decided the best course of action.
  3. FIRST AID: Workers must promptly treat cuts, abrasions, and other injuries, and report them. Bleeding must be stopped, and cuts covered and protected before continuing work.

All employees should be informed of this basic policy (verbal and written) during their initial training and sign that they have read and understand it. Returning employees during their yearly reorientation, may simply sign that they have reviewed and understand the policy. HH training can be very short and simple (see #13 instructions  or download CAPS #13 documents here. Farms are welcome to use these provided templates, or make their own.kid hand wash.JPG

Please contact Hans Estrin if you have any questions or need any help (, or 802 380 2109).


2017 CAPS Plan Review and Revision

CAPS participation up 44% in 2017

During the Winter and Spring, 125 growers  registered on the CAPS site, and at least started plans.  By April 9th deadline, 91 farms signed up for CAPS accreditation (registered and paid the $100 fee) and submitted their  produce safety plans for review.

This participation is  44% greater than in 2016 (up from 63 farms)!


In addition to the coordinator, 17 individuals total (13 CAPS farmers and 4 Service providers) volunteered for the 2017 CAPS Review Team.  Over the next 2 weeks, the reviewers and the coordinator scored and comment on all of the 91 submitted plans.  The coordinator scored all 91 plans, and each reviewer scored 5-6 plans.  Thus each submitted CAPS plan gets two independent reviews.

The quality of draft CAPS plans improved significantly over 2016.  Over 60% of plans scored 100%, and only 3% have  major revisions to do.

2017 Revision stats


CAPS Produce Safety Plans can be revised and finalized between May 5 and June 5!

Each  plan has now been review and scored by two reviewers. Scores and comments are now available to farmers from their CAPS account.

To their review and scores, farmers log in at, go to “Produce Safety Plan” from home screen, and click on “View Reviewer Comments” below the link to your 2017 plan (see screen shot below). This will open a pop-up window with personal scores and comments.

If farmers received one or more “No” scores, they are required within 30 days to revise their plan.

If their plan receives a perfect score and they are satisfied with it (all “Yes”‘s or “NA”‘s),  farmers should submit it NOW or asap.

Once submitted, these finalized plans will be linked to farmers on-line CAPS farm folder, which they can choose to share with others.

To revise and/or submit finalized plan, from the Produce Safety Plan start page, simply click on “Create or Edit Plan” link to open the plan. When you are happy with your plan, submit it from the plan’s final input page.

CAPS reviewer comments

Contact coordinator Hans Estrin ( , or 802 380 2109) for assistance.

2017 CAPS Instructions

Eventbrite photo


CAPS PRODUCE SAFETY PLAN Submission DEADLINE  has been postponed 1 week–to April 7 at midnight!

How to get started with CAPS:

  • CLICK HERE  to check out a few slides showing what CAPS gets you.
  • NEW to CAPS?    …Just start an account at and explore for free!
  • To use CAPS to write and share your Produce Safety Plan, please join the VVBGA for $35/$45! VVBGA members get the CAPS platform, with personal Farm Folder and Share Page, for free.

 How to get a CAPS Certificate (New or Renewal):

  • Log in at and draft or revise your PRODUCE SAFETY PLAN by April 7th  (Renewing CAPS farms just revise existing plan).
  • Officially REGISTER FOR CAPS HERE and pay the $100 annual CAPS certification fee, by April 1st.Financial and technical assistance is available- contact coordinator for more information.
  • Get feedback on your plan and finalize it by June 7th.
  • By Nov. 1st, submit six additionally documents -required to show implementation of your plan–Each of below is linked to a more detailed description.
  1. Employee Training Verification (13)
  2. Manure Management Records (14)
  3. Farm Container Photos and Management (15)
  4. Water Test Record (16)
  5. Wash Line photos and SOP (17)
  6. Cold Storage Photos (18)
  • By Nov. 16th, receive a review of completeness from a team of farmers and agricultural service providers.
  • Take four weeks to fix any problems or add missing elements.
  • Become accredited for the following year. At the end of each year you  ‘roll over’ your plan, making changes as necessary.

Questions about CAPS?

Contact UVM Extension’s CAPS program coordinator, Hans Estrin– or (802) 380-2109 (phone or text)

Sixty-one Farms Finish 2016/17 CAPS Program!

On Dec 19, 2016,  the VVBGAs Community Accreditation for Produce Safety (CAPS) Program successfully concluded its first official year!  Thanks to all the farmers that helped craft this practical and cost-effective approach to on-farm food safety education and risk reduction.  Here are the highlights:

  • 61 Farms (90% of original 68) successfully completed CAPS –See list of farms below. hmf-2016-caps-badge-signed
  •  eBadges (certificates) of the CAPS farms have been posted in personal farms folders.  CAPS farms are free to share their personal farm folder urls with anyone they choose.
  • As a benefit, the program-exclusive CAPS Share Page allows farmers to learn from each other by perusing produce safety photos and procedures on other farms.
  • Hannaford Supermarkets, accepted CAPS instead of USDA GAP for 5 farms this year (a pilot project), and GOOD NEWS—They will accept CAPS from any farm for 2017.  But don’t get too excited, yet.  Because the Hannaford CAPS requires an additional on-site CAPS verification, we (Extension and VAAFM) are not actually sure how many farms WE can handle!  We should know more on this by the annual meeting.
  • To maintain CAPS accreditation beyond 2017 (with official certificate) renewing farms will pay the $100 fee** and revise their 2016 CAPS plan by April 1, 2017 (financial aid available as needed, like in 2016).   All farms wanting 2017 CAPS will need to meet this April 1 deadline, regardless of their CAPS status or history.
  • VVBGA Farms can also use the CAPS platform for free, self-serve. But only farms in the enrolled in CAPS will be reviewed, scored and be eligible for the  2017/18 CAPS certificate. Without renewal, a farms 2016 certificate will automatically expire at the end of 2017.

Below is a list of the 2016 CAPS Farms, and more details:

Final list of  2016 VVBGA CAPS Farms
1 4-Corners Farm
2 Bella Farm, LLC
3 Berry Creek Farm
4 Boyd Family Farm
5 Burnt Rock Farm
6 Cate Farm
7 Cedar Circle Farm
8 Ceres Gardens
9 Clay Brook Farm
10 Covered Bridge Berry Patch
11 Crandalls Corners Farm
12 Crossroad Farm
13 Deep Meadow Farm
14 Dutchess Farm
15 Dutton Berry Farm
16 Eastview Farm LLC
17 Edgewater Farm
18 Foggy Meadow Produce
19 Foote Brook Farm
20 Gildrien Farm
21 Hackett’s Orchard
22 Harvest hill farm
23 Heron Pond Farm
24 High Meadows farm
25 Intervale Community Farm
26 Jericho Settlers Farm, Inc.
27 Joe’s Brook Farm
28 Lester Farm & Market
29 Lewis Creek Farm
30 Luna Bleu Farm
31 Maple Star Farm
32 Maple Wind Farm
33 Meadow’s Mirth
34 Mighty Food Farm
35 New Leaf CSA
36 Newfield Herb Farm
37 Old Athens Farm
38 Picadilly Farm
39 Pomykala Farm
40 Red Sky Farm, LLC
41 Red Wagon Plants
42 River Berry Farm
43 Rockville Market Farm
44 Root 5 Farm
45 Roots Too Farm
46 Screamin’ Ridge Farm, Inc
47 Shadow Creek Farm
48 Shelburne farms market garden
49 Singing Cedars Farmstead
50 Spring Ledge Farm
51 Stout Oak Farm
52 Sunrise Farm
53 The Last Resort Farm
54 The Tutorial Center’s YAP Farm
55 Trillium Hill Farm
56 True Love Farm
57 University of Vermont Catamount Farm
58 Vermont Cranberry Company
59 Walker Farm
60 Willow Brook Farm
61 Wood’s Market Garden

Want to know more?….

  • Early in 2016 a total of 85 farms created individual farm folders in the CAPS on-line platform and used the system to write produce safety plans.
  • By the end of May, 68 farms took the next step and paid a $100 fee to participate in the CAPS accreditation process. These farms reported having 1,304 acres in crop production plus 715,442 square feet in greenhouse crop production. Based on 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture data for field vegetables and greenhouse tomatoes in Vermont, these farms have annual produce sales of $12.44 million.
  • The 17 farms that used the CAPS platform only to write produce safety plans, without seeking accreditation, did not have to pay a fee. All VVBGA member farms were offered scholarships to overcome financial barriers to participation in CAPS, and 5 farms paid a reduced fee of $50.
  • All required documentation was due from farms by the first of November; 64 of the 68 farms met this deadline. Two farms dropped out in July and two in November, for personal reasons.
  • Teams of two reviewers then scored each of the 64 on-line farm folders for completeness, using pass/fail for each required section, with comments required when a failing grade was given. There were 12 reviewers including the CAPS coordinator; 7 reviewers were farmers from the CAPS advisory board and 5 were service providers (3 from Extension and 2 from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.)
  • Forty farms submitted complete documentation by the Nov. 1 deadline, with no changes needed. Reviewers found corrections or additions needed by 23 other farms. Most were minor issues, such as a missing photo or lack of detail in a description of a standard operating procedure. Two farms submitted little documentation and did not end up earning accreditation. Farms had until Dec. 19 to complete or correct their farm folders.
  • A total of 61 farms ended up earning CAPS accreditation, out of the 68 farms that enrolled initially (90%). Accreditation is signified by receipt of a CAPS e-badge. This can be used on farm marketing materials through 2017. Farms must complete the process each year to maintain accreditation, though plans will ‘roll over’ so it will be easy to make minor changes as needed.

2016 CAPS Review Now in Progress

Congrats to all VVBGA Farmers who submitted their remaining CAPS Documents (#14-#18)!

64 of the original 68 farms submitted their remaining CAPS Documents by the review deadline—So, 94% of original farmers and almost done with their 2016 Accreditation, which will be valid through next growing season.

WHAT IS NEXT?   This is what CAPS farmers need to do to earn their final 2016 CAPS certificate/ e-badge:

  • Farmers will receive scores/comments from reviewers by Nov 19 Friday.
  • They will go to and review these scores and comments for each section (14-18).
  • If no changes are needed for a section (i.e. a “Yes” score), they should resubmit that section as “FINAL” right then and there, and it will instantly auto-link to their CAPS Farm Folder.
  • If they receive a “No” score on a section, they need to revise or add something in order to be accredited. That something will be described in the comments from reviewers (s).
  • CAPS farmers have one month, till Mon, Dec 19, to revise and finalize deficient sections, after which time 2016 CAPS will officially close!!
  • All sections will auto- finalize at mid-night on Dec 19.
  • Assuming required revisions are made, the CAPS coordinator will post new 2016 CAPS e-badges to farmers sharable folders! (these 8 X 11 certificates of accreditation  can also be down-loaded and printed for posting)
  • During the revision period (Nov 19-Dec 19), the coordinator is available to help farmers as needed, to address questions or logistical problems, and will officially notify and remind farmers about what needs revision.
  • Once Farmers finalize a CAPS section, it links to their farm folder, and they will no longer be able to edit it on-line until starting their new 2017 CAPS (they will not have to redo any 2106 work!)
  • If there is some urgent need to edit 2016 documents after finalization, farmers can ask the coordinator to resubmit an “Admin-edited version”, which will replace their final version in the 2016 folder.


2016 CAPS Now in Progress!

Eventbrite photo


As of our April 1 deadline, the 2016 VVBGA’s CAPS (Community Accreditation for Produce Safety) is now in progress.  Here are the numbers:

  • 68 farms have registered, paid and submitted CAPS produce safety plans for review,
  • 23/25 of the 2015 pilot farms have continued with 2016 CAPS (92% retention)
  • 5 of 2016 CAPS farms will participate in the Hannaford “Turbo” CAPS Pilot (wherein VVBGA, Hannaford, VAAFM, and UVM Extension develop a more-rigorous distributer-tier version of CAPS)
  • 17 additional farms have plans submitted or in progress at, but have not registered for accreditation.
  • CAPS has engaged growers with approximately 1,500 acres of vegetable production and an estimated value of $9 million in annual sales to date


Get on CAPS by April 1!

Eventbrite photo

For CAPS accreditation, you must complete a few tasks before April 1 !

This April 1 deadline (to submit your produce safety plan draft) is firm and automated—like a grant application.  If you miss it, you must wait till next year for another shot!  …so DON’T wait until the last minute  ..and NO Stress–it can be a ROUGH draft—you will have the merry month of May to revise it!

If you already have an updated produce safety plan, it will likely take you  1-2 hours to complete the tasks for April 1.  If you don’t have a current plan, it may take you 2-4 hours to complete.  You can work in small bursts or all at once.

If you have yet to and can,  please take 5 minutes RIGHT NOW to get started with task #1 below!

CAPS tasks—to complete by April 1:

  1. If you have yet to, create and account at  and set up your farm folder.  This is free, easy and only takes a couple minutes. DO THIS NOW if possible…so you can get on our auto reminder list!
  1. Draft you CAPS on-line produce safety plan (think short answer (like survey monkey) describing your current practices.  If you have a current plan, cut and paste into the short answer input fields, revising and adding as needed.  This will take 1-4 hours, depending on your starting point and efficiency**.     Good News: you will only need to do this once—next year your 2016 plan will auto populate for you to review and revise.
  1. Submit this 2016 plan for review by April 1 at the latest—2 weeks left!!  One click!  Submit your draft plan even if you don’t want accreditation! (If you do not register and pay for CAPS accreditation, your plan will NOT be reviewed)
  1. If you have yet to, register here for CAPS by April 1 and pay the $100 fee**—this will make you official—and is a separate step from creating an account!

** technical and financial assistance is available to help make CAPS equally accessible for all VVBGA members—email Hans for more info.

Feel free to contact me any time—I am here to support you with CAPS!

Hans Estrin

VVBGA CAPS Coordinator–Produce Safety Specialist, UVM Extension Brattleboro Office

Office:802 257 7967, Cell: 802 380 2109

2016 CAPS – Register by April 1!

Eventbrite photo

What is CAPS?

Community Accreditation for Produce Safety (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 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 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 will be exempt from FSMA, 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. In 2016, grower fees will be a small but important part of the funding mix.

How do I participate in CAPS?…no commitment until April 1!

  1. You must be a VVBGA member to participate in CAPS.  You can use the CAPS website for free, but for CAPS Accreditation, you will register here before the April 1, 2016 deadline and pay the $100 per farm fee*.  If you miss this deadline, you will need to wait till next year to get in. *Financial and technical assistance is available-contact coordinator below for more information
  2. Create and account here and draft your produce safety plan before April 1Please note—you don’t need to pay the fee to start CAPS now, and draft a plan.
  3. You get feedback on your draft plan and will finalize it by June 1.
  4. During the growing season you upload the documents and photos required to show implementation of your plan (see the 2016 CAPS Checklist for reference).
  5. CAPS Farm Folder is due by Tuesday, Nov 1, when your farm folder is reviewed for completeness by a team of farmers and agricultural service providers. You will have a few weeks to fix any problems or add missing elements. Then you become accredited for the following year. At the end of each year you can ‘roll over’ your plan, making changes as necessary.

Who do I contact with questions about CAPS?

Han Estrin of UVM Extension is coordinating the CAPS program, contact him at or at (802) 380-2109 (phone or text). Also see CAPS info website at

VPS banner6