In October & November 2021, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) Produce Program provided 39 Vermont produce farms with containers and cleaning supplies to improve produce safety and efficiency. Produce farms requested supplies through a simple Microsoft Forms application process. Each farm that applied received a Produce Safety Supply Kit.
Each kit contained a bucket, brush, squeegee, and a variable number of collapsible crates and/or attached lid containers. The containers and cleaning supplies included in the kits were hygienically designed, which means they are easy to clean. Each kit also included a poster with best practices for cleaning and sanitizing farm containers for farms to hang in their wash pack areas. Farms picked up their kits at the Vermont Agriculture and Environmental Lab in Randolph, Vermont, located at the geographic center of the state.
This project provided Produce Safety Supply Kits to 39 Vermont produce farms. The Vermont Produce Program connected 10 farms to the University of Vermont Extension Produce Safety Team for technical assistance in creating, developing, and documenting container cleaning protocols. Produce farmers were grateful and enthusiastic when they arrived to pick up their kits. The Produce Program will conduct a survey of all farms that received Produce Safety Supply Kits in Spring/Summer 2022. The goal of the survey is for VAAFM to better understand the impact of this project on produce safety.
This was a pilot project for the Vermont Produce Program. The Program had experience giving grants to farms but hadn't ever bought supplies and given them to farms for free. The project was a success and a learning opportunity, and the team hopes to be able to offer similar opportunities in the future to support the industry.
Produce Safety Supply Kit Contents
- TranPak Collapsible Plastic Crate 64×18
- TranPak Attached Lid Container 22x15x12.8
- VIKAN Short Handle Brush (Orange)
- VIKAN 10" Double Blade Ultra Hygiene Bench Squeegee (Green)
- VIKAN 3 Gallon Hygienic Pail (Blue)
To be eligible for this opportunity, farms were required to
- Be enrolled in the Vermont Produce Portal.
- Grow, harvest, pack, or hold “covered produce” as defined by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule.
Applications were screened for eligibility, and farms with average annual produce sales of greater than $28,561 over the past three years were prioritized. After screening and prioritization, all eligible applications were considered on a first-come, first-served basis until all supplies were spoken for.
Because the value of a supply kit might be considered taxable income, we provided the approximate value of each kit at pick-up and encouraged each grower to consult with an accountant or tax preparer to determine any tax obligations.
Related Resources for Growers
Customized Support to Improve Cleaning & Sanitizing on Your Farm - SCRUB Project
Bins, Buckets, Baskets and Totes – Ag Engineering Blog
Cleaning Tools and Supplies for Produce Farms - Ag Engineering Blog
Cleaning and Sanitizing Produce Containers (Printable PDF Poster) - Vermont Produce Program
Cleaning and Sanitizing Activity Record (Editable Template) – Cornell University
Cleaning and Sanitizing Standard Operating Procedures (Editable Template) – Cornell University
Cleaning vs. Sanitizing – Produce Safety Alliance
University of Vermont Extension and Sanitizing and Cleaning Resources for Your Business (SCRUB) project team were key partners in this effort. UVM Extension assisted in the planning and development for this project, solicited input on which types of cleaning and sanitizing supplies farmers needed most at the 2021 Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association Annual Meeting, provided technical recommendations to VAAFM on which hygienically-designed products to bulk order, conducted outreach about the opportunity, and collaborated with the Vermont Produce Program on an educational poster included in each Produce Safety Supply Kit highlighting best practices for cleaning and sanitizing containers.
Funding for this project was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM180100XXXXG041. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.
This project was supported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award U2FFD007405-01 totaling $491,500 with 100 percent funded by FDA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, FDA/HHS or the U.S. Government.