Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the questions below to see answers.

While a written food safety plan is not mandatory for growers not getting GAP certified, if you anticipate you will be scaling up and transitioning towards markets that require GAP certification, developing a food safety plan is critical.  In fact, many markets that do not require  formal food safety plans still often want verification showing your understanding of on-farm food safety risks and practices.  In many markets we surveyed (see Accessing Virginia’s Markets), many buyers felt a simple written plan with documentation was highly desirable.

In the dozens and dozens of producers we have assisted with their on-farm food safety assessments and practices, all have reiterated that the process of creating a written food safety plan has many benefits. Besides the obvious benefit of fine-tuning a farm’s food safety operations, developing a plan can help a farm greatly increase their efficiencies and streamline production, harvest, and post-harvest efforts. For example, having a consistent policy on how produce is picked, washed, packaged, and stored can increase product quality and uniformity. Having a written plan also demonstrates to your buyers a certain level of organization and commitment to quality and food safety. In the event that a problem may arise, having a food safety plan can provide the necessary documentation required to verify your handling of the products, as well as help to identify where problem areas may have contributed to any issues.

While this greatly depends on the market and also whether or not the plan is being prepared as part of a food safety audit, at minimum, it is wise to explore different examples so you can develop a plan that is well tailored to your farm. In any case, it is important to focus on the key risk areas mentioned on this website, such as worker health and hygiene, soil amendments, water quality (production and post-harvest), animals, facilities, equipment, and products being grown, and to describe GAPs you will implement. The resources found under the ‘Producer Resources’ section are a great starting point for simple food safety plans, or full-fledged plans needed for certification purposes. More in-depth VCE Plan of Action manual templates and resources are provided under the GAP Certification Resources subpage.

Food Safety Plan Writing Resources

Food Safety Plans
NCSU guidance documents for preparing a food safety plan. Categorized by broad topics that set the stage for developing your plan.

Food Safety Begins on the Farm: A Grower Self Assessment of Food Safety Risks
The excellent resource is designed to guide growers through the process of identifying risks particular to their operation, developing appropriate solutions, implementing good agricultural practices and developing a farm food safety plan. This document has 21 sections allowing growers to evaluate many different parts of their operation including harvest sanitation, worker hygiene, wild animals, water use, farm biosecurity, and crisis management. Each section contains worksheets so that growers can document their progress and plan for GAPs implementation.  Can be purchased or downloaded.

How to Write a Standard Operating Procedure

Standard Operating Procedures: A Writing Guide
A nice explanation of how to write an SOP.  While focused on dairies, this guide does a nice job of explaining the process and different ways an SOP can be written.

National Good Agricultural Practices Program Log Sheets & SOPs
The information in the template food safety plan, SOPs, and recordkeeping logs are examples you can use, but should be tailored to fit your farm operation and practices. While these documents are meant as guidance for risk reduction and for educational use, they are not regulatory and are not intended to be used as audit metrics. These documents are subject to change without notice based on the best available science.

On-Farm Food Safety Project
A part of FamilyFarmed, the On-Farm Food Safety Project helps you learn about food safety, create a personalized on-farm food safety plan, and become food safety certified.  We strongly urge growers to check in with the Fresh Produce Food Safety Team for guidance with GAP certification as you move ahead with your preparation and food safety plan.