University of Vermont

Cultivating Healthy Communities

What are Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)?


Good Agricultural Practices, or GAPs, were developed in 1998 as voluntary guidelines for produce farmers to reduce the risk of microbial contamination related to food borne illnesses on their farms. They were based on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s Guide to Minimizing Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Produce. However, after a dramatic increase in the number of food borne illness outbreaks associated with fresh produce beginning in the mid-2000's, some larger buyers, especially supermarkets, began requiring their vendors to be audited by a third party to certify that they were following Good Agricultural Practices.

Today there are private third party GAPs Audits offered by private companies, as well as a USDA GAPs Audit. Buyers will tell farmers which type of Audit they require.

The USDA GAPs Audit consists of seven sections. Each section is composed of questions pertaining to food safety practices which are scored. A grower must get a score of 80% to pass each section. If you are seeking GAPs certification to meet a buyer's requirement, the buyer will tell you which sections of the Audit you must pass.

Creating a GAPs plan for your farm consists of three stages:

  1. Assessment: Identifying the food safety risks on your farm
  2. Planning: Writing a plan that consists of policies and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for addressing those risks
  3. Implementation and record-keeping: Documenting that you are following your policies and SOPs

The Center is available to help you with each of these stages. Email Ginger Nickerson to ask questions or to set up a time to meet.

Last modified October 31 2013 11:10 AM