Selling at Certified Farmers' Markets
Selling at Certified Farmers' Markets
What is a certified farmers' market, how do you sell at one, and what are the rules and regulations governing the markets and the sellers?
Put simply, certified farmers' markets (CFMs) are "the real thing" places where genuine farmers sell their products directly to the public. More specifically, a CFM is a location approved by the county agricultural commissioner, where certified producers sell agricultural products they produce themselves to consumers. Markets and the farmers who sell at them are governed by various rules and regulations. These are outlined below.
Individual Market Rules
A CFM must have a certificate issued by the county agricultural commissioner authorizing it as a location where certified producers can sell their products directly to consumers. A CFM is also considered to be a food facility and must have a health permit issued by the local environmental health authority. It may be operated by one or more certified producers, by a non-profit organization, or by a local governmental agency.
A CFM must prepare market rules specifying the admission of producers, admission of agricultural products, and the removal of producers from the market. A CFM has the authority to establish rules regulating the type and number of producers, the type and number of agricultural products, and the selling methods. If, however, you believe the market manager is not treating you fairly you can contact the market sponsor or the local agricultural commissioner to see what recourse is available to you.
Certified Producer's Certificate
A Certified Producer's Certificate gives you the right to sell fresh fruits, nuts, vegetables, shell eggs, honey, flowers, and nursery stock directly to consumers at CFMs without the usual size, standard pack, and certain container and labeling requirements.
Obtain a Certified Producer's Certificate annually from the county agricultural commissioner of each county where your crops are grown. County agricultural commissioners require that all crops be listed, along with the amount or acreage of each crop. You don't need to own the land, you simply need to be actively working the land that you own, rent, lease or sharecrop. The agricultural commissioner will verify with a farm visit which crops are being grown.
An embossed photocopy of the original certificate must be displayed at the CFM when you are selling. You must also carry it with you when transporting produce to market. If you are selling at more than one CFM at the same time you must have one embossed photocopy for each location.
What Can be Sold?
You may sell fresh fruits, nuts, vegetables, shell eggs, honey, flowers, and nursery stock that you have grown and are listed on your certificate.
All agricultural products sold must comply with state regulations governing quality and maturity.
Processed Fruits, Vegetables and Nuts
You may also sell "non certifiable agricultural products". These include processed products such as fruit and vegetable juices, shelled nuts, jams and jellies, and wine. Though these products are not certified they must have been produced or derived from plants produced by you. A processed product that originated from a fresh certifiable product must have the fresh product listed on the Certified Producer's Certificate. Examples are apples listed for apple juice or fresh apricots listed for dried apricots.
These processed agricultural products may include, or have added to them, a limited number of ingredients or additives which act only as preservatives or are essential in the preparation of the product. Examples include pickles and cucumbers in a brine or vinegar solution for curing or pickling, flavorings added to shelled nuts which do not change the visual identity of the product, sulfites added to dried fruits and vegetables, and sugar, fruit juices, and pectin added to fruits to make jams and jellies.
The processing and storage facility must be under regulation by an authority acceptable to the State Department of Health Services to ensure sanitary conditions were followed during processing. For processed fruits, vegetables and juices, jams and preserves this is your local environmental health authority.
Fish, Meat, Poultry and Dairy Products
Other non certifiable agricultural products which may be sold at a CFM include catfish, trout, and oysters from controlled aquaculture operations, livestock and livestock products, and poultry and poultry products. They must have been produced or derived from animals raised by you.
Processed products may include, or have added to them, a limited number of ingredients or additives which act only as preservatives or are essential in the preparation of the product. Examples include natural smoking of meat or poultry for drying and preserving. The processing and storage facility must be under regulation by an authority acceptable to the State Department of Health Services to ensure sanitary conditions were followed during processing.
Producers raising poultry for sale at a CFM should request inspection and licensing from the Meat and Poultry Inspection Branch of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) or have their poultry processed at a licensed facility.
In regards to red meat the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture is the recognized regulatory authority for inspection of cattle, calf, sheep, swine and goat processing plants.
Dairy products are regulated by the Bureau of Milk and Dairy Foods Control of CDFA.
Only agricultural products may be sold in the "designated area" of the CFM. However, nonagricultural products such as bakery goods, crafts, and ocean fish can be sold adjacent to the designated area of a CFM, provided the individual market rules allow for their sale.
Selling and Handling
Bulk ready-to-eat foods, such as shelled nuts and dried fruit, must be protected from contamination, Acceptable methods include prepackaging food at an approved facility, or displaying food in approved containers with lids. Dispensing methods shall avoid direct hand contact with ready-to-eat food.
Food must be stored at least 6 inches off the ground.
You can sell to businesses, such as restaurants, at a CFM but standard pack and container requirements must be met.
Prepackaged, closed consumer containers must be labeled with your name, address and zip code and a declaration of the identity and quantity of the commodity in the package.
If you sell agricultural products by weight you must use a scale which has been approved, tested and sealed by the County Agriculture Commissioner, Sealer of Weights and Measures.
All products sold as organic must be grown, produced and labeled in accordance with the California Organic Foods Act of 1990.
You may only sell your own products unless the individual CFM rules allow you to sell for others. In that case the market may allow you to sell for up to two other certified producers. If so, each certified producer's products must be separate and identifiable, the CFM must have written verification that you are authorized to sell for them, and you must also be selling your own products as well.
No live animals, birds, or fowl are allowed within 20 feet of where food is stored or held for sale. Guide, signal or service dogs are an exception.
If the local health authority approves, samples may be allowed. The product, sanitary facilities available and the location of the facilities are important considerations.
The Sacramento CFM recommends the following:
Keep samples in clean, covered containers approved by the local health agency.
Use toothpicks or disposable utensils to distribute the samples.
Dispose of pits, peels, food waste and rubbish in leak proof garbage receptacles with close-fitting lids.
Use clean, disposable plastic gloves when cutting produce for samples.
Wash and clean produce.
Utensils and cutting surfaces must be washed and sanitized (use a chlorine solution of one teaspoon or capful of liquid bleach per gallon of water).
Cutting surfaces must be smooth, non-absorbent and easily cleanable.
Sources of Rules and Regulations
California Code of Regulations, Title 3, Food and Agricultural Code, Article 6.5 Direct Marketing.
California Health and Safety Code. Chapter 4. California Uniform Retail Food Facilities Law (CURFFL).
California Sherman Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Law, Division 21, commencing with Section 26000.
Individual CFM rules.
The information in this article was taken from the following documents:
Health Department Regulation of Certified Farmers' Markets, California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health, April 1992.
A Guide to the California Direct Marketing Regulations, California Dept. of Food and Agriculture, Direct Marketing Program. October 1991.
Rules of Certified Farmers' Markets of Sacramento.
Organizing a Certified Farmers' Market. California Dept. of Food and Agriculture, Direct Marketing Program. Revised 1992.