question for vendors at farmers markets?

jadeiteJuly 31, 2012

If you are selling food at farmers markets, are there regulations about your kitchen set up? I thought there were laws about what equipment you have to have in order to sell food to the public. I don't know if this varies by state.


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Yes, it does vary by state --- check with your local health dept. authorities or Agriculture Extension Service.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 9:57AM
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Michigan has a Cottage Food Law that gives guidelines on what can be done from a home kitchen. Not that everyone follows it.
Labeling has certain requirements also.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 10:06AM
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In this area food has to be prepared in a commercial kitchen that has been inspected and licensed by the health department. A home kitchen would not be considered. But a quick search tells me this may change here in California.

Here is a link that might be useful: Food safety news.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 10:35AM
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In Minn. there is a law called "pickle bill" you can sell pickles, salsa, tomatoes, and jams made in your home kitchen. They must be labeled with ingredients, your name and address and date or batch. You may also sell baked goods. The state food inspector comes to the market at least once a year. Patty

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 10:41AM
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In Texas, any food for sale must be prepared
In an inspected, certified kitchen.
And they won't even consider a home kitchen.
They do inspect on a yearly basis.
However, there are no laws, rules, or even guidelines
As to labeling!
This seems totally senseless to me!

As to how well the laws are followed,
Well, I have my doubts.
There are almost always
(and especially around Christmas)
People wandering the parking lots,
With coolers of homemade tamales,
Trays of baked goods, etc.
I always wonder just where they were prepared.

It does seem as though there are always those
To whom the rules don't apply.

When they started strictly enforcing this law,
A lot of organizations 'lost' their
Main fund-raising activity.
I believe some of them,
Such as scouts, band boosters, etc,
Get around the law by simply setting up a table
And asking for donations.
Then there is another table next to it
With a variety of baked goods,
And the benefactor can chose
whatever goody they'd like
As a "Thank you" for their donation.

I might add,
there are no Farmer's Markets here,
But I have heard rumors of one in a city
About 50 miles from here.

We used to have an arts & crafts co-op here,
We had a certified kitchen there,
And several members
(Myself included)
Baked all kinds of goodies to sell there.
It was a lot of fun!


    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 12:32PM
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Probably a generation ago, (how long is a generation?),
the Church that I attended often had bake sales. One
day the Church said that all items for sale at the bake
sale had to be labeled with the name and address of the
person that made the 'goodie'. I guess it was so that
if anyone got sick, they would know where to send the
lawyers. I don't know what to think anymore. I mean,
if you can't trust a 'Grandmotherly Type' selling her
wares at a Church function, who can you trust?
(I have my doubts about the 'Officials' that do inspections.)

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 1:19PM
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Cheryl, I think it can be very simple by just going to the farmers market and ask a few of the vendors.

They will be happy to tell you, I am sure. The bigger the farmers market the more customer it draws.


    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 11:41PM
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As stated, each state has its own requirements, usually avilable through your local health department of state extension service.

Michigan has a cottage food law recently passed. The old law required a certified and inspected kitchen separate from your kitchen used for home food preparation. Now items which can be prepared in your kitchen and sold include baked goods, jams, syrups but not pickled vegetables, etc.

Check for your own state's requirements.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 1:24AM
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Thank you all for your replies and advice. My question comes partly out of idle curiosity - I see vendors at local markets who seem like average homeowners and I read posts on this forum about selling at FMs. I also see people selling homemade foods on etsy. I wondered if there was a special waiver allowing this, something like the Cottage Food Law that Wizard and Annie mention.

I also asked because I'm in the process of cooking down all the thinnings from our overburdened apple tree. I'm extracting the pectin in spite of DH's complaints that we can't use this much pectin in our lifetimes. So far I've cooked down about 150 lbs, and that's only half the tree. It crossed my mind that I could use this for jams and jellies and sell them at FMs. We have an apricot tree, a cherry tree and grape vines, so there's a lot of fruit for just two people.

I'm not sure I'm ready to plunge into a FM stall yet, which will give me time to get answers from my state authorities.

Thanks again for all your help,

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 9:30AM
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I stopped at a "farm" market yesterday and it was obviously a couple who loved to grow their own fruits and vegetables and flowers, and thought, "Why not sell some of this excess!!" They were retired and were probably going to be outside anyway, and it was along a route where lots of upper middle class folks commuted, so it made sense. Not sure what the regulations were regarding that, or how they are enforced. Not sure you could open up a "pectin" stand, but I sure would look into selling it if you could. Might try advertising it among home canners somehow. Would probably be a good seller at a market where folks were buying stuff to can, which is not every market. At the prices some "farm" markets charge, I can't imagine anyone buying enough of the produce to can, although I'm sure some folks do. I just find out where the farms are and sneak out to the ones near me and snatch up their "marginal" stuff for cheap!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 9:48AM
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lpink - I can't imagine having a stall just to sell pectin. I would use it to make jams out of the mountains of apples, cherries, apricots and grapes our backyard is producing, and sell the jams at FMs. These might sell at reasonable prices and make the whole effort worthwhile.

I also can't imagine selling the fruit at FMs, it's too fragile and the time involved in picking and packing is prohibitive. This year we gave a lot of it away, dried and froze some and ate as much as we could. The birds took care of the rest. But the apple tree which still holds hundreds of pounds of apples is scary!

From my limited experience, the fruit itself isn't the main driver in cost of selling, it's the labor involved in picking it and running a stall or getting it to a store. I have friends with fruit trees who tell me they give lots of fruit away. Crazy!


    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 10:24AM
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I think using your homemade pectin in jams would be a good selling point. Which is the way I read your post.

One other thing to think about, most of the really popular farm markets in my area have a website or a section on the local chamber site. Check out their requirements and make a call to see if they have space for new vendors. One that I wanted to get into wanted applications in last March for this season, starting in June. They all have different requirements as to distance, canopies, etc.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 10:26AM
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I too am interested in this post. Am getting tired of my present part time job and was inspired by many of you that do sell your homemade products. I am going to spend this winter researching what it all entails in my state. So far no foods needing pressure cooking as a means of cooking are allowed to be sold. If you are going to sell your products away from your home they need an individual label containing name, address, type of product, list of ingredients, and weight. If you are selling them directly from your home they do not. Many more details about storage, temperatures, type of countertops, 2 tub sinks etc. available online at our government site under the Dept. of Agriculture. Check out your states site, Cheryl lots of info there. Also check out your town/city government site. They may have requirements too. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 11:01AM
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I just received a reply from the Extension office for my state. The helpful home economist described the process as "tedious" and she wasn't kidding! There are permits, inspections, application forms to operate a home business, zoning requirements etc. etc. It's daunting.

I'm glad I wasn't trying to do this any time soon. I'll spend some time thinking about whether I'm serious or not. This takes a lot more motivation than I realized. I take my hat off to those of you who have gone through this process.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 2:25PM
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In my opinion, none of these 'municipalites' give a damn
about your health, or mine. They are interested only in the FEE associated with issuing permits. I'm sorry to be
such a pessimist, but: "I bin dis country long distance."

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 3:00PM
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lbpod - you may well be right. Regulation sounds good in principle, but is a burden on the small vendor who wants to sell simple homemade goods. I suspect that a lot of vendors don't bother with all the forms and inspections.

I wonder why all the fuss about small vendors. Have any cases of food poisoning come out of FMs? How do these compare with the giants like Tyson or Con Agra? I always try to buy local and small and have never given a thought to requirements and regulations.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 4:21PM
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I know that rules and regs. will not be the same but if you google Mankato farmers market you can read what it takes to be a member of my market. It has been going for more than the 35 years but is a lot of info that might answer a few of your questions. Patty

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 11:04AM
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