Farmers markets are a great way to directly market products to consumers, but there are certain laws and regulations that farmers market participants must follow.
Generally, those selling foods must hold a retail food establishment license. However, participants at a farmers market are exempt from the license requirement, so long as the farmers market has properly registered with the Ohio Department of Agriculture. In addition, farmers market participants are limited in the types of foods they may sell under this exemption.
Farmers market participants may sell the following products at a properly registered farmers market:
Fresh and unprocessed fruits or vegetables
These can be any of the types of fruits or vegetables, so long as they have not yet been cut or processed in anyway. Leave the vegetables in whole form in order to sell them at the farmers market.
Properly labeled maple syrup, sorghum, or honey
Maple syrup, sorghum or honey that is exempt from mandatory inspection should follow the guidelines in Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 901:3-46 to ensure products are properly labeled with the Ohio Director of Agriculture’s seal.
Commercially prepackaged foods
Foods that are commercially prepared and prepackaged and not potentially hazardous can be sold at a farmers market so long as they are contained in displays which are less than 100 cubic feet of the space participants conduct business from at the farmers market.
Properly labeled products of a cottage food operation (Products that are made at home that are “nonhazardous”)
These can include bakery products (cookies, breads, brownies, etc.); candy (no-bake cookies, chocolate covered nonperishable items like pretzels), jams, jellies and fruit butter. The rule has been expanded to include granola, popcorn, dry cereal and nut snack mixes, roasted coffee, dry baking mixes in jars, dry herbs, seasoning blends and tea blends.
Cottage foods also must be properly labeled. The label on each unit of food product offered for sale must include: (1) the name and address of the business of the “cottage food production operation”, (2) the name of the food product, (3) the ingredients of the food product, in descending order of predominance by weight; (4) the net weight or net volume of the food product; and (5) the following statement in 10-point type “This Product is Home Produced.”
What cannot be sold
“Hazardous” foods that cannot be sold by a cottage food production operation are those that typically require time and/or temperature control or have special food safety concerns due to their production. This includes acidified foods, low-acid canned foods, and those requiring temperature control (raw/cooked animal products, cooked vegetables, garlic in oil, cheesecakes, pumpkin/cream/custard pies, etc.). You may be able to acquire a license to sell these types of products, though there will be additional restrictions and food safety regulations to follow.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture outlines the types of licenses available, and their cost here.
Finally, a farmers market participant cannot generally sell eggs, raw poultry or raw meat from their farmers market booth, unless they acquire the appropriate retail food establishment license from their local health department. These products will require appropriate refrigeration on-site.
Listen to Legal with Leah, a podcast featuring Ohio Farm Bureau’s Policy Counsel Leah Curtis discussing topics impacting farmers and landowners.