Do You Need A Business License To Sell At A Farmers Market?

Introduction – Selling Your Produce

Growing your own food is a way to cut down on food related carbon emissions largely incurred due to transportation. Once you start growing fruits and vegetables, you will find yourself wondering whether you would profit by selling it at a farmer’s market. The farmers market is a great place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. The produce is usually of better quality than what you would find at the grocery store, and it’s often cheaper too. You can also find other locally produced items like honey, eggs, and bread. The farmers’ market is the place to go if you’re looking for a great place to get fresh, local produce. So, do you need a business license to sell at a farmers’ market?

Selling at the farmers’ market is a great way to get fresh, local produce to the people who want it. For this, you need to find a good farmer’s market and see what they offer. You can also search online for farmer’s markets in your area. When you find one that looks promising, contact the market manager and ask if you can set up a stall. Most markets will allow you to do this if you follow their guidelines.

do you need a business license to sell at a farmers market

Do You Need A Business License To Sell At A Farmers’ Market?

The unfortunate short answer is: it depends. Each state has different laws and regulations governing the sale of food products, so you’ll need to check with your local government to see if you need a license.

The good news is that there are patterns we can use to find more information. See our table further down this page about state-to-state requirements.

In general, many states require a license or permit to sell food products at a farmers’ market. This is typically in addition to any other licenses or permits that may be required for your business. For example, if you’re selling baked goods, you may also need to obtain a ServSafe Food Handler’s license.

Fresh produce tends to have fewer regulations although some states require a permit or license no matter what you’re selling. Processed food falls into a grey zone. Some states will regulate baked goods while others don’t. Dairy, eggs, fall into a separate category for others.

The requirements for obtaining a license or permit vary very widely from state to state, so it’s important to do your research and ensure you comply with all applicable laws. See ShrinkThatFootprint’s resource below on state-to-state variation. Sometimes, you may also be required to submit proof of insurance before obtaining a license or permit.

Once you have all the necessary paperwork, simply contact your local farmer’s market and let them know you’re interested in becoming a vendor. They’ll be able to provide you with all the information you need about setting up shop and selling your products.

Farmers Market Permits 

Depending on what you have to sell, you will need a permit from the health department. This ensures that your food handling practices are up to par and that you sell safe quality products.

Fruits, Vegetables, and other Raw Agricultural Products:

If you’re planning on selling any type of fresh fruit or vegetable, you’ll need to register with the Department of Agriculture. You’ll also need to follow their guidelines for labeling and packaging your products. However, you won’t need a permit. This is because farmers’ markets are considered “direct-marketing venues.” Farmers can sell their products directly to consumers without going through a middleman, such as a grocery store. You can sell your products at farmers’ markets without a business license if registered with the Department of Agriculture. However, it’s important to note that each state has laws and regulations regarding farmers’ markets. So, check with your state government before setting up the shop.

Meat

Selling frozen meat class A permit from the health department is needed along with a federal inspection. Inspections are typically only done when the meat is brought in from another state.

Dairy

To sell dairy products, you need to have a health department license and a permit from the Department of Agriculture. The USDA must also inspect dairy products.

Baked Goods

For many states you’ll need certification such as a ServSafe Food Handler’s license if you’re selling any type of baked good. This license shows that you’re knowledgeable about food safety and handling practices. You can get this license by taking an online course or attending a training program. There are also states that have allowed certification to be voluntary.

Non-Edible Plants

If you wish to sell unedible plants, you will need to obtain a license from your state’s department of agriculture. This is because non-edible plants may be dangerous to consume, and the government wants to ensure that only safe products are being sold to the public. To get a license, you must apply and pay a fee. Once you have been licensed, you can sell your non-edible plants at farmers’ markets and other venues.

Fresh Vs Processed Vs Prepared Products

The laws around fresh produce tend to be very unrestrictive whereas for prepared foods there is a range of regulations. Very often prepared food will fall into the category of “hot food” or “retail food” or “cottage food” laws. If you’re selling processed or prepared foods then be prepared to look more deeply into regulations that govern restaurants and processed food vendors.

State-To-State Requirements For Farmer’s Market Focused On Fresh Produce

With that being said, we compile here information about each state in the US the regulations for a vendor to sell at a farmer’s market. We also conveniently put in the link to the information. The rules in the US are complicated because they differ not only state-by-state but also in some states, county or city level regulations matter. The structure of the law in the US is such that if federal or state level regulations don’t exist, then it falls upon smaller jurisdictions to either come up with their own laws or ignore it altogether. Therefore consider the following as a guide. Read through carefully and then either ask, or look for more sources of information.

StatePermit or License Needed and NotesRelevant Source Of Information with Links
AlabamaYes; grower’s permitAlabama government document, Farmer’s authority
AlaskaMixed; exempt vs non-exemptAlaska government website guide to farmer’s markets
ArizonaSee relevant sourceVaries by city, county
ArkansasYes; see detailsArkansas Agriculture Dept and Dept of Health guidelines
CaliforniaYesCalifornia Department of Food and Agriculture
ColoradoUnclear/None or locally regulatedColorado Department of Agriculture
ConnecticutYesDepartment of Consumer Protection
DelawareUnclear/None or locally regulatedDelaware Farmer’s Market Guide
FloridaNone for fresh produceFlorida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Safety
GeorgiaYesGeorgia Dept of Agriculture Cottage Food License
HawaiiYesApply via Hawaii Farm Bureau site
IdahoUnclear/None or locally regulatedIdaho State Dept of Agriculture
IllinoisMixed; see detailsIllinois Cottage Food Guide
IndianaNone for fresh produce; see detailsIndiana Government Guide
IowaYesIowa Dept of Inspections and Appeals
KansasNone for many foodsKansas Dept of Agriculture
KentuckyYes; see detailsKentucky Cottage Food Law; Kentucky Dept of Agriculture
LouisianaUnclear/None or locally regulatedLouisiana Dept of Agriculture and Forrestry
MaineYesMaine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry
MassachusettsNone for self-grown fresh produceMassachusetts government website guide to farmer’s markets
MichiganNone for fresh produceMichigan Dept of Agriculture and Rural Development
MinnesotaNone or locally regulatedMinnesota Farmer’s Market Association
MississippiNone for fresh produceMississippi Dept of Agriculture and Commerce
MissouriMixed; see detailsMissouri Dept of Health and Senior Services
MontanaMixed; see detailsMontana Food and Consumer Safety
NebraskaNone for fresh produce; see detailsNebraska Dept of Agriculture
NevadaYes – Producer’s CertificateNevada Department of Agriculture
New HampshireMixed; see detailsNew Hampshire Dept of Health and Human Services
New JerseyYesNew Jersey Dept of Agriculture
New MexicoNone for fresh produce except in Alburquerque; see detailsNew Mexico Environmental Health Program
New YorkLocally regulatedNew York Dept of Agriculture and Markets
North CarolinaUnclear/None or locally regulatedNorth Carolina Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services
North DakotaNone for fresh produce; see detailsNorth Dakota Dept of Agriculture
OhioNone for fresh produce; see detailsOhio Dept of Agriculture
OklahomaYesOklahoma State Dept of Health
OregonNone for self-grown fresh produce; see detailsOregon Dept of Agriculture
PennsylvaniaYesPennsylvania Dept of Agriculture
Rhode IslandNone (but “arguing with state personnel” not allowed)Rhode Island Dept of Environmental Management
South CarolinaNone for fresh produce; see detailsSouth Carolina Dept of Agriculture
South DakotaNone for fresh produce, other items; see detailsSouth Dakota Dept of Health
TennesseeUnclear/None or locally regulatedTennnessee Dept of Agriculture
TexasUnclear/Legislation changingTexas Dept of State Health Services
UtahNone for fresh produce; see detailsUtah Dept of Agriculture and Food
VermontNone for fresh produce; see detailsVermont Dept of Agriculture
VirginiaYesVirginia Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services
WashingtonNone for fresh produce; see detailsWashington Dept of Agriculture
West VirginiaYesWest Virginia Dept of Health and Human Resources
WisconsinMixed; see detailsWisconsin Dept of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
WyomingUnclear/None or locally regulatedWyoming Dept of Agriculture

Rhode Island’s Unusually Combative Application Wording

In examining the state-to-state requirements for licensing and permitting of farmers’ market stalls, we came across Rhode Island’s seemingly arbitrary wording. To become a vendor, you need to apply through the state website (see above). However, in the application at the end is an ominous warning to applicants:

Failure to follow the rules or argue with state personnel will lead to immediate expulsion from the farmers market.

Rhode Island farmers market application form here
Rhode Island’s unusually combative farmers’ market application

Clearly they must have a problem with farmers getting into verbal battles with state officials regarding vendor licenses!

How To Apply For Farmers’ Market Permits For Selling Anything?

As we noted, you may need to apply for a permit if you want to sell anything at a farmers market. The permit application process will vary depending on your state, but there are some general steps you’ll need to follow.

First, you can contact your state’s Department of Agriculture or equivalent agency to determine what types of permits are required for the product you want to sell. Once you know what permits you need, you can begin the application process. To do this, you will likely need to fill out a form and pay a fee. Depending on the application, you might also have evidence of liability insurance.

Second, once your application is approved, you’ll be issued a permit to sell your product at farmers’ markets in your state. Make sure to keep your permit up to date and renew it as needed; failure to do so could result in losing your ability to sell at farmers’ markets. You can easily get the permits you need to start selling your products at farmers’ markets with little effort. Just be sure to check with your state’s Department of Agriculture to find out what’s required.

Third, check with your local city government whether there are additional farmers’ market or business licenses. This is because the type of product you sell will fall into different areas of the law.

do you need a business license to sell at a farmers market

What Are The Requirements For Farmers’ Markets?

The requirements for farmers’ markets vary from state to state. However, there are some general things that all farmer’s markets must do to operate.

First, they must obtain a permit from the state government. This permit allows them to sell their products to the public.

Second, they must follow all food safety guidelines the government sets. This includes ensuring that all foods are properly labeled and packaged and following proper food handling procedures.

Finally, farmers’ markets must have liability insurance if anything goes wrong. These are just a few of the general requirements for farmers’ markets.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, there are a few things you need to do to sell items at farmers’ markets. You can easily get everything you need to start selling at farmers’ markets with little effort. Before you start, check with your state’s Department of Agriculture for specific requirements in your area. Thank you for taking the time to read this!

Staff Writer
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