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Selling Cooked Food at Farmer's Market

Have you been considering selling your cooked foods at the farmer’s market? Cottage cooking is gaining popularity, allowing people to work from home, save on operating costs, and sell locally. Recently, many states have been reforming their farmers market rules for vendors, opening up the possibility for many cottage cooks to begin selling their goods. Today, 45 states allow cottage foods to be sold at farmer’s markets directly to consumers. Before you begin selling your homemade food at the farmer’s market, you’ll want to ensure you have everything you need to sell properly. Keep reading to learn how to sell food at the farmers market today.

What kind of food can I sell at a farmer’s market?

Since cottage foods are not cooked in a commercial facility, there are some limitations to what can be sold at a farmer's market. Foods should comply with the Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 for Food and Drugs. Farmer’s markets require foods to be low-risk if prepared in a home kitchen. Low-risk foods that are commonly allowed are baked goods, candies, condiments, dry foods, nuts and dried fruits, jams and preserves, and other snacks that can be packaged. Within these parameters, there are further restrictions on ingredients and flavors. Cottage cooks should stay away from selling perishable food items. Foods that are prohibited to sell include pickled products, low-sugar preserves, chutneys, salsas, dairy products, jerky and meats, and refrigerated foods. In some cases, selling cooked meat is allowed, and you will need to apply for a temporary food facility permit. The meat must be raised from your own livestock or another known farmer’s market certified source.

All food must be properly labeled, similar to standard food labeling that you might see in the grocery store. Labeling requirements vary, but generally, your label should include product name, producer’s name and address, ingredients, potential allergens, date of production, product weight, and a statement that lets the buyer know that your products were made in a home kitchen.

What do I need to get approved?

Your cottage food kitchen must undergo a series of approvals before you can begin selling your goods at the farmer’s market. Most states require a kitchen inspection, local permits, and a business license. Many states have regulations about purchasing your ingredients from approved sources such as grocery stores, wholesale distributors, or certified farmer’s markets. Check with local and state health departments to determine the proper regulations for your area.

What permits do I need to sell food at a farmer’s market?

In order to sell your cottage foods at the farmer’s market, you must acquire the correct permits and keep them up to date. These permits vary by state. Some states have different classifications for different types of sellers, often based on the types of products being sold. Other states have lighter regulations, and may not require home kitchen inspections. Some permits only allow you to sell in your local area, where others allow you to sell at a wider range of markets. Check your local and state websites to find the necessary permits for your area.

You must have a proper business license in order to sell at the farmer’s market. Find the correct type of business license for you. A proper legal structure for your business is necessary for tax purposes, but also important to protect you and any employees. Many cottage cooks opt to form a Limited Liability Company to protect personal assets from being affected. For example, if someone gets sick from consuming your products, you will not be personally liable for the consequences. You will also need to comply with local regulations such as city planning and zoning, parking regulations, and hours of operation.

What costs do I need to consider before selling?

Aside from your business costs, there will be some additional costs to start. Before selling, consider that you will have to pay farmer’s market fees. These fees will cover your space to sell, city fees that the farmer’s market is required to pay, cost of advertising for the farmer’s market, and liabilities. You will also have to pay to acquire your business license and renew annually. Your business will be taxed on the money you make from your sales. In some states, sellers are required to complete a food handler training course and keep it up to date. There are limits on sales depending on your permit type that vary from state to state.

Once you have acquired all of the permits necessary and are following your local regulations, you can begin selling your homemade goods at the farmer’s market. We wish you the best of luck with your cottage food sales!

Considering opening a stand at your local farmer's market to sell your homemade food? Learn how to legally sell your homemade food at the farmer's market.

Heather Brookshire

The Cake Whisperer


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Oso Good Clean Eats


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