How to Sell Farm Produce Directly to the Public

| 2/12/2019 10:54:00 AM


Today’s small farmers are finding it difficult to financially survive in the world of corporate food. Some are now attempting to increase their profits by selling directly to customers instead of going through other businesses or corporations. As with selling herdshares for their farms’ milk, selling farm produce requires both building a customer base while following legal requirements.

Legal Aspects:

We only sell seasonally excess produce from our homestead, but some small farmers depend on produce sales to keep their farms financially viable. Whether in small or large amounts, selling produce directly to customers puts us in the world of “cottage food” sales and we come under both federal and state Cottage Food laws. The Cottage Food Laws, as well as the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, can give the required preparation and labeling of produce for each state. As long as our produce-labels include the required information, they can be made as artistic and personalized as we wish.

The most successful farmers begin small and grow their skills and workload as they increase their customer base. Some farmers may begin by selling produce seasonally at a local farmers’ market or road-side stand. This allows them to meet supportive customers who then become the basis for a CSA (community supported agriculture). As the CSA gradually grows, having a designated “farm-market” building at their farm allows goods to be sold to an even larger customer base. This may require larger both financial and time commitments, but small farmers have a better chance of remaining on financially secure ground when they’ve grown to this stage slowly--slowly enough to keep things financially manageable, but also slowly enough to keep their lives enjoyable.

Selling a larger variety of food involves a larger variety of laws. Fortunately, most states’ Cottage Food laws agree that it’s legal to sell “non-hazardous” foods that are produced in our kitchens. These usually include jams, jellies and baked goods that don’t require refrigeration. Before you begin, check online or with your county’s extension office for what’s required in your state.

Selling Meat:

Selling meat is a bit trickier, but not so much so. As with all produce, there are both federal and state laws governing meat sales. If your farm is small and you know customers ahead-of-time who want to buy meat, steers can be butchered at a facility that is USDA inspected and approved, but that doesn’t have an inspector on site. This meat is sold to customers once the animal is butchered and the weight is known. When you receive their money, customers become the “owners” of the meat. They are then responsible for picking their meat up from the butchers and paying the butcher’s fee. Because this meat is marked “NOT FOR SALE,” with the owner’s name on it, it cannot be resold.

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