Farmers' Markets FAQ

What is a Certified Farmers' Market?

Answer: A Certified Farmers' Market (CFM) is a market where farmers sell their crops and other agricultural commodities directly to the public. The county agricultural commissioner must approve the location of a CFM and must certify that the farmers selling at the market are selling commodities of their own production. Participants cannot purchase agricultural commodities and then resell them at a CFM.

What are the differences between a certified producer and a producer?

Answer: A certified producer is an individual or entity whose "farming activities" have been verified by the County Agricultural Commissioner, and who has obtained a Certified Producers Certificate (CPC). Inspection of the production location(s) is necessary to verify that the producer has practiced the agricultural arts and produced the fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables, shell eggs, honey, nursery stock, and cut flowers.

Only a certified producer may sell the certified agricultural products listed above at a Certified Farmers' Market (CFM). They may also sell other agricultural products they have produced. A Certified Producer is exempt from size, standard pack, container, and most labeling requirements.

A producer who does not wish to become certified may sell their products at or near the property where they are produced. The nearest main paved county or primary road is usually considered acceptable proximity. A producer is not exempted from size, standard pack, container, and labeling requirements.

What is the procedure for issuing a certified producer's certificate?

Answer: Upon determining that the producer meets the requirements, the County Agricultural Commissioner will issue one original certified producer's certificate, which will be maintained in the Commissioner's office. The County Agricultural Commissioner will issue the requested number of photocopies which shall be embossed.

What's the procedure to amend a Certified Producer's Certificate (CPC)?

Answer: If a certified producer wishes to amend a certificate, all embossed copies originally issued must be returned to the County Agricultural Commissioner. The necessary changes can then be made to the original file and new embossed copies issued to the producer. There is a $5.00 fee to amend a certificate.

Products

What agricultural products must be certified by the County Agricultural Commissioner if sold at a CFM?

Answer: Fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables, shell eggs, honey, nursery stock, and cut flowers must be certified.

What is a "non-certifiable agricultural product" that may be found in a CFM?

Answer: Products which are considered as non-certifiable include processed products from certified agricultural products, such as fruit and vegetable juices, shelled nuts, and jams and jellies. Other examples include catfish, trout, and oysters from controlled aquacultural operations, livestock and livestock products, and poultry and poultry products.

Though these products are not "certified," they must have been produced or derived from plants or animals raised or produced by the producer. These processed products may include, or have in them a limited number of ingredients of additives which act only as preservatives or are essential in the preparation of the product. Examples include pickles and cucumbers in brine or vinegar solution for curing or pickling, natural smoking of meat or poultry for drying and preserving, flavorings such as smokehouse, hickory, or jalapeno added to shelled nuts which do not change the visual identity of the product, sulfites added to dried fruits and vegetables, and sugar, fruit juices, and pectin added to fruits to make jams and jellies.

What requirements must a producer meet to sell nursery stock, such as vegetable plants or potted perennials at CFM?

Answer: You need to obtain a California License to Sell Nursery Stock. The applicant's nursery stock production must be verified by the County Agricultural Commissioners. The applicant requesting certification for nursery stock must provide the Count Agricultural Commissioner with a detailed list of the genus, genus species, or the common name and variety of each type of tree, vine, plant or shrub. The applicant may be eligible for a Fee-Exempt Nursery License if your production and sales are only in Shasta County and will not exceed $1,000 in a year.

Is it required to obtain a nursery license for selling cut flowers at a CFM?

Answer: No.

What requirements must a producer meet to sell honey and/or shell eggs at a CFM?

Answer: The applicant's production must be verified by the County Agricultural Commissioners prior to being certified. The on-site visit will verify ownership of the birds or hives.

Beekeepers are only certified in their primary county of operation. Since they must "register" in each county were the hives will be placed, the County Agricultural Commissioner can verify locations outside their county by contacting the other County Agricultural Commissioners. The certificate will show the number of hives and the projected amount (pounds) of honey to be produced and marketed. Since the regulations apply only to California producers, only honey which was derived from bees and hives within the boundaries of California may be sold at CFMs.

All egg producers are required to register with CDFA and comply with all applicable laws and regulations. The certificate will show the number of birds and the projected volume of eggs (cartons or dozens) to be packed.

What is the "designated area" of a CFM and why is the sale of non-agricultural products prohibited in this area?

Answer: The designated area is that area described in the application as the location of the CFM. The applicant(s) must provide a map showing the proposed "layout" of the market.

Non-agricultural products for sale are not allowed in the certified section of the market.

The exclusion of non-agricultural products is intended to maintain the intent and integrity of a CFM, which is the direct sale of products produced solely by the producer.

Can nonagricultural products be sold within the general proximity of the designated area of a CFM?

Answer: Yes, provided the point of sale of the nonagricultural products is separate and apart from the CFM's designated area. Suggestions to comply with this requirement include placing signs or posters to designate the areas, use of rope or barriers to separate the areas, or by simply separating the areas by enough distance so that the public knows the areas are separate and apart.

Selling For Other Certified Producers / Partnerships

What conditions must be met for a certified producer to sell for other certified producers at CFM?

Answer: This selling activity is allowed only when specified in the CFM's rules and regulations. If not specified, a certified producer or their agent may only sell those agricultural products which they have produced, and which appear on their certificates.

The certified producer selling for no more than two other certified producers must also be selling agricultural products which they have produced. All products must be separated and identifiable by each embossed certified producer's certificate. All names must be added to the certified producers' certificates by a County Agricultural Commissioner.

I wish to sell for other Certified Producers, what is required?

Answer: The California Code of Regulations (CCR) Section 1392.4 (g) requires that a written authorization agreement between the parties be presented to the issuing Agricultural Commissioner prior to the issuance of a certificate. In addition, the names of the certified producers you represent must be on your certificate. You may sell for no more than two other producers during a twelve-month period.

I have authorized other Certified Producers to sell for me, what is required?

Answer: Their names must be on your certificate, and written authorization must be presented to the issuing Agricultural Commissioner prior to the issuance of their certificate. No more than two producers may sell for you in a twelve-month period.

What are some examples of payments allowed for services of a producer selling for another producer?

Answer: Sharing stall fees and fuel, etc. Commission sales of buying and re-selling are prohibited.

When selling for another producer and that producer's product runs out halfway through the season, can another certified producer fill in for that position?

Answer: Yes, but only if one other second certificate is available (only valid if both certificates are amended by the County Agricultural Commissioner).

Can a certified producer sell produce grown by a university?

Answer: Yes, if utilizing a second certificate and the university has a certified producer's certificate.

What are financial and material resource inputs in a farm partnership?

Answer: Money, tractors, fertilizer, labor, seed, pesticides, etc.

I am currently in a farming partnership, leasing the property I am farming, or producing products under a sharecropping or similar contractual agreement. What will be required?

Answer: CCR Sec. 1392.9 (.1 and .2) requires that proof of partnership or a copy of the current written contractual agreement be provided to the issuing Agricultural Commissioner at the time of application. The agreement must contain the following:

  • A clear description of the property location, size, and present use.
  • The date of the agreement.
  • If a partnership, proof of partnership and disclosure of the degree of financial and material involvement of each party.
  • If property is leased, a copy of the lease specifying the cost and terms of the lease.
  • A NOTARIZED signature of all parties.

Are partnership agreements and lease agreements required to be written and notarized?

Answer: Yes, a copy of a current written lease or proof of partnership agreement is required.

Does every partnership and farm lease agreement under Section 1392.9.1 and Section 1392.9.2 require notarized signatures on all agreements of all parties at time of certification and renewal?

Answer: Yes, notarized signatures are required for all partnerships and farm lease agreements.

If one parcel of property has five owners and each has a percentage of the property, what would be the requirements if one producer wants to apply for a certified producer's certificate?

Answer: The certified producer shall specifically designate that portion of the property and the specific crops under their control.

Packaging

Do you sell agricultural products in closed, prepackaged containers?

Answer: If yes, the packages must be labeled with your name, address and zip code, and have a declaration of the product identity and net quantity contained in the package - Food and Agricultural Code (FAC) Section 47002(c).

Do you sell agricultural products by weight?

Answer: If yes, weight must be determined by a scale approved by the State of California, registered and sealed by a County Sealer of Weights and Measures.

What are CURFEL and the Sherman Food and Cosmetic Law, and when must producers selling at CFMs comply with their applicable requirements?

Answer: CURFEL, which is the acronym for California Uniform Retail Food Facilities Law, and the Sherman Law specify requirements for the sale of agricultural products at CFMs. The regulations address the sale of processed products which potentially create a health risk to the consumer. The applicable provisions of these two laws are already being enforced by state and county health agencies. They were included in the regulations to specify applicable requirements that must be met when selling products at CFMs or roadside stands at or near the production point.

Are there other agricultural products besides fresh fruit , nuts and vegetables exempt from applicable size, pack, container, and marking laws and regulations?

Answer: No, all other products must comply with all applicable rules and regulations.

Rules, Regulations, and Responsibilities of a Certified Farmers' Market

What types of regulations may a market adopt which are more stringent than the established state rules and regulations?

Answer: The market's rules and regulations my specify restrictions or requirements pertaining to the type and number of producers and certified producers, and the type and number of certified and non-certifiable agricultural products, in order to establish and maintain a "good" balance of agricultural products. For example, a market may specify that a maximum of 20% of the sellers may sell tomatoes. Another example is a certified producer selling for another certified producer. The market rules can specify that a certified producer may only sell for one other certified producer during the year.

Who is responsible for ensuring certified producer's have a valid certificate?

Answer: The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), County Agricultural Commissioners and CFM managers are responsible.

Who is responsible for ensuring a certified producer selling on behalf of another certified producer is selling a greater volume than the producer he/she is selling for?

Answer: CDFA, County Agricultural Commissioners, and CFM managers are responsible.

Who is responsible for ensuring that sellers of non-certifiable agricultural products comply with the direct marketing regulations?

Answer: County Agricultural Commissioners, CDFA, and CFM managers.

What criteria should the County Agricultural Commissioner apply when issuing a certificate which is valid for less than 12 months?

Answer: Certificates should be issued only after planting. The effective period should coincide with the general growing and harvest season. For example, a producer growing melons and assorted vegetables must be issued a seasonal certificate with an effective date of April (after planting) and an expiration date in September (when harvesting is normally completed). If product is stored, the storage location listed on the CPC should be verified.

What activities may the County Agricultural Commissioner charge for when issuing certificates?

Answer: A fee may be charged for costs relating to issuing the original certificate, renewing an expired certificate, or amending a current certificate. A fee may also be charge for each embossed copy of the certificate issued to the certified producer.

Which County Agricultural Commissioner initiates the notice and hearing process to consider certificate revocation, the issuing county or the designation county where the alleged violation(s) occurred?

Answer: The regulations specify that any County Agricultural Commissioner may initiate the process after alleged violation(s) have occurred. Regardless of who initiates the process, findings which result in the certificate being revoked are applied on a statewide basis for the period of time determined by the County Agricultural Commissioner.

How do the regulations affect participants whose actions result in the revocation of a certificate?

Answer: Individuals who act for and represent certified producers are subject to enforcement action should their actions result in violations of the regulations. For example, an employee who fraudulently misrepresents the certified producers may be subject to revocation of their participation rights in all direct marketing activities. If such findings are determined by the County Agricultural Commissioner, they may specify the time period in which the employee cannot participate in any phase of direct marketing. However, certified producers are liable for the actions of their agents. Actions by their agents may result in the revocation of the certified producer's certificates as well.

This provision also applies to certified producers who have had their certificate revoked, either as a result of the circumstances noted above, or when violations have been issued directly to the certified producer. If the certificate is revoked, the certified producer may also not be allowed to participate in any phase of direct marketing, including becoming an employee of another certified producer, or as a family member for another certified producer.

How long may the County Agricultural Commissioner revoke a certificate after violations have been determined?

Answer: The County Agricultural Commissioner has discretion in determining the revocation period for the certificate. The maximum period is 18 months.

Load Lists and CFM Managers

Are non-certifiable agricultural products such as olive oil, dried fruit, jams, etc. required on load sheets?

Answer: No, only certified products listed on the certificate must be represented on the load list.

Do CFM managers need to collect load lists daily?

Answer:Yes, and the records must be maintained for not less than eighteen months.

Are the varieties of products such as potted herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary, etc.), kale, lettuce required on load lists?

Answer: Yes, the identity of the products as listed on the certified producer's certificate are required.

Can a market manager ask the producers what the retail price is on their products?

Answer: Yes, if provided in market rules or to determine compliance with second certificates or provisions for load list compliance.

Can commercial enterprises such as restaurants purchase agricultural products at CFMs?

Answer: Yes, regulations allow these types of transactions. However, all certified and non-certifiable agricultural products, including fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables, may only be sold to "non-consumers" when complying with all applicable regulations, including standard pack, standard containers, and labeling requirements.

Miscellaneous

Does the veteran's exemption apply to the new $2.00 CFM fee?

Answer: No, the fee is assessed to the CFMs only, not producers.

What is considered "at or near the point of production" when a producer is directly marketing products?

Answer: A point or location that normally does not extend beyond the first paved county or primary road.