If you want to successfully sell your crops, but are wondering where to sell them, we get it. The options can seem overwhelming. Will you go the classic route of the farm stand or farmers market, are you hoping to sell to a farm-to-table restaurant or is there a local supermarket vying for your produce?
“It is a little trickier for beginning farmers,” said Erica Frenay, online course manager at the Cornell University Small Farms Program. “For a long time, you could operate with the mentality of, ‘If I grow it, they will come,’ but now it is more imperative that beginning farmers have an idea of who their target market is.”
Before you begin, make sure you are familiar with the regulations in your area. Regulations vary not only at the federal, state and local level, but also between markets depending on where you live.
Shannon Dill, extension educator and co-chair of the Beginning Farmer Success program at the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension, said that in Maryland, for example, the rules vary depending on the product and where you plan to sell it.
Growers who want to sell at a farmers market in Maryland need to register as an LLC and prepare a state nutrient management plan. Since the health department regulates the farmers market, growers also need a permit from the health department, and specific markets may require product liability insurance and certification.
It matters how you sell your produce, too: Dill said that as soon as you cut something, it becomes a value-added product with additional regulations.
“A box of strawberries is ok, but as soon as you slice something like a melon, you are taking a processing step and it requires extra certification,” Dill said. “I would recommend contacting your local [cooperative] extension office to help you navigate some of those.”
In Maine, by contrast, regulations on small-scale growers are relatively lax.
“In order to sell produce, there’s really no regulatory hurdles in Maine as long as you’re bringing in less than $25,000 in your sales,” Lilley said. “Even though small scale producers aren’t subject to that regulation, it is still very important that they’re paying attention to that and they’re not selling produce that has manure on it.”