California’s Certified Farmers’ Markets

California’s system of certified farmers’ markets is a product of both legislation and regulations.

Through the normal legislative process, the California legislature creates and refines laws that define farmers’ markets and the role of the state in their certification and operation. These laws are primarily found in the California Food and Agriculture Code, but due to growing complexity of the farmers’ market industry in the state, there may be other sections of the state’s code that also apply.

In addition to the laws passed by the legislature, generally referred to as California “Code,” or “Cal Code,” California farmers’ markets are governed by administrative rules enacted by state agencies as authorized by an act of the legislature. These are generally referred to as “Regulations” and they define in a more detailed manner how the California Code is implemented. The regulations impacting California’s certified farmers’ markets are generally issued and enforced by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and can be found in the California Code of Regulations.

The appendices to this guide provide links to California Code and Regulations, as well as other laws and regulations that may impact farmers’ market operations.

These laws and regulations do change over time. During the 2014 California legislative session several pieces of legislation were passed that had a direct impact on the state’s certified farmers’ markets. The most significant of these legislative changes was Assembly Bill 1871 approved by the legislature on August 21, 2014 and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 26, 2014. This bill is effective January 1, 2015. (In this guide, references to California laws such as “California Food and Agriculture Code 47004(a)” will be followed with the reference of “[2015]” to indicate a reference to the newly changed code, while citations without the “[2015]” reference will be to the code unchanged by the 2014 legislation.)

It is likely that there will continue to be changes to the regulations concerning farmers’ markets as the California Department of Food and Agriculture and other state agencies responsible for enforcement begin to interpret the new elements of the Food and Agriculture Code. This online guide contains the most up-to-date information available as of December 1, 2014.

The state of California’s new definition of a certified farmers’ market states “Certified farmers’ markets are California agricultural product point of sale locations that are registered under the provisions of Section 47020 and operated in accordance with this chapter and regulations adopted pursuant to this chapter” California Food and Agriculture Code 47004(a) [2015].

As you can see, the definition is technical in nature. Section 47020, which is referenced in the definition, is also new; it establishes the role of California’s counties, in particular county agricultural commissioners, in administering and enforcing this law. It also establishes that farmers that wish to sell in certified farmers’ markets must also be certified by county agricultural commissioners.

While this legislation is new, counties have had a direct role in the certification of farmers’ markets and farmers since the inception of the certified farmers’ market program. More information about the role of the counties and the certification process for new farmers’ markets can be found in Chapter 4 of this guide.

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