Maintaining Regulatory Compliance

As your farmers’ market operates, you should expect that it will be inspected by any or all of the agencies that have regulatory responsibilities for the market. While inspections can seem stressful, they don’t need to be.

The inspectors have the same goal as you: to ensure your farmers’ market is successful and sustainable.

The inspectors have the same goal as you: to ensure your farmers’ market is successful and sustainable by ensuring your farmers’ market is operating in compliance with local and state laws and regulations.

Understanding some of the common things that inspectors look for when they visit farmers’ markets can help you to partner with them to help ensure your farmers’ market is in compliance.

  • Inspections by the Department of Agriculture
  • Inspections by the Department of Environmental Health
  • Inspections by the Fire Marshal
  • Weights and Measures Inspections
  • Inspections by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Quarterly Fees to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA)

Inspections by the Department of Agriculture. The county department of agriculture has jurisdiction over the certified farmers’ market portion of the farmers’ market and the farmers selling there.

  • All certified producers have valid, embossed copies of their certified producers’ certificates on display.
  • All items on farmers’ table appear on their current certified producers’ certificate.
  • The farmers’ market has a current Certified Farmers’ Market certificate and the certificate is prominently displayed at the farmers’ market.
  • Farmers selling both organically and conventionally grown products have them clearly separated and identified within their selling area.
  • Farmers selling products from a second certificate have said items clearly separated from agricultural products listed on their primary certificate.
  • The farmers’ market is issuing and collecting load sheets.
  • The agricultural and nonagricultural sections of the farmers’ market are clearly distinct and separated.
  • All items sold with a sealed container are properly marked with in accordance with IRQ standards – identifying the contents, listing the responsible party that produced the contents, and showing the quantity of the contents.

Inspections by the Department of Environmental Health. The county department of environmental health has jurisdiction over any and all food sales, including those in the certified farmers’ market by farmers/certified producers and those in the area adjacent to the certified farmers’ market sold by nonagricultural producers. o All produce at least six inches off the ground.

  • Proper produce washing and food sampling procedures are being followed.
  • PH strips are available to test the level of bleach in water for sanitizing utensils.
  • All potentially hazardous foods are kept at safe temperatures.
  • Eggs are properly labeled with dates and instructions to keep refrigerated.
  • Restroom facilities with hand washing are available within 200 feet of the farmers’ market.
  • No animals except service animals are in the farmers’ market.
  • Surfaces beneath tents where samples are being prepared or served are easily cleanable. When on a surface that is not easily cleanable, such as grass or asphalt, a temporary barrier such as a tarp is used.

Inspections by the Fire Marshal. The Fire Marshal or Fire Department has responsibility for public safety and ensuring that public events are set up to accommodate emergency responses as needed.

  • Any required emergency access lanes are maintained at or above the minimum safe width.
  • The layout of the market does not block access to fire hydrants or standpipes.
  • All tents bear the required fire rating for their use. Generally, tents for farmers and for vendors who are not cooking in the farmers’ market must be fire resistant while tents for food vendors who are cooking must be flame retardant.
  • Tents are properly weighted or secured.
  • Fire extinguishers are present, of the proper type and are currently rated.
  • All vendors preparing food in the farmers’ market, especially those using open flame, are following proper setups including the presence of the proper type of currently rated fire extinguishers.

Weights and Measures Inspections. The department of weights and measures ensures that scales are properly calibrated to provide accurate measurements for fair pricing and that items sold by weight or measure are packed in compliance with the law.

  • All scales used by farmers and vendors have been inspected and sealed to ensure proper operation.
  • Any items packed by weight or measure are packed within the tolerance allowed by law.
  • Any pre-packed items contain proper identification of the items within, listing of the party responsible for the items and the quantity of the items.

Inspections by California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). The responsibilities of the California Department of Food and Agriculture are the same as those of the county agricultural departments. Inspections by CDFA are rare as they are responsible for all farmers’ markets throughout the state. CDFA is most likely to be involved when an inspection crosses county lines, such as when it involves the actions of an agricultural producer who was growing crops in one county and selling them in another.

Inspections by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Inspections by the USDA are extremely rare. The laws that govern certified farmers’ markets are state laws so the USDA typically is not involved. Inspections by the USDA are most common when concerns over an invasive pest have put quarantine measures into place. USDA inspectors take an active role in establishing and enforcing quarantine zones to help reduce the potential impact of invasive pests which have the capacity to destroy significant amounts of California crops.

Inspections by City Code Enforcement. If you are operating in an incorporated city and have gone through an application process with your city’s zoning, planning or economic development department, you may be inspected by the city’s code enforcement department to ensure your operations are in compliance with conditions that were part of your application’s approval. This might include the area in which you are authorized to operate, the hours you operate, or the condition of the site at the end of your market day.

Quarterly fees to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in 2014. For all farmers’ markets through December 31, 2014, at  the end of each calendar quarter, each certified farmers’ market must pay CDFA $0.60 for each certified producer who was present and selling in the farmers’ market for each day of the previous quarter. At the end of each calendar quarter, each certified farmers’ market must pay the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) $0.60 for each certified producer who was present and selling in the farmers’ market for each day of the previous quarter. If a farmer has more than one certified producer’s certificate, the market must pay the $0.60 fee for each certificate.

  • This fee is due within 30 days after the end of each quarter. CDFA should send you a form (Certified Farmers’ Market Remittance Form: 51-064) for you to complete and return with your payment. If you do not receive a form, contact CDFA as soon as possible to ensure you are not liable for any penalties for late filings. CDFA charges interest (1.5% compounded monthly) on fees not paid 30 days after their due date. CDFA also charges a late penalty of $100.00 on fees not paid within 60 days of the quarter’s end and every 30 days thereafter.
  • Be sure the form includes correct information about your farmers’ market:
      • Market information
      • Name of market operator
      • Market certificate number
      • Market’s name and mailing address
      • Market day(s) and hours of operation
      • Name of market manager
      • Market telephone number and fax number
  • Double check that the reporting period is correct.
  • Provide a complete list of all agricultural producers who sold in your farmers’ market for at least one market day in the previous quarter List of certified producers and total market days for each
      • List of certificate numbers
      • List of producers selling noncertifiable agricultural products in the CFM and total market days for each
      • List of noncertifiable agricultural products
  • Provide a total for the number of certified producer certificates and other agricultural producers who participated in your farmers’ market during the quarter
  • Calculate a total of all of the fees submitted with the form
  • Be sure to sign and date the form.

Quarterly fees to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in 2015 and beyond. Beginning with all farmers’ markets held on or after January 1, 2015, the process of calculating and paying quarterly fees to CDFA will change. The fee will be $2.00 for each vendor present and offering items for sale, regardless of whether those items are offered by farmers or vendors. Previously, the fee was $0.60 and based upon the number of certified producers certificates present in the market for which items were offered for sale. This rule applies to all vendors “under the authority and management of the certified farmers’ market operator.” Food and Agriculture Code 47021(a) [2015]

A Guide to Opening Small Farmers' Markets in San Jose, California