When you think of Farmer’s Markets, do you think fresh? Organic? Locally Grown? Healthy? Well, what’s wrong with that? Other than the price, and you pay for what you get, a well groomed selection of fresh foods, dairy, produce, baked goods, and floral arrangements. But can just anyone grow a tomato plant in their back yard and call it locally grown and fresh, and sell it at the market? Let me hit you with some knowledge.
The Skinny on Markets:
Farmers’ markets have been around for a LONG time. Think mideval times. However, today’s farmers’ markets are more complex. In the past, it was mainly fruits and vegetables. Now, food is processed, cut open to be displayed, and given as samples to entice buyers. With the increased complexity of the merchandise at farmers’ markets, health departments have become more involved in ensuring food safety.
The state classifies a farmers’ market as a temporary food establishment, which is defined as a retail food establishment in conjunction with an event, operating for no more than 14 straight days, and with the approval of the organizers of the event. Food is treated as it is in a restaurant for that fact. Utincils are washed, open food is covered, meat and dairy is refrigerated and kept cold, and everything is cleaned up and stored properly afterwards.
Vendors who cook any product at a farmers’ market must either make sure it qualifies as a sample or demonstration, or must obtain a temporary restaurant license. But small samples of cooked foods prepared at market may be offered free of charge to customers without obtaining a temporary restaurant license, for promotional and educational purposes.
A permit is also needed to sell food at the Market. Much like a driver’s licence, you need to apply and take a test to get this permit. And you can get it taken away if you don’t follow the rules.
Baked goods, dairy products, jams, jellies, preserves, salsas, vinegars, oils, salad dressings, frozen berries and cherries, dried herbs, and dehydrated fruits and vegetables are examples of common farmers’ market products that must be processed in a licensed facility. Home kitchens that meet requirements may be licensed as domestic kitchens for some food processing activities.
The Best (Safest) Food To Buy:
Produce: Fruits and veggies are a clear choice on what’s best at the market. Make sure to wash your hands, and your food before eating.
Milk and Juice: Don’t buy milk at a farmer’s market unless you can confirm that it has been pasteurized. Same goes for juice and cider.
Eggs: Make sure that eggs are properly chilled at the market. FDA requires that untreated shell eggs must be stored and displayed at 41°F. Also check for broken or dirty eggs.
Meat: If you buy meat, make sure it is properly chilled. Take it home in a cooler or freezer cold bag and don’t let it touch your other food. Meat sellers must have a licence to sell at the Farmer’s Market, and the meat must meet USDA inspection requirements, so you know you aren’t buying just anything.
Honey: Licenses generally are required to extract honey, but an exception is made for operations with 20 or fewer hives. Honey in combs is not extracted and thus does not require a license.
Fish: Seafood can be sold smoked, frozen or fresh, but vendors must make sure they are using appropriate packaging, chilling, and labeling for their products.
Baked Treats: Some products are not potentially hazardous but need extra protection. Baked goods are the most common example. Vendors have two options: packaging these items in a licensed facility or selling from enclosed bulk containers.
Herbs: If someone did the rough part, and started growing them for you, why not buy them fresh? Don’t be afraid to ask if pesticides were used or where they were grown.
Flowers: Sold typically in groupings, this is a great place to find a fresh arrangment.
The Farmer’s Market in my opinion is the best place to sample, buy super fresh produce, grab a morning coffee and chat with locals. It’s a great way to fill the fridge, but bring extra cash, you’re sure to run into more than you thought you would. Happy Marketing!