Have you considered selling at a certified farmers market?
Perhaps you want to expand your customer base, or you really like interacting with the public and educating them about your operation, or you grow niche produce. These are all great reasons to consider selling at certified farmers markets.
The purpose of certified farmers markets is to allow farmers to sell their produce directly to customers, getting the freshest produce from the farm to the consumers. The high quality, fresh produce brought to the farmers markets by its producers creates a diverse market and provides the consumer with opportunity to meet the farmer and learn how their food is produced.
Requirements to sell at certified farmers markets include:
CPC – every farm at the market must obtain a Certified Producer Certificate (CPC) issued by California Department of Food & Agriculture and administered by the Sonoma County Department of Agriculture, Weights & Measures. The application is available online and is renewed annually at a cost of $35. The producer lists all produce they will grow that year. Pro Tip: include all crop varieties you are even considering growing as it costs $35 to amend the CPC to include additional crops and varieties. An inspector from the county Department of Agriculture will contact you to visit your farm. As long as everything is in order, your CPC will be issued, and you are ready to sell at the farmers market.
Signs – prices must be clearly shown. Your booth must have the statement “We sell what we grow.” That statement can be on your farm sign or elsewhere. And a copy of your CPC must be posted in your booth. Farms must also prominently display the name and complete business address (including street address or P.O. Box, city, state, and zip code) of the farm where the produce was grown.
“Having clear signage with prices and commodities make it much easier for customers to know what they are buying before getting to the register” advises Chase Pennington, manager of Sunday Marin Farmers Market.
Certified Scale – if you will be using a scale at the market, that scale will need to be certified by the Sonoma County Sealer of Weights each year at a cost of around $65 (as long as you have a CPC, otherwise the cost is around $130). Only commercially approved scales may be used (e.g. not bathroom scales). Make sure to purchase a “type approved scale” that has been approved for commercial application. You can find reputable scale companies in your local phone book that sell commercial scales to fit your needs and check with the county Weights and Measures if you are unsure.
Alternatives to selling by weight – include by the each, by the bunch or pre-bagged. When pre-bagged are sealed a label is required with: Identity, “what’s in the bag”, Responsibility, “who packed the product”, and Quantity, “how much is in the bag”. The amount in the bags must be similar and if weight is stated the bag must weigh at least that amount when weighed on a certified scale at the market.
Estimation scale – any type of scale can be used by customers to estimate the weight of the produce they are purchasing. The produce must then be weighed on the certified scale to determine the purchase price.
What makes for a successful vendor?
“A successful vendor is passionate about their business and is committed to customer service” says Kelly Smith market manager for nine certified farmers markets across Sonoma and Marin counties. Smith’s advice is to “have a plan but don’t give up when things don’t go as expected. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The other vendors and market manager want you to be successful. We are only successful as a group not as individuals. There’s a great network at the farmers market once you commit yourself to it.”
Our local farmers markets are looking for diversity in farmers and the variety of crops grown, value added farm products, flowers, and local organic fruit. “Grow something different” suggests Tina Castelli, market manager for Windsor, “everybody has tomatoes, squash, greens. Try Asian vegetables, baby veggies or micro-greens. Be unique and make your booth special.”
And for farmers market newbies, a tip from Pennington: “don’t be discouraged if sales aren’t booming right when you start at a new Farmers Market, or your first farmers market. It can take weeks, if not months to build up a following, but customers are very loyal once they find a vendor whom they like.”
The following is a list of markets that are looking for vendors. Visit the market, see what people are selling, talk to the other farm vendors and contact the market manager.
Agricultural Community Events Farmers Markets
Markets looking for farmer vendors:
- Roseland Farmers Market Thursdays 2p-6p and Sundays 11a-3p
- Petaluma Saturday Walnut Park Saturdays 2p-5p, May – November
- Petaluma Evening Market Thursdays 4:30p-8p, June – August
- Cotati Wednesday 4:30-7:30, June – September
- Rohnert Park Friday 5p-8p, June – August
- Fairfax Tuesdays 4p-8p May – October
- Novato Tuesdays 4p-8p May – October
Markets looking for niche local farmers:
- Petaluma East Side Tuesdays 10a-1:30p
- Santa Rosa Farmers Lane Saturday and Wednesday 8:30-1
Bodega Bay Farmers Market, Sundays 10a-2p, May – October
Looking for chicken eggs and chicken meat.
Healdsburg Farmers Market, Saturdays 8:30a-12p, Tuesdays 9a-12:30p, Mid-April – December
Berries: blueberries, raspberries, etc. (but not strawberries). Vendors from out of the area. Vendors with unique produce, avocados for example.
Marin Farmers Market, 8a-1p, Sundays year-round
Organic Asian Veggie Growers, Dried fruits/nut producers, Duck Egg producers. Any farms with unique products to the region, as well as farms using unique sustainability practices.
Santa Rosa Original Certified
- Luther Burbank Center, 8:30a-1p, Sundays year-round, Weds March – December
- Summer Market in Guerneville, 3p-7p, Thursdays, June – August
Especially interested in ranchers with poultry, farmers with micro greens, specialty crops and dairy.
Sonoma Valley Farmers Market, Tuesdays 3:30p-6:30p, May – November
Windsor Certified, Sundays, 10a-1p, April 11 – December (Thursday Nights TBD)
For additional information, visit: ucanr.edu/CFMsc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.