Selling Your Product: Farmer’s Markets

Farmers MarketThe real question for most California Cottage Food Operators is how and where do I sell my homemade foods?  Farmer’s Markets, where people knowingly come to sample and buy food, is often the first place people plan to sell.  But getting into a market is not always as “easy as pie.”

Here are some points and ideas to help…

The Markets:  A list of SD County Farmer’s markets can be found hereFirst, decide what days and times fit your schedule.  Identify the markets which fit your availability, adding at least one hour to either end of the market session to allow yourself set up, break down, and travel time.  Secondly, identify markets within your travel distance.  Visit them to see if vendors are already selling your type of product.  Market managers usually do not like to have vendors competing with each other to sell the same or similar products.

The Fees:  Each market is different and has its own fees.  Vendor fees can run between $17 and $40, though the average seems to be around $25 for a spot.  That amount is due whether you sell a little or a lot so be sure your products are priced competitively and you can profit enough to pay for your space.

Your Homework:  Visit the website of the farmer’s market if there is one.  Then check out the market in person.  Look at what is for sale already.  Market managers want vendors who will draw more customers or improve the market by bringing something new.  When you are ready, contact the manager to see if they are open to adding a new vendor.  Then set an appointment to meet.  Bring pictures of your product, your set up (if possible), and samples of your food.  Be ready to answer the unspoken questions, “Why should we let you sell here?” and “What makes your product special or different than similar products?”  Remember, you only get one chance to make a good first impression so be as prepared and professional as possible!

 

Consider

Your pricing. Can you make a profit? Add the costs of travel and vendor fees.  How many of your products will you need to sell in order to make a profit? Are your products priced appropriately and competitively?

Your time. There is often a lot of competition for a stall space.  Once you get into a market, you need to commit to being there regularly. Can you have enough product and be there every week?

Smaller, more remote markets.  New markets, smaller, or more remote markets may be easier to get into initially.  They will give you opportunity to test the public’s response to your products, the chance to identify your target audience, experience promoting your business, and sales results that may help persuade larger or more popular markets to admit you.

Unique requirements:  Different markets have different regulations.  For instance, Imperial Beach’s Farmer’s Market requires each vendor to have a fire extinguisher due to city laws.  The Horton Plaza, Coronado, and one Pacific Beach farmer’s markets do not allow packaged foods at all. Find out what your target market requires or restricts. Most of that information is in their application packet.

 

It may take you a few tries to find and get into the right market. Don’t despair!  Keep trying. And check out our Facebook page for new markets just starting up.  Selling at a Farmer’s Market is a great way to interact with the public, get feedback, orders and leads and get your products known. It’s worth the effort!

46 comments

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    • jim on May 28, 2013 at 5:28 pm
    • Reply

    My question is would i still need a certified kitchen and a TFF to sell smoked pull pork,try tip sandwiches at a farmers market.

    1. Yes. No meat or meat filled products are allowed through the Cottage Food permits.

    • MamaHahne on June 17, 2013 at 10:25 am
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    when specifically do you need to have a certified kitchen and when can you use your home kitchen? are there places that offer rental of certified kitchens?

    1. Until Jan. 1, 2013 you had to use a health department-inspected kitchen if you wanted to produce ANY food for sale in California. Now you can use your home kitchen IF you get a cottage food permit to make one or more foods on the state approved list. Check our RESOURCES page for a list of approved foods and how to get started with a cottage food operation.
      And yes, some restaurants will rent time/space in their kitchens when not in use, there are commissary kitchens designed for you to rent time/space, and some churches/nonprofits have health department inspected and approved kitchens which might be willing to let you make your products.

    • Andrea on August 6, 2013 at 11:45 pm
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    I plan on making and selling gourmet home-made soda and I want to know if a Class A Cottage Food permit would be enough- I would use a syrup made from sugar and spices and/or dried fruit and then simply add soda water. The list says “sorghum syrups” and I wanted to know what can/cannot be used in the syrup in order to qualify for the Cottage Food permit. Thanks!

    1. If you wanted to make and sell the syrup, that would be OK. Unfortunately, sodas of any kind are not on the list of approved Cottage Foods so you would need to make your product in a health-department inspected and approved kitchen. Stay tuned for a post on renting commercial kitchen space…

    • Richard on August 13, 2013 at 5:49 pm
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    If I wanted to make homemade teriyaki sauce n BBQ sauce could I sell that at a farmers market with a cottage food permit? If not could you point me in the right direction please?

    1. To make and sell food from a home kitchen under the Cottage Food law in California, you must be making something on CA’s approved food list Sauces (other than mustards and vinegars) would need to be made in a commercial or other Health Department inspected kitchen and would require different permits.

    • Michelle on September 16, 2013 at 8:31 pm
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    Is there a recommendation on where to purchase a canopy? Thank you!

    1. Several suggestions on our FB page. Check it out if you haven’t yet!

    • roxanne on October 29, 2013 at 9:54 pm
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    Can you recommend any companies that sell food-grade packaging for baked goods? Thanks!

    1. Best to pose that question on our Facebook page for input from more members 🙂

    • Jessica on December 27, 2013 at 5:13 pm
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    What about homemade jam?

    1. Yes, as long as it conforms to the regulations found in Part 150 of Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. See more information at the bottom of the list of approved CA Cottage Foods http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/Documents/fdbCFOfoodslist.pdf

    • Eden Rosal on February 4, 2014 at 2:25 pm
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    I want to make and sell loompya (chicken, pork and beef), do I need to make it on a kitchen for rent or can I make it at home at long as its inspected and approve by the dounty or state? Please let me know what are the things I should do. Thanks

    1. Meat filled products are specifically excluded from the approved foods for Cottage Food permits. You would need to use a county health-department inspected kitchen and get the appropriate license. Commercial kitchen operators can help you determine what permits you would need, or you can call the health department directly.

    • Lety on February 12, 2014 at 6:13 pm
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    Hello,

    I am interested in selling fondant/gum paste cupcake toppers, cake toppers and maybe waffer paper flowers. I will not be selling any baked goods. All ingredients are store bought from the shelf. Would I be required a Cottage Food permit ? Thank you

    1. Any food sold for human consumption would need to be licensed or permitted. The Cottage Food license is probably the easiest, least expensive option. Get an A permit if you will only sell directly to customers, or a B permit if you want others to be able to sell your toppers.

    • Kinjal on August 5, 2014 at 3:12 pm
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    Hi,

    I am interested in selling steamed flavored corn. What permits will I need and do I need to have health department inspected kitchen. Though I don’t need to cook anything it’s just steaming involved.

    1. Only dehydrated vegetables and vegetable chips are on the approved list for CA CFOs. You would need to use an inspected kitchen and obtain different permits.

    • Becky on September 14, 2014 at 11:46 am
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    In order to use my home kitchen for baked goods/candies, what are the requirements?

    1. You will need a Class A or Class B Cottage Food permit approved by your county health department. See our posts under the category Getting Started or on our Resource page.

  1. Hi there. I know dry, roasted coffee beans are allowed but where does cold brew coffee concentrate fall into the categories? Both as bottles for sale to take home or for mixing with water/milk on site for immediate consumption? Thanks.

    1. Coffee, cold brew or otherwise, is not an approved Cottage Food product.

    • Catherine on August 10, 2015 at 4:53 pm
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    I would like to serve VEGAN homemade ice cream. There would be no milk or eggs. Will this be permitted?

    Also, if each serving is packaged (no scooping required) can Vegan ice Cream be sold with a pushcart?

    Thank you

    1. Ice cream of any type is not approved for Cottage Food Operators. By definition, non potentially hazardous foods have to be low moisture foods. You would need to use a commercial kitchen to prepare vegan ice cream for sale. See the list of approved foods here

    • amber on May 31, 2016 at 4:39 pm
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    If I am trying to sell cookies and have a class A permit and i want to give small samples what do I need? Do i need a TFF permit just to give a piece of a cookie to people at the farmers market?
    Thanks for the help!

    1. If you are selling pre-packaged food, or providing pre-packaged samples, at a farmer’s market, you do not need a TFF permit. If samples are not pre-packaged, you will need a TFF.

    • Nissa on October 25, 2016 at 1:00 pm
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    Hi and for selling gourmet apples everything is store bought?

    1. Fresh apples are not an approved Cottage Food product

    • Guillermo Quintero on February 12, 2017 at 11:39 pm
    • Reply

    Hi,
    Would you please guide me how can I get a permit to sell my product on the farmer market in San Diego area please.

    1. If you have a Cottage Food Class A or B permit, you can sell your pre-packaged food at farmer’s markets in the county. If you want to provide (unpackaged) samples, you will need to also get a TFF (temporary food facility) permit from the county. If your samples also are pre-packaged, you do not need a TFF.

    • Jenny Soulé on March 9, 2017 at 11:19 am
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    THANK YOU for this site! It’s amazingly helpful! My question is about farmers market pricing. You mentioned above that vendor fees average around $25 for a spot, but when I checked out the Vista market application online, it said that the fee was $100 per week! Is this abnormally high, or has pricing gone up since this page was written? Maybe the fact that Vista is a Saturday market has something to do with the higher price point? Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    1. The Vista, CA Farmer’s Market application page is confusing because it covers multiple events including a monthly Wellness event. That one costs $100. The WEEKLY farmer’s market, however, appears to charge Food Vendors 8% with a minimum of $16.

  2. I’m planning on making homeade “Jared Salsa” , I had planned on putting samples on tortilla chips for customers to taste at the markets, would I need a Class A, or a Class B permit? Or would I have to get both? Just was a little confused with the wording on the different Permit classes.

    Also I read somewhere, that I would only have to get a Nutritional Analyses report if I planned on selling wholesale in stores. Is this correct?

    • Katie on May 10, 2017 at 6:10 pm
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    If I want to sale baked goods and ice cream, what type of permit would I need? Thanks.

    • Jessica on August 1, 2017 at 4:27 pm
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    Hey guys!

    LOVE this page, it’s been incredibly helpful. I’m looking to sell some baked goods, all approved CFO items, with a class B license. I saw on the SD Farmer’s Markets website that I might also need a California Resale Permit, can you provide any advice or extra information on this?

    Thanks so much

    1. Most foods, especially cottage foods, are non taxable so you should not need a resale permit. Thanks for the kind words 🙂

      1. Many baked goods are allowed for sale with a cottage food permit. Ice cream is not. Consult the health department.

    • alejadra on August 28, 2017 at 4:34 pm
    • Reply

    What if the ice cream base is mixed and refrigerated at the farmers market location then made in front of the customer, can I sell ice cream this way?

    1. Ice cream is not an approved cottage food. You should contact the health department for information on making and selling dairy products.

    • Peanuts on September 7, 2017 at 6:50 pm
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    What do I need to sell roasted peanuts at flea markets?

    1. You would need a Cottage Food permit and any permits required by the flea market itself.

    • DrD on January 23, 2019 at 9:58 pm
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    Quick Note: Link to Cottage food list is not working.

    Question: Are pickles on the Cottage Food list? Do I need to use commissary kitchen to prepare them for sale on the farmers markets in SD county?
    Do I need to have any kind of permit to make them at home?

    Thank you.

    • Londa on July 15, 2019 at 4:01 pm
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    What if someone is selling or giving away excess produce at a neighborhood event that is open to the public and advertised that way? (Grapefruit, orages, avocados, etc.)

    • morgan on November 15, 2019 at 1:24 pm
    • Reply

    Would I need any insurance or license to sell home-made pet bandanas?

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