Agriculture Ombudsman
University of California
Agriculture Ombudsman

Selling Locally Grown Produce

Farming produce is allowed in most zones throughout the County without any permits, however depending on what you want to do with the produce, you may need a permit or two.  And you always want to practice California Small Farm Food Safety Guidelines (California Department of Food & Agriculture).

Food Safety Modernization Act

Please be aware that as of January 1, 2016 produce growers are subject to FDA's Produce Rule as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). See Produce Food Safety/FSMA Produce Rule page for resources to help you comply. 

Marketing Produce

There are a variety of channels to sell your produce. If you are unsure or would like some additional ideas, check out Marketing & Sales Series by farmsReach, a 4-part series about marketing and selling farm produce: comparing sales channels, pricing and tracking, sustainable packaging, mobile POS.

Table 1: Permits Required for Different Sales Channels - click on the word in the left column for more details:

Sell Directly at the Farm (farm stand) No permit required when selling on agriculture zoned parcels. See Farm Stands and On-Farm Retail Sales for complete details. 
Sell by Weight Scale must be certified annually with the Ag Commissioners office. See Selling by the Pound for complete details.
Farmers Market Certified Producer Certificate: apply online with CA Department of Food & Ag (CDFA).
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Register with CDFA (scroll down to Community Supported Agriculture Program).
Sell, Trade or Donate No permit required to sell, trade or donate produce you have grown (see Handle Produce for Others).
Handle Produce for Others  Dealer/Broker License: issued by CDFA for transport and delivery of produce grown by others.
Wholesale The city/town where you sell may require a business license; search for Business License for the city/town. 


Table 2: Marketing Options - click on the word in the left column for more details:

Organic Regulated by USDA, may only be used if the grower is Registered with CDFA. 
Certified Naturally Grown An alternative marketing tool, not affiliated with USDA, CDFA or UCCE.
Non-GMO Project Verified An alternative marketing tool, not affiliated with USDA, CDFA or UCCE.
Other marketing claims Other marketing claims are not regulated.

 

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA):

csa boxes
A system by which people purchase, typically through monthly subscription, a share from a local farm and periodically receive fresh produce or other agricultural products produced or processed on site.

  • CDFA CSA Registration is required for all CSA's in California:
    • $75 annually
    • Multiple farm CSA's register separately and list the other farms on their application
    • Operations that sell their own CSA box and also participate in multi-farm CSA's check both 'Single-Farm' and 'Multi-Farm' on the application.
  • See also Building a Legally Resilient CSA workbook by Farm Commons.
  • Labeling and maintenance requirements of consumer boxes and containers that are used in CSA programs:
    • Label the consumer box or container with the name and address of the farm
    • Maintain the boxes or containers in a condition that prevents contamination
    • Inform consumers of the farm of origin of each item in the CSA box either by including a printed list or electronically delivering list to the consumer 
    • Maintain records that document the contents and origin of all of the items included in each CSA box
    • Comply with all labeling and identification requirements for shell eggs, meats and processed foods.

Organic

The 'organic' label can only be used on products that meet the USDA guidelines and are registered with CDFA's Organic Program. 

USDA Organic seal
USDA Organic seal

  • Registration: in California, registration is required for all entities that raise, grow, store, transport and sell organic products. 
    CDFA Organic Registration is required of every entity engaged in production or handling of raw organic products.
  • Certification: If gross sales of organic product exceeds $5,000 or if the business wants to use the USDA Organic seal, they must obtain organic certification from an approved third party certifier, also found on USDA Ag Marketing Service Certifier Locator.
  • USDA Guide for Organic Crop Producers.
  • Non-GMO Requirements under the National Organic Program by Organic Trade Association.
  • Process for becoming registered organic:
    1. Complete online application
    2. The application is then routed to the Sonoma County Dept of Ag for review and approval
    3. The reviewer will ask for additional info if necessary i.e. map of property and/or any applications that may have happened. NOTE: if applicant is becoming Certified, the Ag Dept will just need the name of the approved certifier.
    4. Once all is in order, they approve the application and the applicant will receive the registration in the mail.

Additional information:

    • The registration process takes 2-3 weeks
    • Follow up with Sonoma County Department of Agriculture if you haven't heard anything at least 2 weeks after application 707-565-2371
    • New registrants should expect an inspection from the Dept of Ag within the first year. The department will call to set up an inspection date and time.
    • Certified operations will be inspected by their certifier. The Ag Dept can do a pre-certifier inspection if requested. Contact the Ag Dept to learn more 707-565-2371.
    • Visit OMRI to learn products and materials allowed for organic use.
    • Symposium: Sustainablity Challenges in Organic Agriculture, Nov 2016.
 
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Page Last Updated: August 21, 2017

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