- Author: Rachel A. Surls
Recently, I have been visiting urban farms as part of a research project. It’s been interesting to see that even a tiny piece of land can produce enough for sale. Last week I visited a home where a standard suburban backyard and front yard have been converted into a mini farm producing vegetables, herbs and seedlings. The owners grow enough to sell at two area farmers’ markets each week.
This may be a trend. The Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner’s office certifies growers to sell at local farmers’ markets. According to the staff member I spoke with, they have received quite a few calls recently from LA County residents interested in selling at local markets.
At a California Certified Farmers’ Market, everything has been grown on the farm and has been brought to the market by the farmer, their immediate family members, or their employees. An inspection and certification process helps to ensure the integrity of this system.
In order to sell farm products grown in Los Angeles County at a Certified Farmers’ Market, growers must contact the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office at 562-622-0426. (For those growing in other counties, they would contact their own county agricultural commissioner’s office). An inspector will make an appointment to visit the growing area to find out what and how much the farmer is growing, and how much they project they will have available for sale.
There is a small annual fee for certification. After the inspection, and paying the fee, the farmer receives a Certified Producer’s Certificate to display when selling at a market. Growers can only sell what has been grown on the farm, and specifically, what is on the certificate. New crops can be added by amending the certificate.
Becoming certified to sell at farmers’ markets is relatively simple, but the business of farming is not! Like starting any business, it requires careful research and planning before start-up. For example, farmers need to identify one or more farmers' markets that will be a good match for their operation, working with market managers. Also, many commercial farmers in Los Angeles, even very small growers, will need to join the LA Irrigated Lands Group to ensure compliance with water quality regulations. Many other issues need consideration as well. Some helpful on-line resources for starting a small farm business are available through the UC Small Farm Program.
The best strategy is to do a considerable amount of homework before starting any urban farm venture where sales to the public are involved.