How can I get started selling a specialty food at farmers’ market?

Tom Roberts’ response:

First of all, in order to sell a processed food product, you’ll need the proper licensing from the Maine Dept of Ag. Exactly which licenses you’d need dependents upon what type of food products you are considering. Contact the Department for more detail; you’ll want to talk to someone in Quality Assurance and Regulation and be ready to give them specific details of your product. Unprocessed non-dairy food products require no licensing. Also see
http://www.mainefarmersmarkets.org/resources/regulations-permits/permits-required-for-selling-at-farmers-market/

If you are preparing products at home, you will likely need a commercialized kitchen. Here is an article on Licensing the Home Food Processor Kitchen.

Once you have the proper licensing so that you can sell legally, then it’s time to approach a farmers’ market about joining for the coming season. Actually, it’s a good idea to apply to several markets, since you’re not guaranteed to be accepted into your first choice(s). Consider what days you’d want to sell, and look for markets that are open those days. To reduce commuting time, start first with the markets closest to your home, and work outwards.

Many markets have their applications available for downloading on line at their websites; for others you’ll have to connect with the contact person listed at mffm.org or mofga.org . Visiting the markets now that you are interested in joining and introducing yourself to the members might go a long way toward favorable review of your application next winter. In any case you’ll see what that market already sells, how it feels, how big it is, and be better able to decide whether it’s one you want to apply to.

About Tom Roberts

When I started attending the Brewer Farmers’ Market back in August of 1983, my sole concern was being able to sell the produce my farm was growing at a good price. After attending market for a year or two, I began to realize that how the market was organized had a great impact on my sales. And how the market was organized also influenced how it made decisions about dues, new members, what could be sold at market, and how it promoted itself—and this, too, had an impact on my sales. So I got involved in the market’s steering committee and began to understand how various market members thought the market should operate. Some wanted a market czar, some wanted everyone to be allowed to do their own thing. But everyone seemed to agree that if the market as a whole did well, then so did they.