The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New VA food safety fee put a stop on our breads making!

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Thaichef's picture
Thaichef

New VA food safety fee put a stop on our breads making!

Good Afternoon:


 I am a lover of Artisan bread making and has been making Artisan breads for sell at our Community market. Our market meets every Saturday  from 9.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. I am also a volunteered market manager and working hard to try to save our market.  For three years I worked hard to try to get  more vendors and customers to our market. All the costs of running the market come from the vendors fee which is $10.00 for each selling day. I do not get any payment for any work that I do.


After three years of trying to get funding from the Bedford County I was informed by the County Administrator that the only way to get any funding from the County is to set up the market as a non profit organization! 


To set the market up as above takes a lot of time, brain power and money which we have none. The present economy cut down huge amount of vendors. They are now travelling to NC. to sell the meat and others.


 Just to  make the matter worst, two days ago I received two bills from the VA. Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services informed me that the food Inspection fee is now $100.00 for each site.( One for the market and one for my homemade  bread making.)  When I called to question them, I am told by one sympathetic Food Inspector in Richmond that the big box stores: Walmart, Kroger, Food Lions etc. are requried to pay the same fee!


The combine  total income of our market during the season (May to Oct.) was probably less than $4000.00  and the Walmart...million?  We have three bakers at our market, one Mom with 4 months old son, One school bus driver and me, a retiree on social security!  I made about 10 to 12 loaves of breads and perhap a tray of focaccia (on my good day) for sell. I go to the market once or twice each month.  I really enjoyed baking and the extra money give me a chance to buy bread book( One) and one benetton.


It is unfortunate that small business are not getting any help but large businesses get all the perk!  I am very sad to see the market goes away because we have many nice vendors. We have fresh goat cheese (from the vendor's 11 goats), apple strudels (from the bus lady) and nice tarts from Mom with baby ( she traveled 75 miles round trip  to come) . We have local honey, organic veggies and local fruits.All of us will be gone. The food inspector came to my house once and it took him 10 minute to look at the cabinet where I stored my flour. He has not come to inspect the market at all this year. On the VA. Agriculture website 'questions and answers" , One person asks why she has to pay the inspection fees when no one ever come to inspect her place! The answer was her store is low priority but she is still must pay the fee!


I am sorry to be so long winded but today is a sad day. All of us have to eat breads from Walmart,Kroger ... peaches,apples and veggies from Foreign Countries. Who is helping the little market? You can look at our market on www.monetasmlmarket.com


mantana

LindyD's picture
LindyD

I did a quick search of VA Code and found this:




§ 3.2-5130. Inspections required to operate food establishment.

A. It is unlawful to operate a food manufacturing plant, food storage warehouse, or retail food store until it has been inspected by the Commissioner. This section shall not apply to:

1. Food manufacturing plants operating under a grant of inspection from the Office of Meat and Poultry Services or a permit from the Office of Dairy and Foods in the Department; and Grade A fluid milk manufacturing plants and shellfish and crustacea processing plants operating under a permit from the Virginia Department of Health;

2. Nonprofit organizations holding one-day food sales;

3. Private homes where the resident processes and prepares candies, jams, and jellies not considered to be low-acid or acidified low-acid food products and baked goods that do not require time or temperature control after preparation if such products are: (i) sold to an individual for his own consumption and not for resale; (ii) sold at the private home or at farmers markets; and (iii) labeled "NOT FOR RESALE - PROCESSED AND PREPARED WITHOUT STATE INSPECTION." Nothing in this subdivision shall create or diminish the authority of the Commissioner under § 3.2-5102; and

I don't know if your breads carry that required labeling - or if the inspectors see your "community market" as something other than a famers market, but it would appear from the above law that if you are following the label requirement and selling at a public and publicized farmers market, no inspections are required.

It may be worthwhile to ask the inspectors to explain what is allowed to be sold at a farmer's market. 

Ruralidle's picture
Ruralidle

it is disappointing to hear that the great free-market that is the USA has petty bureaucrats like we have in Europe and the United Kingdom. It does appear, from LindyD's reply that the rules allow you to do the sort of things that you have been doing in the farmers market but some bureaucrat either doesn't know the rules properly or is trying to extend their influence even without the legislation to back them up.


A friend of mine in the UK had a very nice little business selling eggs mainly through farmers markets and to one supermarket.  Then the EU brought in a whole new raft of regulation that required her to complete so much paperwork but what was essentially a hobby would have become a full-time job - and she already had a part-time paid job.  The result being that she gave up selling her eggs other than at the farm gate.  Whilst I am all in favour of rules that protect me as a consumer I am certain her eggs were safer and more nutritious than all the others that are sold in the area and certainly were far nicer than the supermarket produce.


I think that the difficulty is in drafting suitable legislation.  The quote from LindyD seems to suggest that your legislation in Virginia allows freedom for small producers and the problem is just petty bureaucrats!


As a result of our friend reducing her flock of hens we bought our own and their eggs are even better than the ones we were buying from her so you could say that the bureaucracy was an "ill wind".


Ruralidle

billy_bread's picture
billy_bread

At the local farmers' market in Big Stone Gap, VA, I sell on the average of 24 loaves of bread a week, not to mention the muffins and doughnuts. The only thing the local inspector asked me to do was to put on the label "NOT FOR RESALE - PROCESSED AND PREPARED WITHOUT STATE INSPECTION." Plus he asked that I list the ingredients and put my name and address on the labels. I also sell homemade jeliies, labeling them the same way.


 

Thaichef's picture
Thaichef

Hello LindyD and billy_bread:


First is a "huge" thanks and "hug" to LindyD.  Your information is a "God Sent"!!! I contacted the Roanoke Food inspector office and they said that the information was also for my baking( and the other two bakers also.)  Our food inspector has never tell the three of us!!! We continued to pay for years. Before, it was $40.00 which wasn't too bad but when it gets to $100.00, it is too much. 


billy_bread: One of my vendor who is now doing goat cheese told me today that he has never pay the inspection fee when he was selling breads at the Farmer market either. His food inspector in Franklin county( it is the county which bordered our county) told him to label it the same as you said. Our inspctor in Roanoke only wants money and keep this information to himself.


Thanks Guys.  Now,any information of how to turn our market into "non porfit" organization so we can get some help?


You both made my day.


mantana

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

Have you asked the county bar association to recommend an attorney who would set up incorporation on a pro bono basis? It may be worth your while to do so. Keep in mind you will need to formalize your organization, and officers will have fiduciary responsibilities.


cheers,


gary

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Hi Mantana,


Am glad I was able to help.  Unfortunately, public officials don't always have the best interests of their employers (the taxpayers) at heart.  Bell, CA is a prime example of that.


Since it's an election year, you might consider contacting the Virgina Attorney General to let him/her know that you've been charged these fees, just to make sure the money has gone into the state coffers.  Or possibly get it back, if you kept receipts.


If you were labeling your bread as required by law, no fee was due.  However, if you were not following the law on labeling, that might provide a defense to the inspector.  Or an excuse.


As to obtaining nonprofit status, the IRS has some pretty stringent regulations.  The application fee is $400 for organizations earning less than $10,000 during the previous four years and $850 for organizations earning more than $10,000 during the same time period.  Knowing nothing about your group, other than there are local residents selling home baked goods, crafts, and produce, I have no idea if you could even qualify as a nonprofit organization.  Here is a link to the IRS exemption maze


Nor am I sure of just what kind of "help" you are seeking from the county.  Keep in mind that most local governments are very cash strapped because of lost tax dollars, are laying off workers, and have to concentrate on providing public services, such as police, roads, etc.


If you decide to set up a business and incorporate on the chance you can obtain nonprofit status, then you have to keep excellent financial records, possibly obtain licenses and liability insurance - and are required to file federal and state tax returns each year.  Here's a link to Virginia's business  FAQ.


Probably not the information you were seeking, but obtaining nonprofit status is complicated, costs money and time, and can take a year or two to accomplish even with a good legal counsel.


Best of luck with your group.

Thaichef's picture
Thaichef

Hello LindyD and Gary:


  Thanks to you both for your kind advices.


First to Lindy: Our market is a Farmer Market and has been doing it for the past three years. I am the founder, manager, bookkeeper, promoter, janitor...all on the volunteering basis.  We have a separate banking account, and expenses. We pay taxes and all the fees and carry liablility insuanrce. In another words, all that a legal-law abiding company should.  We have 6 volunteer board members but when it comes to work, I am it. 


When you ask what kind of help I need from the county? It is money and funding and advices which I got none. Here  are some of the details:


  In the first year, I was the only one/ working as a volunteered market manager,  promoter, etc. I worked and rally and try to get a site for our market and finally got a site behind the library.(Not without a fight). I have to appeal to the Board of county of Supervisors before I finally got a site. The county ignored my  repeating requests until August 08/ almost the end of our growing season.


 In 08, when I went to the Agriculture/Economic Developement to ask for list of growers, and general advices, one person who attended the meeting( local growers) said "WEll Mame, if you want so badly to have the farmer market, I suggested that you go and buy 5 acres of land, plowed it, growing it yourself and get the veggies to your market. This, after I told the board that I have three weeks before the market opening."


On Sept.  2009, our vendors, their family, board members and I appeared before Board of County of Supervisors and asked for funding of our market. We have an official letter with budget, copy of signed petitions from our customers(more than 300). Our speaker addressed the request to the Board. We gave the letter to each board members.  Todate, we did not get any responses.  One week after the meeting, four newspapers (including the Roanoke Times) did the story about our plight and the non responses that we received. Still we have heard nothing.  This is a little plight of small town America.


All those time, I have no idea why the county do not give us any money until about a month ago when I phoned the Bedford County Administrator when she finally told me.


Since the non status requirement came about, I had contacted the Lion club( as guest speaker, show power point of our market) and requested that they adopted us as their "sister' organization so that we could also get the "Non Profit" status. Ditto to YMCA, church etc. No taker. I know of the large amount of money involved and also the brain power which as you see from above, our market has none. Our market started with about 15 vendors in 08 to now  to3-4. In 08, we charge no fee since it is a short growing time but  since we have a lot of expenses, we have to charge $10.00/ vendor/ per market day. We have no money to advertise so things go from bad to worst. Thanks LindyD.


To Gary: Thanks to your kind advice. I will try to call them.


mantana


 


 

pdiff's picture
pdiff

Thaichef,


Reading this post was sad, seeing the resistance you've recieved from local government.  On the otherhand, it was extremely inspiring seeing how hard you've worked to get things going.  Don't give up!  You have a great idea and they just don't see it ... yet!  Your web page is a good start on promotion as are the promotional events.  And a huge clap of appreciation to LindyD.  Helpful, as always :-)


While I have no experience with this, I'm wondering if you might consider something like the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program .  They're supposed to distribute grants for such things.  Your local politicians may be more interested in helping if they smell potential Federal  money (and political credit for helping get it).  Just a thought.


 


Again, keep at it!  Your spark can catch on.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Wow, Mantana, that's just horrible given all of the work you've put into the project.  Making locally grown fresh produce available to the public not only benefits the consumers, but the economy of the area.


I can't believe the disrespect shown by your elected officials.  Sounds like the typical GOB (good old boy) network.


Probably too late this year, but maybe you (or someone in your group) should consider running for one of the township or county positions. If any of those county board members are running for reelection come November and have opposition, why not call their opponents and discuss the problems you've encountered to see if they could offer any assistance.


In the meantime, keep the lines of communication open with your newspaper contacts.  Contact radio stations in your area - they  run PSA (public service announcements) and you can ask that your farmers market be included.


Pdiff's suggestion of looking into the farmers market promotion program is a good one.  I'd also go back before that board and ask why you haven't gotten the courtesy of a response.  Bring a reporter with you, if possible.  Also request a copy of the minutes of the meeting and make sure you get a copy.


Just don't give in or give up.