The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A novice at Farmer's Market... Please, help!

Wheat'n'Rye's picture

A novice at Farmer's Market... Please, help!

Dear friends,

I am a new member on the forum. I have read so much interesting stuff on this incredible website! Thank you everyone who shares their knowledge with new kids on the block just like myself!

I have been baking for a long time. I really want to start selling my goodies at local farmer's markets as a side source of income to raise my kids (a new school year starts soon, and it is always lots of money to spend!). I have contacted a couple of farmer's markets and got their guidelines. I am in Alabama which is a "cottage law" state. My questions would probably seem odd to many experienced bakers/sellers, but still... What do I need to begin with even before I come to the farmer's market and pay for selling my stuff?

I am not sure I am able to buy a tent and table right now, and I also cannot afford paying membership fee for the whole summer season. I plan to rent a canopy tent and table from the market and pay for a vending spot on a daily basis. That's to get my feet wet, so to say. If my goodies sell, I will buy a tent and everything else I might need...

Here's my check list. Please, if you have some comments about it, let me know.

My recipes for breads. Ingredients (bought at Sam's club mostly). Plastic containers to store ingredients and dough. Electronic scales. Plastic wrap and ties. Labels.

I am going to post news about my sales on Facebook to let people know where I'm going to sell my stuff and when.

Do I need any license to sell my goodies if I am going to do it not in a commercial kitchen but my own one? How do vendors calculate their taxes? I heard one could claim their business as "hobby" and avoid paying taxes for a while (until the amount of profits exceeds some numbers)... I am not sure about that. I want to do everything legally correct, but I also want to save where it is possible.

I guess what I am trying to say is I am fairly new to this kind of venture. I realize I can make mistakes because I don't know yet how things work in this business. That is why I want to learn some tricks from experienced people that I overlook otherwise. I would really appreciate if someone told me what I should/shouldn't do while just beginning...

Thank you everyone for reading my post!



mimifix's picture

Welcome to The Fresh Loaf! ... You have asked many questions, so good for you. Call your state's dept of ag & mkts and ask about the legalities. Call your state tax dept and ask about taxable products. And talk with the farmers' market manager. For start-up issues, pricing, bookkeeping, labels, etc., I wrote Start & Run a Home-Based Food Business which covers most of it. The book is almost 200 pages so there's far too much to post here. If you can't afford the book, many libraries have it. Good luck!


CelesteU's picture

Have you contacted the farmer's market(s) you plan to use?  Many nonprofit markets actively work to develop new vendors, and they may be able to walk you through these basics steps.  (For profit markets usually don't offer much help.)  My local nonprofit market requires that the vendor 1)pay an annual membership fee, 2)participate in a certain number of markets each year, and 3)hold a product liability insurance policy to cover his/her goods.  In Louisiana, prepared foods must be cooked in a commercial kitchen, though jams/jellies/preserves (by state law) can be prepared in a home/farm kitchen.

Here's a link to the Crescent City Farmer's Market web page for vendors, which covers some of this info:


Just Loafin's picture
Just Loafin

There are basically 3 levels of laws/rules that you fly under: State, County, and the farmer's market management, in that order of precedence.

State and County laws are usually available online, as is most well-organized farmer's markets.

I doubt you can claim 'hobby' once you actually setup a retail booth in a place where commerce is expected to happen. Here in California, the system is setup to make is as restrictive and as problematic as possible for a new baker to start selling anything. There is virtually nothing in place to help you cut any corners or 'test the waters'. You're either all in, or don't bother, because you'll be shut down. My understanding is that CA is one of the more restrictive states, and hopefully Alabama is different, for your sake and sanity.

The bulk of the laws that are the most problematic deal with your kitchen environment, obviously, and out here, that's where you'll find it almost impossible to satisfy the rules without a significant capital investment. People who know other people and/or just get lucky can use some creative techniques to work under someone else's license ( for example, baking in a pizza parlor after hours). Again, each state/county is different, so that's where the focus of your research should be. It's not hard to start finding answers rather quickly. Best of luck with it all!

- Keith

Wheat'n'Rye's picture

Mimi, thank you for your answer! I will definitely find your book and read it! I am sure it will give me lots of thought food to digest!

Keith, I do appreciate your response! It gave me something to focus my attention on! And I am sorry rules are so strict in California!                  

flourgirl51's picture

I have been selling breads and other baked goods at our farmers' market for over three years now and could give you all sorts of pointers. If you would like to send me a message with your phone number I could call you to discuss this as there is way too much info to write here. There are many things to consider. You will have to decide just how much product you are going to take to sell. That will help you determine the amount of equipment and supplies you will need. If you are going to do doughs that you will refrigerate you will need fridge space for that. What oven will you use? If you are using a home oven what shape is it in? How big is it? Do you have a mixer to help knead dough? You will need multiples of baking pans for panned loaves and sheet pans for free form loaves. Are you going to bake other things besides breads? 

You will need to label your product with ingredients and your contact info. Do you have a way to do this? Do you have containers to transport your breads in to the market? You will need bags of some sort( paper or plastic) depending on what types of breads you are doing( hard or soft crust). 

As I said,  there is lots to discuss and I would be happy to share my ideas with you. I would suggest that you get a state tax ID number and start off on the right foot as far as paying taxes goes. If you are selling for profit then it is a business. 

I really enjoy selling at our market. It is a lot of hard work but I love it. Good luck.