LANARK — The Agri-Nauts, members of Lanark’s Farmers Market committee, asked the Carroll County Health Department’s (CCHD) Environmental Health specialist Doug Lieb to attend their April 24 meeting to clarify certain rules and regulations regarding Farmers Markets.
The group hopes to increase both the number of vendors, as well as customers, to their Tuesday event, held from May 17 through October in the Lanark City Park.
“We're not trying to push you away from farmers markets, church bazaars, or the like,” Lieb said. “We don't inspect your kitchen. We want you to take a 15 hour class, take an exam, and obtain your Food Manager Certification. If you want to sell baked goods at a farmers market, you’ve gotta take the FMC exam.”
Lieb said that if you don't have the FMC now, do it before July 1. “That's when regulations generally change. And it’s pretty simple now.”
The CCHD does not require any farmers market committee to monitor whether or not a vendor has proper certification, but the customers will. “If they don’t trust what they see for sale, they won’t buy it. Certification helps.”
Referred to as the “Cottage Food Industry,” people with that certification are allowed to sell at a farmers markets, but nowhere else. “Not at a retail outlet, like a grocery store. The product can be sold at various f’armers markets on the same day, anytime, as long as the producer is registered.”
In regard to obtaining certified kitchen designation, Lieb stated that in-home certified kitchens must be a separate facility from your home kitchen, and isolated from the rest of the home.
“Simple things, like separate utensils, and no pet access. But you could possibly ‘divide’ the kitchen from other rooms with a blanket, if other requirements were met. The rules are pretty flexible under certain conditions.”
When asked about selling eggs at farmers markets, he said no, because the ILDept of Agriculture regulates that.
“You can sell them at your home, fresh off the farm, no problem. But if you remove the eggs from your farm, they must be graded, in their own container with your own name on it, not used cartons from other producers, candled, etc. What you can do at farmers markets is promote on-the-farm sales available in your rural community.”
Home-grown vegetables have no specific rules regarding their sale. “Any hand picked, home grown produce, a-ok,” Lieb said. “But if you alter it, like slice a whole watermelon and sell by the slice, no can do, then you become a ‘food processor.’”
Want to have a fund raiser bake sale? No problem, according to Lieb, as it is not his jurisdiction.
“But if you offer a bake sale at the farmers market every week, from the same church, or group, then it's a business.” But, in a 24-week market schedule, a farmers market could feature 24 different groups offering a bake sale every week, or even 12 on a rotating basis.
Lieb added that selling home-made canned goods were frowned upon, but if you follow regulations, you can produce them in a non-certified kitchen.
“If you use a certified kitchen, with a certified manager there, anyone can cook there and sell baked items, canned goods, anything.”
Regarding the sale of hot food at a farmers market, Lieb said you would need a temporary permit to sell hot dogs, etc., suggesting it would be better to have a group like the Lanark VFW Mess Hall set up and sell.
“It’s less of a hassle for the group. Generally, it’s better to attract vendors that are already licensed, permitted, and trained.”
Wine tasting? Lieb said that was the jurisdiction of the city or village. Lanark Mayor John Huggins, who attended the meeting, confirmed that the group could get a permit, or obtain a dram shop license to sell bottles.
Overall, Lieb doesn't have any serious problems in Carroll County. “From restaurants to small certified kitchens, we do not have any issues like they do in larger cities or counties. It is a great experience working with people who truly care about the quality of their food.”
If you have any questions for Doug Lieb, he may be reached via Email at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the Carroll Co. Health Dept. at 822 S. Mill Street in Mt. Carroll, or call 815-244-8855.