Can commercial food operators buy produce directly from the grower?

Yes, if the person is selling produce that they have grown on their own or rented land. A license would not be required, as indicated by:

Typical commercial food operators (retail) include restaurants, caterers, school foodservice, institutions, daycares, grocery stores, food markets, cooperatives, bakeries, convenience stores, temporary food stands, etc.

If a grower is selling produce to commercial food establishments, is the grower considered an approved source?

Yes, this is considered an approved source if the food is grown on the farm or garden occupied and cultivated by them. Growers are an approved source for processed food as long as no ingredients are added from off the farm and the food is not prepared or stored in a private home.

Would a grower be required to have a license for foods that are processed?

A food handler's license is required for foods that contain ingredients from off the farm (including salt). Processed foods can be cut, heated, canned, frozen, dried, mixed, coated, bottled, etc. A food handler's license is also required if foods are purchased for resale. Processing does not include sorting, trimming as part of the harvesting process or preliminary washing to remove extraneous soil and debris.

In addition, if a person buys produce from another grower for resale, that person may need to be licensed as a Minnesota Wholesale Produce Dealer. Further questions on this should be directed to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

If a grower does not need a license, does that mean they do not have to comply with good agricultural and management practices?

No, even though a grower may not be required to have a food handler’s license, they are still regulated under various federal and state laws. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has chemical restriction requirements, such as what can be used, amounts, and how and when it can be applied. Additionally, state agencies regulate fertilizer and pesticide use, irrigation waters, application of manure or sludge, etc. Ultimately, all food must be kept safe from contamination whether the grower has a license or not. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Food and Feed Safety Division’s Food Inspection staff periodically spot check growers at roadside stands, “u-pick” farms, and farmers markets.

How can a buyer or user become more knowledgeable about produce?

  • Check with the state or local regulatory authority that licenses and inspects your facility before changing your menu or expanding your business to include new foods or methods. They can help you identify additional training, certification, licensing or permit requirements.
  • Review the farmer's on-farm food safety plan, provided either in a written or verbal form, for production, harvest, handling, storage, and transportation steps.
  • Inspect the transportation vehicle to see if it is clean. Look for evidence of chemicals, odors and obvious debris.
  • Inspect the produce for signs of insects, disease, bruising, damage, over-ripeness and immaturity.
  • Ask for documentation that references the USDA Certifying Agent if the produce is advertised as 'Organic'.
  • Properly wash produce to remove soil and surface contamination before use.
  • Ask for a receipt of purchase and keep good records. Good record-keeping is particularly important if illness or injury prompts the need to trace product back to the supplier.
  • Farmers who process their own produce for sale can request inspection by the MDA. Buyers can request a copy of the inspection report.