Quick Tips: Farmers’ Market Vendors in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has a vibrant local foods culture, and you are sure to find customers eager for your products. Be sure to follow the rules that govern preparation and sale to help ensure public health and protect your brand!

Note: In spite of what many web sites say, Wisconsin does not have a cottage food law. Vendors must comply with Wisconsin regulations to sell in the state.

This information is available as a handout

No License Required*

  • Apple Cider. Cider must be pressed and bottled by the vendor. Cider must be fully labeled including approved warning statement if unpasteurized/unheated (raw).
  • Baked Items. Home-baked, not potentially hazardous bakery items may be sold directly to consumers. Items must be baked, such as cookies and cakes. Items that would not be allowed have cream or custard fillings, butter cream frosting or other things that make them potentially hazardous and requiring refrigeration. Be sure to clearly label all allergens!  Find out more: Licensing Exemption for Home Bakers (Wisconsin).
  • Field-Dried Vegetables. No license is required for sale of peppers or dry beans that are dried naturally in the field. Product must be protected from spoilage and contamination during the natural drying process. [Tomatoes are not included in this category.]
  • Fruits and Vegetables (raw, intact). Share the bounty of your harvest! You may rinse in clean water, remove roots and package in bulk for delivery. Not allowed: cutting, trimming or other processing or packaging for individual sale – these steps require a license.
  • Grain. Grains may be sold for home milling into flour, roasting, malting, etc. A license is required to process grain.
  • Honey. No license required for honey sold as beekeeper’s own that has no added color, flavors, or ingredients, including air incorporated by whipping. Must be appropriately labeled.
  • Jams and Jellies/Canned Fruit. Home-canned fruits or jams and jellies made in Wisconsin may be sold at farmers’ markets in the state without a license. These items must be low-pH (under 4.6), the items must be made in a home kitchen and sales are limited to $5,000 per person per year. Canned goods must be properly labeled, including an ingredient statement, and a notice posted at the point of sale letting consumers know the product is homemade and not subject to state inspection. Find out more: Selling Home Canned Foods (Wisconsin). Web page. (2011)
  • Maple Syrup. Producers of maple syrup may bottle and sell their product at farmers’ markets as long as only exempt products are sold by the producer, e.g. fresh fruits and vegetables, honey, sorghum, cider, and/or maple syrup. Product must be fully labeled. Find out more: Selling Maple Syrup in Wisconsin. Web page.
  • Pickled Vegetables (Canned). Home-canned pickled vegetables made in Wisconsin may be sold at farmers’ markets in the state without a license. These items must be low-pH (under 4.6), the items must be made in a home kitchen and sales are limited to $5,000 per person per year. Canned goods must be properly labeled, including an ingredient statement, and a notice posted at the point of sale letting consumers know the product is homemade and not subject to state inspection.  Find out more: Selling Home Canned Foods (Wisconsin). Web page. (2011)

*General summary. Although not completely up-to-date, review the Wisconsin Local Food Marketing Guide. 109 pages. Chapter 4 (Rules, Regulations and Liability) (2014) for addition information.

License Required  

A license will be required either to sell and/or to process many products that may be sold at a farmers’ market. Licensing is generally required if ‘exempt’ sales are over the allowed amount or for out-of-state sales – only raw, intact fruits and vegetables may generally be sold across state lines without a license. Potentially hazardous items such as eggs, fresh meats, and baked goods that require refrigeration, will generally require a mobile retail license. Other licenses apply to the production or manufacture of a certain types of foods or beverages. Local ordinances may require further licensing.

Examples of items where a license of some sort is generally required for farmers’ market sales in Wisconsin include:

  • Bakery items that are potentially hazardous or processed in a commercial kitchen.
  • Beef, pork, lamb, poultry and other meat items – a mobile retail license will be required. Other licenses may also be required. Find out more: Direct Marketing of Meat and Poultry (Wisconsin). Web page.
  • Candy, confections – a license is required to make candy and confectionary items for sale. Yum!
  • Dairy products such as fluid milk, cream, butter, cheese, yogurt and more require a mobile retail license for sales at farmers’ markets. Other licenses may also be required.
  • Dehydrated or dried fruits, herbs, vegetables, or meat (except for field-dried peppers and beans) must be prepared for sale under license.
  • Dry food or beverage mixes or blends must be manufactured under a license.
  • Eggs from the farm find eager customers at farmers’ markets. A mobile retail license is required for vending. Other rules also apply.
  • Farmed fish and seafood – fish sold at a farmers’ market must come from a licensed retail food establishment or food processing plant. Mobile retail license required.
  • Juice products produced on-site or sold at a farmers market require licensing.
  • Pet foods must meet standards similar to human foods and must be manufactured under a license.
  • Processed fruits and vegetables, including frozen, cut, dried, and packaged items, must be produced under a license for sale at farmers’ markets.
  • Refrigerated foods that are sold at a farmers’ market require a license for manufacture and sale.
  • Sauces and condiments – while items such as apple or tomato sauce may be exempted from licensing under the ‘pickle bill’, most sauces and condiments  must be manufactured under a license.

Questions?  The requirements can be confusing!  You can rely on these sources to help:

  • Extension educators  Fast access to your local Extension office.  Contact the Wisconsin Food Safety Helpline: 608-263-7383 or bhingham@wisc.edu
  • Licensing Specialists with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) will direct vendors to the licensing requirements for their individual businesses. Contact DATCP licensing specialists at 608-224-4923 or datcpdfslicensing@wi.gov

To find out more, click on these links or enter these terms in your favorite search engine:

Originally Published on March 20, 2022
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