A sixty-two year old woman who earns half her income from the sale of sprouts and microgreens at the Sarasota downtown Farmers Market was shut down today by the Florida Department of Agriculture. The greens she sells are grown in sprouting trays on shelves on her screened porch. Each week she cuts the shoots that are ready for sale, fills plastic baggies with her nutritious, organic greens, and carries them to the Saturday Sarasota Farmers Market for sale to the public. Today she learned that she cannot continue to do so because the greens are not packaged in a commercial kitchen.
My brief investigation of the incident elicited some interesting comments from vendors at the Farmers Market. One of them told me that the issue is the packaging of the microgreens, which the Department of Agriculture considers “processing.” If the greens had been laid out in bulk for customers to fill their own bags, there would have been no problem. Even more bizarre, if the vendor had placed the cut greens in a plastic bag but NOT SEALED THE BAG, this would not have constituted processing, and would not have been a violation of their regulations.
I don’t see any difference between between microgreens that are cut and placed in a plastic baggie and a tomato or a cucumber that is picked off the vine and placed in a wooden basket for sale. Frankly, whether I carry home a tomato or a bag of sprouts, I’m going to wash the produce before I eat it.
Either the regulations within the food industry have become so convoluted as to be devoid of common sense, or there is some corruption afoot. Not long ago I wrote about a farmer in Minnesota who became entangled in a Catch-22 situation when he leased 25 acres to boost his production of fruits and vegetables for the local downtown farmers market. The ridiculous regulations that created that situation came about because the powerful farm lobby has worked to create legislation designed to protect the giant corporate fruit and vegetable farm operations, which are predominantly located in Florida and California. Seems these corporate giants are threatened by the small farmers who are supplying the increasingly popular Farmers Markets around the country.
I spent a couple of hours researching the Florida Department of Agriculture rules and regulations online and simply couldn’t make sense out of them. In many cases, the rules are contradictory from one section to the next. I have to wonder if they are written in such a manner as to be indecipherable by the general public. While it is entirely possible that this whole incident is based upon stupidity and bureaucratic red tape, it is also possible that this is just another example of a governmental agency bowing to pressure from a powerful, well-organized, well-funded lobby.
Unfortunately, the main person hurt by this is a sweet little lady with the most dazzling smile I have ever seen. Now, not only do I worry where I will find organic microgreens, I also worry about how she will support herself now that half of her meager income has been eliminated.
20 thoughts on “Florida Department Of Agriculture Shuts Down Microgreen Seller At Farmers Market”
Yikes! This is bone-chilling information. I am a 62-year-old woman who would like to begin a micro greens business from my basement in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. What’s holding me back is abject fear about scenarios such as you have described in this article. I don’t know where to begin to find out what the regulations are and, most tellingly, will my house be taxed differently because I am growing a business in the basement? I was not intending to claim the house as a tax deduction in any way for the business, but I am still very reticent. Any ideas? Thanks.
Sorry Bonnie, but I couldn’t begin to give legal advice. Check with your local Health Department.
These great folks will help you all the way 🙂
Can’t wait to try your microgreens some day if you ever decide sell/ship to Texas!
Selling live greens in trays is an option. Using smaller than standard 10×20 trays will help. These 2 part trays are great to sell greens in the tray. Just charge a deposit or sell the tray outright with the greens growing in them. Wish I could post an image but this link might help https://hydroprosales.com/microgreens/
My local city hall told me that I would not be able to grow microgreens on my property since it was not ruled agricultural. I have a mobile home and I grow my microgreens in a small shed connected to my house and under my carport.
This article is mainly about the meaning of the word “procssed” . That could mean washed, put in to clam shells, or any other number of things that an inspector could want to call “processed”.
I read where one small grower was made to have all of his washing and handling area “kitchen quality, food grade perfect. If in doubt, it is better to have an inspector tell you what is needed before you start rather than have him shut you down.
This might be a great place for this question. My son is now wanting to enter the microgreens growing and selling business. He is in California, I’ve seen the ton of videos on Youtube of how to start, grow, harvest, sell, but nothing on where one can go to find the Government hurdles one must go through in order to run the business legally. Can anyone help with this mystery?
I am in the same situation in NY. Very vague and IMPOSSIBLE to find regulations on this
Your local Extention office should be able to help. Also the local health dept.
Study Califonia Laws and Regulations, before start it. I’m studying Louisiana Laws and Regulations too, I live there and I bought a tent to start buy I’m stop. I try to start a microgreen business too but I noticed it that in a farmer’s market I don’t see nobody sell it. It’s weird. That’s why is important check the Farmer’s and State Laws first.
All she has to do is leave the bag open and let the customer close it themselves. Here in California we sell salad mixes in zip lock bags. Were constantly fighting this battle with mis-informed farmers market managers that if the bag is open, its not processed and does not need a label.
This is great for discussing together with all of us. Your articles are really helping me to receive the facts about it online. I should stick to this website. Thanks and well done again.
I thought it was going to be some boring old post, but it really compensated for my time. I will post a link to this page on my blog. I am sure my visitors will find that very useful.
By the way, the article mentions that these are organic greens. They cannot be called organic unless they are certified by the USDA’s National Organic Program. This program attempts to set uniform standards for organic production and tries to minimize the rampant dishonesty of organic growing and marketing.
I’m not supporting the government one way or the other; just stating the facts.
Most likely she was shut down because of sprouts. Anyone who produces sprouts to sell must follow rigorous FDA guidelines set up to prevent food poisoning. FDA will shut down anyone growing and selling sprouts who does not follow the rules. Sprouts have been implicated in numerous outbreaks of foodborne illness.
Sprouts and microgreens are not the same thing. They are grown differently and microgreens production (when done correctly) does not encourage the rapid proliferation of dangerous pathogenic bacteria often found in sprout growing.
Where did you get this information? I’m afraid that is incorrect. The FDA doesn’t regulate sprout growing, although it does issue guidelines and recommendations. Each individual state agriculture departments are responsible for those types of regulations.
I am a sprout grower in Mt and the FDA comes to my business! So does the State health Department.
What do you mean they come to your business? They buy from you as customers or they inspect your business?
How to subscribe to RSS feeds?
OMG are you that clueless?