Required Permits & Regulations for Market Vendors

To vend at market, there are a few things you should know. Below are statewide regulations for selling at New Mexico farmers’ markets. Cities and counties may impose their own rules, so it’s important to check with your local farmers’ market manager for additions.

Any potential farmers’ market vendor should contact each individual market they would like to sell at to find out about market rules, fees, the application process, and required permits for the local city or county.


Fresh Fruits & Vegetables

With the exception of markets in the city of Albuquerque, there is no permit required to sell fresh fruits and vegetables at New Mexico farmers’ markets.

For Albuquerque market vendors: Food vendors at Albuquerque growers’ markets are required to have a permit from the City’s Environmental Health Department. The cost of the permit for selling raw produce and/or pure, raw honey is $15.00. The cost of the permit for selling processed foods and/or eggs, meat, or seafood is $50.00. Vendors pay only one permit fee and need only one permit to sell at all member markets in the City of Albuquerque. Once you have been accepted as a vendor at an Albuquerque growers’ market, your manager will provide an application for the Growers’ Market Permit.

Organic Rules

NM Organic SealQ

: Who can use the word “Organic” to sell their products?
A:
Only farmers and gardeners who are certified by a USDA-accredited certifier may legally use the term “certified organic” or “organic” to describe their product. Producers who gross less than $5,000/year are exempt from certification. People who use the term “organic” without being certified are usually just not informed about the requirements, but there have been cases of deliberate fraud. We want to insure that those who are unaware of the regulations get the information they need and those who are deliberately defrauding consumers are stopped.

Q: If a grower wishes to sell a product as “organic,” what should s/he do?
A:
Call the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) Organic Program at 505-889-9921 or 575-646-0329 to find out how to certify.

Q: How do I know that someone selling “Organic” produce is certified?
A:
Ask to see a current Organic Certificate and the current Product List.

For Certified Producers: 
The Organic Certificate will list: the farm, the farmer, and the date the certification went into effect. The certificate will bear the seal of an Accredited Certifying Agent (ACA). For a list of ACAs, go to the USDA’s National Organic Program. The Product List will name the products that are certified for sale as “organic” and will give the inclusive dates for which the certification is valid for those products. The certificate without the product list will not tell you if the person is currently certified organic.

Q: What can I do if someone is not following the regulations?
A:
Call the NNMDA Organic Program at 505-889-9921 or 575-646-0329. Market Managers are not expected to enforce the regulations, but in the interest of an honest marketplace we hope you will let us know about any problems at your market.

Q: Why does it matter?
A:
Consumers have been guaranteed by federal law that products sold as “organic” have been produced to specific standards. In many cases consumers have paid a premium for this label, are” voting with their fork” and have the right to get what they pay for. In the case of consumers with chemical sensitivities, mislabeling can threaten the consumer’s health. Additionally, certified organic farmers have paid a significant amount of money to get certification and have done a lot of extra work in terms of practices, inspections and record-keeping. It simply isn’t fair for producers who have not done the work to pass themselves off as the same as those who have. It’s also against the law.

Q: What is the New Mexico Department of Agriculture Organic Program?
A:
The New Mexico Department of Agriculture Organic Program provides USDA/NOP-accredited organic certification for farmers, ranchers, and processors/handlers throughout New Mexico. Application and marketing assistance is also available. Visit the NMDA Organic Program website for more information.

Dairy Products

Every facility that produces dairy products in the State of New Mexico must hold a current Grade A Permit issued by NMDA’s Milk Inspectin Division. Click here for the application form and detailed instructions on how to apply for a Grade A Permit, 

For more information, contact NMDA Milk Inspection Division at (575) 841-9425.

Eggs

Ungraded Eggs

There are no licenses required for selling ungraded eggs in New Mexico farmers’ markets, but ungraded egg vendors are required to register with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture. This registration is free of charge and can be done here through NMDA’s website

Graded Eggs

To sell graded eggs, vendors must obtain an egg dealer license based on their production size. Licenses range in price from $10 to $50. The application is available here. For questions regarding selling eggs, contact Raymond Johnson with NMDA Standards & Consumer Services at 575-646-1616 or by email.

For Albuquerque market vendors: Food vendors at Albuquerque growers’ markets are required to have a permit from the City’s Environmental Health Department. The cost of the permit for selling raw produce and/or pure, raw honey is $15.00. The cost of the permit for selling processed foods and/or eggs, meat, or seafood is $50.00. Vendors pay only one permit fee and need only one permit to sell at all member markets in the City of Albuquerque. Once you have been accepted as a vendor at an Albuquerque growers’ market, your manager will provide an application for the Growers’ Market Permit.

Honey

Pure honey is defined as a raw agricultural commodity. Therefore, pure honey producers are not required to obtain a food processor permit. Honey producers do, however, come under the NM Food Act, requiring them to label their products and prohibiting adulteration of their products. Honeys with additives such as herbs are, however, subject to the food processing regulations, as these additives may change the chemistry of the honey and affect its anti-microbial properties. For more information, contact Ken Hays of the New Mexico Bee Keepers’ Association at (505) 869-2369.

ATTENTION Albuquerque market vendors: Food vendors at Albuquerque growers’ markets are required to have a permit from the City’s Environmental Health Department. The cost of the permit for selling raw produce and/or pure, raw honey is $15.00. The cost of the permit for selling processed foods and/or eggs, meat, or seafood is $50.00. Vendors pay only one permit fee and need only one permit to sell at all member markets in the City of Albuquerque. Once you have been accepted as a vendor at an Albuquerque growers’ market, your manager will provide an application for the Growers’ Market Permit.

Meat and Poultry

Meat and poultry producers and processors are regulated by the New Mexico Livestock Board. Meat (beef, pork, lamb, ostrich, emu and other ratites) offered for sale within the state must be slaughtered and processed at a state (or federal) inspected plant. A list of state-inspected plants is available from the Livestock Board. Custom-cutting plants are not inspected, and can only process meat for personal consumption. Meat that is processed in an inspected plant will be packaged and labeled according to state regulations.

Poultry comes under different rules. Producers who raise their own birds, and produce less than 20,000 birds per year, are exempt from inspection by either the State or the Federal government. They must still be registered, however, with the New Mexico Livestock Board, and meet the guidelines for custom exempt plants. Poultry products should be labeled with the net weight, producer name, product name, and their NM Livestock Board registration number.

Game meat, which includes buffalo, deer and elk, is also exempt from state and federal requirements. The NM Livestock Board offers a voluntary inspection and registration process, which enables producers to comply with the NM Environment Department’s rule that meat producers must come from an “approved source.”

Meat and poultry producers who sell meat at farmers’ markets and who do not cut meat do not need a license from the NM Environment Department, although they are still subject to the Food Act, ensuring that the food is stored and handled safely. As a potentially hazardous food, meat must be kept at 45 degrees F or below. Anybody who cuts meat in any way after it has been processed is regulated as a “meat market” under the Food Service Sanitation regulations.

In addition to selling packaged meat and meat products (either fresh or frozen) at farmers’ markets, producers could consider selling or taking orders for live animals. Purchasers can then have the animal processed at a custom plant, or the producer could have it processed as a service to the customer. Such animals must follow Livestock Board rules on proof of ownership and branding.

For more information visit the NM Livestock Board or call (800) 432-6889.

Processed Foods

Farmers’ markets must ensure that all vendors selling products requiring licenses have obtained and are maintaining those licenses. Each market manager–or other responsible person designated by the organization operating the market–should maintain a copy of vendor licenses or a record of the number of the license (see food chart below).

Market managers and other responsible persons are not expected to be food safety experts, but they can help educate vendors about topics related to food safety and encourage vendors to communicate with the appropriate licensing authorities.

Anyone selling food which is “prepared” in any way, or which is offered for sale in a sealed package, is considered a “food service establishment” or a “food processing establishment,” and must be licensed by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED). The only exceptions to this are “dairy establishments”, which are regulated by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) and the “preparation of raw fruits and vegetables for display and sale in a grocery store or similar operation.”

For processors of non-potentially hazardous foods:
 Non-potentially hazardous foods are those foods that pose little threat of growing bacteria that can cause food-borne illnesses, and may be processed in a home kitchen with a license from the Environment Department. These non-potentially hazardous foods include items such as baked goods, dry mixes, and high-sugar jams and jellies. To receive a permit from the New Mexico Environment Department to process these types of foods in a home kitchen, vendors must attend a food safety class that must be retaken every five years, pay an annual fee of $100, be subject to annual inspections, and follow all food protection rules and regulations as directed by the Environment Department. Holders of a home processing permit may only participate in direct-to-consumer sales, such as through a farmers’ markets. The application can be found here.

For processors of all other foods:
 Producers of all other types of processed foods such as salsas, canned vegetables, and other low-acid and acidified canned foods must use a certified kitchen (link to list below) to produce their goods. In addition, they must receive a processing permit from the New Mexico Environment Department, pay an annual fee of $200, be subject to annual inspections, and follow all Food Service and Food Processing Regulations 7.6.2 NMAC. All ingredients used, with the exception of raw agricultural products, must be from approved sources and changes in ingredients after the permit has been issued need to be reported to NMED. Food processors of these potentially hazardous foods can contact the New Mexico Environment Department office within their county to begin the licensing process or download the application here.

Producers of low-acid canned foods and acidified foods are also subject to federal regulations, and must register with the US Food and Drug Administration.

Producers within the City of Albuquerque, or within the unincorporated areas of Bernalillo County (with certain exceptions) come under the regulations of these entities.

Contacts: City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Dept, (505) 768-2600
 Bernalillo County Consumer Health Department, (505) 314-0310

Producers on tribal lands do not come under the jurisdiction of the NM Environment Department, however, if the products are being sold on non-tribal land, vendors should contact the NMED for necessary permitting.

Food Service

In addition to a home processor’s permit or food processor permit, vendors who serve food to the public to be eaten on-site must obtain a Temporary Food Event Permit. These permits are free of charge and the application can be found here.

Some Market Requirements May Vary

In addition to the state regulations, every market may also have has its own additional requirements. Call each market manager for their market’s rules. In general, markets encourage processors to use locally grown foods for their ingredients whenever possible.

Some markets are very strict on this point, others less so. For example, the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market requires that 80% of ingredients that can be locally grown must come from local growers. Also, they require that no more than 20% of vendors can be food processors.

Other markets only require that the product be made in New Mexico. Most markets do, however, limit the number of food processors so that the market remains predominantly for fresh produce.

Advantages to Food Processors of Selling at Markets:

  • Can get retail versus wholesale price direct from the customer
  • Payment is immediate, no 30 day wait
  • It’s a great way to test products as you can get immediate customer feedback
    • Through sampling, and asking people what they think as they taste it
    • Ask people the next week after they bought your product what they thought of it
    • See what sells best out of a variety of products, what people’s reaction to different products are
    • Gauge customer reaction to product attributes (flavor, texture, appearance) and also to packaging and labeling
    • You can make small changes from week to week and continue to assess impact
    • It can be part of an overall marketing strategy. For example, Sweetwoods Dairy sells at farmers’ markets in part to build its customer base for retail stores. People see the product at the market, sample it and buy it, then buy it next time they see it at Smith’s or Albertson’s.

Challenges for Food Processors Selling at Farmers’ Markets:

  • Difficulty with transitioning from a small operation and selling at farmers’ markets to becoming a larger operation and selling predominantly wholesale
  • Going to market(s) takes a lot of time–driving, set-up, selling–it is very labor-intensive

Tips for Selling Processed Foods at Farmers’ Markets:

  • Always sample. Buy products from other vendors to complement your sample – cucumbers for a dip, greens for a dressing, or bread for jams. See if you can be situated next to a product that complements yours.
  • Provide recipes that use your product – e.g. for garlic oil, or goat cheese.
  • As with all farmers’ market products, customers are looking for a human connection. Be sure to talk to customers, give them tips and tell them as much as you can about the product. Customers are looking for an experience, not just a product.

For information on how to submit a commercial food product for process review, download this information guide from the NMSU Cooperative Extension Service.

For information on operating a food business in the state of New Mexico, download the Food Business in New Mexico guide.

Community Kitchens

Community commercial kitchens serve as a platform for small food production businesses to succeed in their entrepreneurial efforts. Any processed food such as salsa or tamales must be produced in a commercial kitchen. Kitchens may be rented by any member of the general public and are fully equipped and approved for commercial production. Please call the following for information on rental availability, locations, and hours.

Find a Community Kitchen