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Fact Sheet: Farm Markets

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Farm Markets

A Farm Market is a producer operated facility where fresh fruits and vegetables and other foods items are offered for sale. Some may require licensure from the local health department based on the foods offered for sale. 


Who Inspects Farm Markets?

The local health department may require lisensure of the farm market as a retail food establishment (RFE). However, the farm market may be exempt from licensure based on the foods offered for sale. Exempt farm markets are regulated and inspected by the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety division. The organizer of the farm market has to register the farm market with the Ohio Department of Agriculture if cottage foods are to be sold.


Environmental Health sanitarians inspect restaurants, grocery stores and other food service operations to ensure that food is being handled, stored and cooked properly. At your farm market, you can use many of the same safety tips to ensure the food you prepare is safe for your customers to eat. Visit our Web site for more details.


What is Exempt from Licensure?

A Farm Market may sell the following foods and still remain exempt from licensure:

  • Foods that are fresh, unprocessed fruits or vegetables;
  • Maple syrup, sorghum, or honey (properly labeled);
  • Cottage foods (see our brochure)
  • Cider and other juices manufactured onsite;
  • Commercially packaged non-TCS foods in displays that are smaller than 100 cubic feet;
  • Non-amenable meats (rabbit, bison, etc.), provided the operator raised the animals.


What Requires Licensure?

Foods that require RFE licensure by the local health department consist of those not listed in the exempt list, including (but not limited to):

  • Any food being handled without being pre-packaged
  • Any food being prepared onsite
  • Any food requiring refrigeration
  • Cheese
  • Cheesecake
  • Coffee
  • Cut Melons
  • Fresh Popcorn
  • Fresh Salsa
  • Eggs
  • Ice Cream
  • Milk
  • Meats
  • Waffles/Crepes



Food Sources

Any prepared or packaged food must come from an approved source. Home production of food must be limited to cottage foods and baked goods coming from an ODA licensed Home Bakery.

Food items such as BBQ sauce, pasta sauce, dressing, salsa, herb-oil, etc. must be prepared in a licensed facility. If a food label does not indicate it was manufactured in a licensed facility, the food item may not be sold.



All packaged foods must be properly labeled. Labeling requirements can be found in ORC 3715.023 and 21CFR Part 101.

Labels must include the following:

  • Name and address of the producer;
  • The name of the food product;
  • All ingredients of the food product, in descending order, by predominance of weight – unless the food item is a single-ingredient food;
  • The net weight or net volume of the food product;
  • Nutritional claims (low fat, low sodium, etc.) must meet federal labeling requirements;
  • Allergen labeling must be followed as specified in federal labeling requirements.


Sample Food Label

Tenderloin Steak Cutlet

NET WT 8 oz.

Cincinnati Farms

250 William Howard Taft Rd.
Cincinnati, OH 45219



Retail Food Establishment License:

A premises, or part of a premises, where food is stored, processed, prepared, or manufactured, or otherwise held or handled for retail sale requires a retail food establishment license.


Temporary License:

A food service operation or retail food establishment that is operated for not more than 5 consecutive days requires a temporary license. Temporary licenses are limited to 10 per year, per location. Temporary FSO’s must have a means of washing hands, 3 tubs set up for utensil washing, and the means to keep food within temperature requirements. For questions regarding licensing, please contact the Environmental Health Division of Hamilton County Public Health at (513) 946-7800.


What’s in a Name?

Farm Markets and Farmers’ Markets are not the same. Farm Markets sell food items that are produced at the facility where they are sold. Farmers’ Markets offer a location for several local vendors to sell their food and goods to the public.


Food Safety Training

Hamilton County Public Health offers a bi-monthly food safety training class. Classes occur on the first Tuesday of the month at 9 a.m. and the third Thursday of the month at 1:30 p.m. The cost of these courses is $20 per person. Call (513) 946-7800 for more information or to register for classes.



Questions about farm markets or licensure? Contact Hamilton County Public Health at (513) 946-7800.


Download a printable version of this fact sheet here.


250 William Howard Taft Road
2nd Floor, Cincinnati, OH 45219
Phone 513.946.7800 Fax 513.946.7890