Farmers markets are just one of the many ways farmers and artisanal producers showcase their products, connect with customers, and make a living. The rise and popularity of farmers markets continue to increase, and it is still one of the most common methods for consumers to purchase farm fresh foods.
Ask any farmer, and they will tell you selling at farmers markets is tough work. Driving long distances, hauling and packing product, and setting up and breaking down mostly on beautiful summer weekends makes for a big commitment. Farmers and producers already face challenges to bringing their product to market, and they don’t need the extra stress of hostile inspectors. Unfortunately, trouble from inspectors is exactly what FTCLDF farmer member Cathy received on her farm and at the market.
Cathy is a mother of six and a full-time farmer. She sells most of her vegetables at a farmers market in Southern California, along with her coveted honey from hives on her farm. Early in 2018, an inspector contracted by the state was hassling Cathy. The inspector would visit Cathy’s farm, not telling Cathy what she was looking for or why she was being inspected. After leaving the farm, the inspector would insist everything was fine but continue to cause trouble and send other inspectors to the farmers market to observe Cathy’s stand.
Eventually, Cathy was issued a ticket. The ticket was never given to Cathy as it sat on another inspector’s desk with a note that said they were unable to get Cathy to sign it. A week before Christmas, Cathy finally got the notice—a $1,800 fine and a decision that they were shutting her down for three months.
Cathy was furious. She was not a member of FTCLDF at the time, but became a member as soon as she heard about us. (Note: it helps to be a member before an emergency happens so that we can nip the problem in the bud and possibly prevent it in the first place.) Cathy was overwhelmed with the notion that the State’s mere “assumption that [she] was doing something wrong, could ruin [her].”
FTCLDF to the Rescue
FTCLDF attorney Suzy and legal assistant Gwenllian connected with Cathy. The inspector thought that Cathy was selling food that she wasn’t growing herself, which is against the Certified Farmers Market rules in California. FTCLDF attended a farm walk-through with the inspector and two other people from the county ag department, and Cathy’s farm manager was on hand to answer all of their questions. They reviewed the evidence, visited the farm, interviewed witnesses, and requested a hearing date. After a grueling, all-day hearing, the Hearing Officer ruled in Cathy’s favor. Case dismissed!
YOUR FUND AT WORK
Services provided by FTCLDF go beyond legal representation for members in court cases.
Educational and policy work also provide an avenue for FTCLDF to build grassroots activism to create the most favorable regulatory climate possible. In addition to advising on bill language, FTCLDF supports favorable legislation via action alerts and social media outreach.