Farmers Market

Farmers Markets are an excellent opportunity for local populations, and have many outstanding benefits: 

  • Customers can purchase products that are much fresher than products that are typically available at large supermarkets
  • Farmers are able to sell their goods directly to customers
  • Commerce is kept conveniently local
  • No money leaves the community
  • Smaller farms have increased potential for profit


While these are all excellent benefits of farmers markets, it is important to remember that even these smaller markets are subject to regulation and that people can't simply show up and sell whatever they want at these markets. This protects both the consumer and the reputation of the markets themselves, and ensures people feel confident they're buying quality products at these markets.


An incredible variety of items can be sold at a farmers market, and the regulations for each specific item vary quite widely. For convenience, the items people most commonly have questions about licensing for sale at farmers markets have been listed in a table below, along with what specific licensing requirements apply to the item and any additional non-license-related requirements that might also apply to the sale of that item at a farmers market. 


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.


Products Exempt from Licensing*

There are a number of foods and beverages that have long been exempt from licensing requirements in Wisconsin.

  • Apple Cider: Cider must be pressed and bottled by the vendor. Unpasteurized or unheated (raw) cider must be fully labeled, including an approved warning statement. Cider processors are exempt from licensing only as long as no other food processing activities are occurring. If other foods are being processed, contact the DATCP Licensing Specialists. 
  • Canned Fruit/Pickled Vegetables/Jams and Jellies: Home-canned fruits, pickled vegetables, and jams and jellies made in Wisconsin may be sold at farmers’ markets or community events in the state. Items must be low-pH (4.6 or below), canned 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. Note: sales of home-canned fruits and acidified vegetables are limited to farmers’ markets and community or social events. 
  • Field-Dried Vegetables: No license is required for sale of field-dried peppers or dry beans that are dried naturally in the field. Product must be protected from spoilage and contamination during the natural drying process.
  • Fresh fruits and Vegetables: Share the bounty of your harvest! You may rinse in clean water, remove roots and package in bulk for delivery. A license is required if you cut, slice, peel, freeze, or otherwise process fruits and vegetables.
  • Honey: No license required for honey sold as beekeeper’s own and no added color, flavors, or ingredients, including air incorporated by whipping. 
  • Maple Syrup: Producers of maple syrup may bottle and sell their product at retail without a license as long as no other food processing activities are occurring. Product must be accurately labeled. If other foods are being processed, contact the DATCP Licensing Specialists. 

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


License Required  

A license is issued annually to an individual at a specific location and may cover a number of different activities. While some food businesses may choose to build a dedicated processing facility on their property, most businesses start out renting a kitchen space. Small businesses may hold a license in a church kitchen, at a local community center, or at a dedicated shared-use facility (entrepreneurial center). Certain foods may require a specific license type with specific facility requirements. In general, a retail license is issued for preparation of food that is sold directly to the consumer; a food processing plant license allows the preparation of foods for sale through both wholesale and retail channels.

Selling potentially hazardous items such as eggs, fresh meats, and dairy products at farmers’ markets will require licensing

Rules that may apply to foods sold at farmers’ markets or similar venues include:

  • Bakery items that are potentially hazardous due to a cream or custard fillings or buttercream frosting, or items like cheesecake must be prepared in a commercial kitchen under license and kept cold. A retail license would be required for sale of potentially hazardous baked goods at locations such as farm markets or county fairs.
  • Beef, pork, lamb, poultry and other meat items must be processed in a licensed meat establishment and require a retail license for sales at a farmers’ market. 
  • Dairy products such as fluid milk, cream, butter, cheese, and yogurt must be processed at a licensed facility and a mobile retail license is required for sales at farmers’ markets. 
  • Eggs from the farm find eager customers at farmers’ markets. Small-scale egg producers may package eggs for sale on a sales route or at farmers’ markets. A retail license is required. 
  • Fish and seafood sold at a farmers’ market must be processed at a licensed retail food establishment or food processing plant. A retail license is required.
  • Juice products sold at a farmers’ market must generally be processed at a licensed retail food establishment or food processing plant. See Requirements for Juice at Retail. 
  • Pet foods must meet standards similar to human foods and are manufactured under license. See Making Pet Treats for Sale.
  • Processed fruits and vegetables, including frozen, cut, peeled, or sliced fruits and vegetables must be produced under license for sale at farmers’ markets. A retail license would be required for sale of items such as frozen or cut vegetables that must be kept cold.
  • Sauces and condiments such as applesauce may be exempted from licensing if home canned, but other shelf-stable sauces, dressings, and condiments would be prepared under a license. 

Published on March 20, 2022 This information is available as a handout under the Additional Resources sidebar.


 Obtaining Licenses