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Pennsylvania: Selling Fresh, Unprocessed Vegetables and Fruit from Your Garden

Pennsylvania: Selling Fresh, Unprocessed Vegetables and Fruit from Your Garden

No license is normally required for selling uncut unprocessed fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets or vegetable stands in most areas. It is not even necessary to follow the Home Food Processor rules, so long as the produce is not prepared or processed. Local authorities may have other requirements based on the size of your stand or operation and the location where you sell.  Zoning laws or HOA rules, for example.
But, in general, growing and selling fruits, vegetables or microgreens grown on your own property fall under rules for "farm stands," "retail farm stands," and "farmers' markets."
The state of Pennsylvania has a PDF describing farm stand requirements. In brief, these say That your operation is an Exempt Farmers Market Stands if you:

  • sell only raw products from your garden or farm; fruits and vegetables that have been harvested but not processed in any way (no value-added work done, not a ready-to-eat product) This would cover vendors selling fresh
    raw fruits and vegetables.

Regulators do not consider fruits and vegetables to be processed if they have only been cut to harvest them, washed and refrigerated, or if they have merely had their leaves, stems, and husks removed. However, the moment a fruit or vegetable has been sliced, cooked, frozen, or mixed with other ingredients, it has been "processed" under the law.

Now, if you want to "add value" to the produce by preparing it, cutting it, etc. then Pennsylvania's Department of Agriculture has a category called "limited food establishments" that meet specific guidelines that provides flexibility once they're set up. There is a registration process with a $35 fee to register but some types of products require lab testing. A business plan and an inspection of the home is also required prior to approval. In addition, pets are never allowed in the parts of the home where the food establishment operates. See this page for more details.

County and City rules may differ

You still need to check with your local authorities (city, county, HOA, etc.) to see if any additional local rules apply.

Philadelphia, for example, has laws that govern food safety and sales, specifically, to food preparation, rather than raw and unprocessed produce. But again, zoning and business laws may apply:

Commercial Activity License (CAL)

Gardeners are allowed to sell produce (uncut, whole) from their gardens without obtaining any other than a CAL from the Department of Licenses and Inspections before beginning sales. You can obtain a CAL for free. To get a CAL, you must fill out a license request form. You can do so online here or call 311 (215-686-8686) and speak to a representative at L&I, located at the Municipal Services Building, 1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard - Concourse Level.

Vendor Licenses, Sidewalk Sales, and Sales in the Garden
Keep your stand entirely on your property. If you want to use the sidewalk or other public right-of-way areas for your sales, you will need to obtain additional licenses from L&I. And obviously, if you go beyond a temporary stand, such as setting up a permanent store, you will need to contact both L&I and the Department of Health.

More resources:

Questions? Contact Information:

  • Bureau of Food Safety
    (717) 787-4315
  • Stefanie Smith,
    Chief, Division of Food Safety Policy & Programs   
    (717) 787-5108
  • Christopher Marlowe
    Program Specialist