As daunting as many perceive entry into an agricultural business to be, there are generally several entry-friendly options for small agricultural producers. Go to any local feed store and you can buy and plant as much seed and as many plants as the feed store has. Then go back next week and buy some more until you run out of land. There will be no paperwork or certifications for you to plow and plant.
You could also go to any livestock auction barn and buy numerous cattle or other livestock to put on your place. No auction barn is going to ask for paperwork which limits you to a certain number.
Honestly, entering this field is relatively painless. But when you are getting ready to sell, we may have to pay attention to some regulations. The regulations that are in place are there for a two main reasons. First, regulations protect the public that is consuming the food we produce. Second, it is protecting other agricultural producers (as well as the environment in general) from the unintentional spread of problems such as viruses, bacteria, molds, weeds, insects, mites, or other pests.
Starting with produce, you can sell as many fruits and vegetables as your heart desires… until you gross more than $25,000 a year. At that point, the Food Safety Modernization Act kicks in and requires you to take training in the Produce Safety Alliance. This certification allows you to go large scale on the production of fruits and vegetables while providing education to growers on food safety practices at the farm.
Let’s continue with ‘organic’ produce. Anyone can grow their food according to organic standards, but you want to sell livestock or any crop under the recognized “organic label” then you must complete the paperwork, send in your fee, and be inspected by a Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) official to determine if you meet the US Department of Agriculture requirements as a Certified Organic Producer that can use that designation when selling agricultural products.
Continuing with plants, you will need to obtain one of the five licenses to grow and/ or sell any live plant. This is done to reduce the spread of insect and disease. It really does make sense then you think about it. If you sell a bushel of tomatoes, we fully expect every one of those tomatoes to go into someone’s kitchen to be cut, perhaps cooked, and then consumed. Any other part of the tomato that is not eaten will be thrown away. If a tomato had a disease or bug, there is simply no chance for it to get outside and start multiplying.
However, every grower of tomato transplants fully expects those plants to be taken home and put outside in a garden. If those young tomato plants harbored any pest, they would be spread to every buyer’s garden.
What about those backyard chickens and the eggs you are selling? So long as you are selling un-graded eggs from a personal flock to the end consumer, you don’t need a license. Now, if you wholesale eggs to someone who then sells them retail, or if you sell to a restaurant, or if you ‘grade’ your eggs in any
manner (think size, color, etc.) then the TDA will require you to complete a couple of forms to obtain a license.
In an effort to answer questions to common concerns regarding these and other production related regulations, the Angelina County Extension office will be holding a seminar on Regulations & Certifications Related to Agricultural Production at 6:30 pm this Tuesday, November 16. The program will cover eggs, produce, honey, organics, pesticides, hemp, seeds, weights and measures, and the Cottage Food Law.
There is no fee for the program. The Angelina County Extension Office is located at 2201 S. Medford Drive in Lufkin, between Café Del Rio and the Farmers Market