Milking the market 

Farm vendors face new fees

Farm vendors face new fees

Is the Zionsville Farmer’s Market subject to government oversight?
Donna Klingler at the Zionsville Farmer's Market

That’s the question many vendors are asking. After Boone County Commissioner Betty Lee Cooper (R) filed a complaint with the Board of Health, the vendors face the expensive and time-consuming process of applying for new permits and possibly becoming compliant with Board of Health policies designed to govern restaurants, grocery stores and catering companies.

“This has hurt every merchant at the market,” said Beverly Boxley of Passport Coffee and Tea, which sells homemade scones and gourmet coffee at the market. Boxley said merchants must pay $25 for a Board of Health permit, in addition to a $95 fee to operate a stand at the Farmer’s Market for the summer. “This has hurt Donna a lot,” Boxley continues.

Donna is Donna Klingler, 76, of Grandma’s Candy. Klingler, who cares for a disabled grandson, works in the school cafeteria at Zionsville Community High School and relies on Social Security and her income from the market during the summer.

“This is the only way I have to pay bills through the summer,” Klingler said.

According to the Boone County Health Department, the vendors who sell baked goods are technically considered food establishments. “‘Retail food establishment’ means an operation that stores, prepares, packages, serves, vends or otherwise provides food for human consumption: where consumption is on or off the premises; and regardless of whether there is a charge for the food,” according to the BCHD’s Web page. “Some examples of retail food establishment would be a catering operation, restaurant, grocery store, convenience store or tavern.”

Pat Minnick of the BCHD Environmental Division said that the food stands at the Zionsville Farmer’s Market, which operates Saturdays from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. throughout the summer, are technically food establishments. She explained that while the Farmer’s Market Organization is considered a not-for-profit organization, the individual vendors must meet Indiana Retail Food Establishment Sanitation Requirements unless they are selling whole, fresh vegetables, fruit, fruit jams and jellies, honey or syrup. Fruits and vegetables must be packaged, unless the produce is nuts in the shell or intended for hulling, peeling or washing by the consumer before consumption.

The vendors must use utensils such as deli tissue to handle the produce, use utensils when providing samples, maintain the foods at appropriate handling temperatures and could possibly fall under the Jan. 1, 2005, law that at least one person per establishment be a certified food handler.

Baked goods vendors can not cook out of their home kitchens, but must use a Board of Health certified kitchen. “They do not have to become a certified food handler if they only prepare baked goods such as breads, rolls, doughnuts, cookies or fruit pies,” said Minnick in an e-mail message. Minnick said the tests and training to become a certified food handler can range from $60 to $125.

Cooper said she filed her complaint after receiving two phone calls from Zionsville residents concerned about the Zionsville Farmer’s Market. “One lady’s complaint was that food was setting out in the sun, food with eggs in it,” Cooper said. “If someone went to the market and got sick, they could turn on Zionsville.”

The purpose of the regulations is to prevent food-borne illness, more commonly known as food poisoning.

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