Sunday, February 5, 2012

Business Challenges of a Small Farmer

It's that time of year again to fill out forms and pay fees for participating in our local farmers markets.  This is never an easy task, hitting in the early months of the year when we don't have much income to 'spare'.  But as I negotiate the various fees, I am once again shocked at the fee increases.

We are in markets in three counties: Skagit, Snohomish, & Whatcom.  Each health department administers their own programs, with their own fee structures.  Here's what we pay for  'low risk' food category:
Skagit  $125
Snohomish  $200
Whatcom  $150

We are the same state inspected cheese, sold by the same folks, with the same set ups at all markets.  If we happen to want to participate in an additional event in the respective counties, there is a second set of fees.  These fees cover only one location.  This has restricted our business.  Snohomish wants an additional $100 PER event-so guess who has to say "NO" to any special farm events?  We surely do not have $100 in 'profit' for the extra expense.

Goat Cheese at the Farmers Market
Then each farmers market has their own fee structure.  For our three markets we do in the above counties, our fees to them are $2485.00 for the year, excluding any special events.

With $2960.00 coming right off the top, before any cheese is made or any employees are paid, it is painful. For now, this is just the way of life we have to play by the rules of.  I am writing this not so much to complain (well, yes I guess sort of I am), but mostly I think it is important to expose the challenges placed on us small production farmers.

Let's not even get started on all the state and federal employment taxes we have to pay.  I sure wish that could go to the employees health care fund.

3 comments:

  1. Rhonda
    I had no idea there are so many fees associated with selling at Farmer's Markets.

    With the amount you pay in fees, I can see why you NEED to be there every week. It would be challenging to sign up for special events and pay even more.

    At the same time, there is always some kind of "fee" to pay in order to do business. It’s important to know the business side of everything we do.

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  2. I have to echo the same comments as Robyn. Never realized the extent of the situation. Have you found the results to be worth the effort? Or is it a hit and miss situation?

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    1. It is a life style choice that makes it worth it for me. Most days I can't imagine doing anything else and then there are a few I wonder the heck I was thinking.

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