Farm shops and farmers' markets

How to get farm shops and farmers' markets certification, licensing and other requirements for food safety, hygiene and labelling


Farm shops and farmers’ markets allow farmers the opportunity to directly sell food and other produce to the general public. This direct form of selling is beneficial to both the farmer and the consumer as it increases profit margins while offering locally produced fresh foods.

The National Farmers’ Retail and Markets Association (FARMA) supports farmers who want to sell their products direct to the consumer from farm shops, farmers’ markets, home delivery, on-farm catering or pick-your-own farms. FARMA offers you the opportunity to improve and develop retailing skills and help your businesses to thrive. They also promote the highest standards for farmers’ markets and farm shops.

This guide describes farm shops, farmers’ markets and the certification needed to guarantee authenticity in an outlet. You will also find details on planning permission and the legislation and licensing requirements for farm shops and farmers’ markets, including food safety, hygiene and food labelling.

Farmers’ markets

The aim of the farmers’ market is to put the consumer in contact with the producer and to provide local, fresh, quality produce. All the products on sale should have been grown, reared, caught, brewed, pickled, baked, smoked or processed by the stallholder.

There are over 500 farmers’ markets in the UK, providing you with an opportunity to:

  • cut out the middleman, which improves your financial returns through direct selling, price control and a regular cash flow
  • receive direct customer feedback on produce and prices
  • reduce the costs of transport and packaging, and be more environmentally friendly
  • have a regular market outlet - this is important for new producers, producers in organic conversion and small scale producers

FARMA independently verifies farmers’ markets, awarding the Farmers’ Market Certification for those meeting the necessary criteria. You can learn about FARMA’s work on the farmers’ markets certification page in this guide.

Farmers’ markets certification

FARMA independently assesses farmers’ markets in the UK. FARMA has awarded the Farmers’ Market Certificate to over 250 farmers’ markets. This certification - indicated with a logo - gives confidence to consumers who want a wide range of quality, locally reared or produced and ethically retailed foods.

The criteria used to assess what a farmers’ market is and to award certification require that to be eligible for sale at a market, fresh produce must be from the area defined as ‘local’ to that market, and that:

  • the principal producer or a representative directly involved in the production process, or a member of the family, must attend the stall
  • all primary, own produce sold must be grown, reared, caught etc by the stall holder within the defined local area
  • all secondary, own produce must be brewed, pickled, baked, smoked or processed by the stall holder using at least one ingredient of origin from within the defined local area and that ingredient must be substantially altered - eg the sale of home-made cottage pie made from beef reared by the stall holder in the defined local area
  • information should be available and publicised to customers at each market about the rules of the market and the production methods of the producers

Markets may establish other criteria in addition to the above provided they do not conflict with certification criteria.

FARMA continues to develop and promote the standards for certification. Members of FARMA who run a farmer’s market must apply for certification within nine months of being accepted as a member.

Certification is open to any FARMA member who runs a farmers’ market but it is not guaranteed. You must fulfil a number of criteria and be subject to spot-check visits to qualify. Find information on applying for FARMA membership on the FARMA website.

Farmers’ markets that achieve the required standards receive:

  • a certificate
  • a promotional sign - to display at their outlet
  • a licence - to use the term and logo on all their promotional material

You can find the abridged rules of farmers’ markets certification on the Farmers’ Markets website.

Farm shops

To be considered a farm shop, you should aim to sell fresh produce and/or local foods that are normally grown, picked, reared or produced on your farm or on land close to where the shop is located.

As well as a farm shop, you can consider allowing consumers to pick their own produce by operating as a pick-your-own (PYO) farm. Farm shops and PYO farms bring your customer to your door, saving you labour and transportation costs, and cut out the middleman.

A number of factors will determine the viability of a farm shop, including:

  • location
  • access and parking facilities
  • local competition
  • suitable buildings
  • a steady supply of seasonal and marketable local produce

You should check with your local planning authority to make sure a farm shop complies with regulations. Planning permission may be required for a new building or a change of use on an existing building to provide premises for a farm shop. See the page on farm shop planning permission in this guide.

Planning permission for farm shops and farmers’ markets

Planning permission is not always necessary when considering a farm shop or farmers’ market. Planning permission is not required for:

  • agricultural operations
  • the use of existing buildings on agricultural land for agricultural purposes
  • changes to the inside of buildings
  • small alterations to the outside, eg installing an alarm box

On holdings of five hectares or more, permitted development rights exist for:

  • erecting, extending or altering a building
  • excavations and engineering operations

But these are only allowed when the changes are reasonably necessary for the purposes of agriculture within the unit. You may still require approval from the local planning authority for certain details of the development.

You will normally need to apply for planning permission for most other types of development and changes of use.

Farm shops that sell any produce that has been processed, including meat and poultry, will need planning permission.

Planning permission is not normally required if you use an existing building as a farm shop only for the sale of unprocessed goods produced on your farm. However, if you use your farm shop to sell significant amount of produce from elsewhere, you will probably require planning permission.

But it is always best to contact your local authority to outline what you propose and get a ruling. Even when planning permission is granted, it often comes with conditions attached.

FARMA will support planning applications where:

  • 40 per cent of goods are own produce plus local foods
  • 40 per cent are regional
  • 20 per cent are from elsewhere

Obtaining a lawful development certificate

For a formal decision to a planning application, known as a lawful development certificate, you will be required to pay a fee. If the authority refuses a certificate, you can either apply for planning permission, or appeal to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). Download the Department for Communities and Local Government lawful development certificates guidance from the Agricultural Document Library (ADLib) website (PDF, 92K).

Local planning authorities are encouraged by the government to be supportive of well conceived farm diversification schemes for business purposes, if they are consistent in their scale with their rural location. It is always best to check with your local office or take professional advice, especially as local circumstances often vary and sometimes you will also need other consents in addition to planning. You might also need consents related to:

  • listed buildings
  • conservation areas building regulations approval
  • scheduled monumental consent
  • tree felling or hedgerow removal
  • activities that affect wildlife and protected species, eg bat disturbance

You should contact your local authority, the Forestry Commission, English Nature or the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for detailed information. You should also ensure that you have the necessary permission of any other party with a legal or financial interest in the property, eg a landlord.

Legislation and licensing requirements for farm shops and farmers’ markets

To register as a food retailing business you should start by contacting the local council’s Environmental Health team.

If you need to obtain a butchery licence you should contact the Food Standards Agency (FSA). Find Meat Hygiene Service information on the FSA website.

For building fire safety requirements you should contact your local authority building control department.

Browse fire safety guides on the DCLG website.

Food safety, hygiene and labelling

If you intend to serve or process raw food, you will need basic food hygiene training and a certificate. Supervisors will require a higher level of training and an intermediate certificate. All staff involved with processing food will also need a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). This is a preventative approach to food safety based on due diligence and good record keeping. You can read about HACCP on the FSA website.

Food hygiene and labelling for farm shops and farmers’ markets are controlled by strict environmental health regulations. You will also need to adhere to Trading Standards for trades descriptions, weights and measures and the sale of goods. Find advice and information for trades description, weights and measures and the sale of goods on the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) website.

All premises used to store, prepare, distribute and sell food must be registered with the local authority. You will also need to register a farm shop and stall for a farmers’ market.

For specific information in your area on food safety, hygiene and labelling, you should contact the Environmental Health or Trading Standards Departments of your local authority. Many local authorities publish guidance leaflets. For example, you can find food safety guidance for farmers’ market traders in Surrey on the Elmbridge Borough Council website.

EU food hygiene regulations

EU food hygiene regulations apply to food businesses throughout the supply chain and include farmers and growers.

Your duties under the regulations will depend on the size and type of your business, but most food businesses must register all of their premises with their local authority. The premises of businesses producing meat and meat products, eggs, milk and dairy products, and/or fish and fish products need to be approved by their local authority.

Specific hygiene requirements for milk and egg production still exist, but in general farmers and growers must follow good hygiene practice and management procedures to control food safety hazards. Primary producers are not required to have a HACCP system.

Find information about Food Hygiene Legislation on the FSA website.

The rate of inspections is risk based, using evidence from a variety of sources. Recognised schemes, such as farm assurance schemes, are considered to meet the requirements of the legislation in a clear and credible way. As a result, membership of a scheme counts as positive evidence, resulting in fewer inspections. To assist the inspection regime, details of current scheme membership are supplied by Assured Food Standards, such as:

  • Assured British Meat
  • Assured British Pigs
  • Assured Chicken Production
  • Assured Combinable Crops Scheme
  • Assured Produce Genesis Quality Assurance

Organisations that can help

One of the major roles of the Defra is to help the farming industry operate as efficiently as possible. Defra administers European support policies that provide around £3 billion to UK agriculture. They also oversee a number of agencies that work with arable farmers, imports and exports of crops, and implement pest and disease controls. You can call the Defra Helpline on 08459 33 55 77.

The RPA is responsible for licences and schemes for growers as well as for running the SPS. For more information about the SPS and how it can help your farming business, you can call the RPA Helpline on 0845 603 7777.

You can also read the guide on the Single Payment Scheme (SPS).

In England, the Farm Advisory System (FAS) advises farmers about cross compliance. For further information call the Cross Compliance Helpline on 0845 345 1302. Alternatively, find information on cross compliance requirements on the Cross Compliance website.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) represents the farmers and growers of England and Wales. It aims to promote successful and socially responsible agriculture and horticulture, while ensuring the long-term viability of rural communities.

You can read about the work of the NFU on the NFU website.

Farmers are likely to come into contact with local authorities over a number of farming, land use, food standards and environmental regulations. Your local authority may also be able to provide further information or resources.

There are a number of benefits associated with farmers’ markets which affect you, both as a farmer and a consumer, and the environment. Find information on the benefits of farmers’ markets on the Farmers’ Markets website.

Find out about the local direct sales sector on the FARMA website.

You can find information on how to start a farmers’ market on the Farmers’ Markets website.

Further information

Cross Compliance Helpline

0845 345 1302

RPA Customer Service Centre

0845 603 7777

FARMA Helpline

0845 45 88 420

Defra Helpline

08459 33 55 77

FARMA information on the FARMA website

Farmers’ markets certification rules guide on the Farmers’ Markets website

Soil Association information on the Soil Association website

Farm shopping information on the Farmshopping website

Download the Defra planning system advice for farmers from the ADLib website (PDF, 784K)

Download the DCLG lawful development certificates guidance from the ADLib website (PDF, 92K)

Fire safety guidance on the DCLG website

HACCP guidance on the FSA website

Food hygiene legislation information on the FSA website

Trading standards information on the TSI website

Benefits of farmer’s markets explained on the Farmers’ Markets website

Information about FARMA on the FARMA website

Starting a farmers’ market guidance on the Farmers’ Markets website

Up-to-date news and archive farmers’ markets information on the Farmers’ Markets website

Cross compliance requirements and information on the Cross Compliance website

NFU work and services information on the NFU website