Once upon a time, Super Wal-Mart did not exist. Large chain grocery stores were a foreign concept. Where did people get their food, you ask? Well, they either grew it themselves, or they purchased it directly from a farmer. Now days, it is quite rare to find people who grow and produce their own food. And unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to purchase any food products directly from the farmer. While food safety is of utmost importance, the current laws in place prevent farmers from selling directly to consumers without a food handler’s license and all the necessary other licensure for packaging/bottling/selling. Because these licenses, specialized equipment, and additional location renovations can cost a grower between $30 and $50 THOUSAND dollars, most opt to not sell directly to consumers. And I think we can all understand that dilemma.
However, there is a growing movement of Floridians who desire to purchase food and food products locally and are currently unable to do so. There are also a growing number of small and large scale farmers who would like to sell their products directly to consumers. State Senator Carey Baker-R is currently trying to alleviate the excessive state food permits that are keeping all of this from happening. It is called the Florida Food Freedom Act, Florida State Bill 1900, and it would allow family farms to develop a relationship with consumers who want to buy directly from the grower themselves. The bill does not do away with all permitting involved as the growers would still be required to use proper federal labeling and also complete some food safety training benchmarks. The bill does not include the legal sale of raw (non-pasturized) milk.
The benefits to such a bill passing are numerous. For starters, more local money would stay in the community as a result of the ability to buy from local growers. Also, it would allow for young people who are interested in agriculture to begin growing and selling their products without the usual start up costs of an agriculture enterprise. Imagine a viable local farmer’s market made up of the farmer’s themselves (young and old, small operations and large) who are growing and making a diverse combination of fruits, vegetables, herbs, honey, jams, baked goods, etc…the list could go on and on. There would once again be the opportunity for the consumer to know the farmer who has grown their food and to make educated decisions on who to buy from. From my vantage point, it is a win-win situation for all involved.
If you’d like to read more about the bill and find out how to support it, you can visit here