Does a Multi-Farm CSA Need a License?

It depends.

The right to sell products that you raise on your property (either owned or leased) without a license is protected by the Constitution of the State of Minnesota, Article 13, Section 7:
https://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/constitution/#article_13

If all of the farmers who produce products for the CSA are present at the place and time where customers pick up their CSA shares, then no license is needed.

That is often not the scenario, though. If one farmer is handling packing of the containers, or delivery of the CSA shares, or both — then it is not all product of that farmer’s farm.

A Stearns County District Court case in 2013 upheld the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s position that farmers distributing the products of other farms, not their own, must be licensed for that activity of collecting and distributing products.  Case # 73-CR-12-2846; http://pa.courts.state.mn.us/  

That licensing is required even if the farmer doing the collection and distributing of products is not taking any money.  Any time food changes hands in any way, that is considered a “sale” under Minnesota law. Minnesota Statute 34A.01 Subd. 12 defines the meaning of the words “sell” and “sale” of food:

https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=34A.01   Subd. 12.Sell; sale.

 “Sell” and “sale” mean keeping, offering, or exposing for sale, use, transporting, transferring, negotiating, soliciting, or exchanging food; having in possession with intent to sell, use, transport, negotiate, solicit, or exchange food; storing, manufacturing, producing, processing, packing, and holding of food for sale; dispensing or giving food; or supplying or applying food in the conduct of any food operation or carrying food in aid of traffic in food whether done or permitted in person or through others.

Depending on the types of products sold through the CSA, the license needed might be a produce buyer’s license, a wholesale food handler’s license, or a retail food handler’s license.

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