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All About Processing

Are you thinking of adding some pizzazz to your produce? If so, you may need a license! Here’s a general low-down of how that process may look.  

As Produce Safety Technicians, we talk to many growers who are looking to start making value-added products to sell at the farm or farmers markets. A value-added product is defined by USDA Rural Business Development as: 

  • A change in the physical state or form of the product (making strawberries into jam).

  • The production of a product in a manner that enhances its value, as demonstrated through a business plan.

  • The physical segregation of an agricultural commodity or product in a manner that results in the enhancement of the value of that commodity or product.

Creating a value-added product will likely require a processing license, which is separate from the Produce Safety Rule requirements. In this article we will break down the world of processing as it pertains to Michigan and the Michigan Food Law requirements.


So, what is considered food processing anyways? 


The definition of a Food Processor as described in the Michigan Food Law is a food establishment that processes, manufactures, wholesales, packages, labels, or stores food. Additionally, there are exemptions from licensure which are described in the Food Law under 289.4105. The actual act of processing includes:

  • canning, freezing, dehydrating, drying, distilling, extracting, preserving, grinding, crushing, milling, washing, trimming, packing, or otherwise preserving or changing the form of a food.

So, if you are looking to do any of the above processes on the farm, and you do not meet one of the exemptions, you will likely need a processing license. Under the Produce Safety Rule (PSR), you are allowed one initial cut of the produce at the time of harvest to remove the crop from where it is grown. Also allowed within the PSR are activities including: removing outer leaves, cooling and storage, and curing/drying/dehydrating whole produce without changing the type of commodity (think curing garlic or onions, or drying whole mushrooms).


Now that you know what processing includes, here are the next steps necessary to start creating your value-added products.

  • Step 1: Reach out to your local food inspector, they are there to answer your questions!

  • Step 2: Apply to begin the process of a processing license (I know, a lot of processes!). You can view resources and apply for a food establishment license here.

  • Step 3: After application, you and your local food inspector schedule an initial walk through of your operation. They will watch you and your team process whatever product you are making, ensure a well and septic review has been completed, and discuss any necessary changes. 

  • Fun fact! The lens the inspector will use varies depending on what kind of process you are doing and product you are making. These factors also determine how often you will receive regular inspection.

  • Fun Fact 2.0.: Wholesale (making product and selling to someone somewhere else) and retail (selling on site) licenses are separate. An operation will receive only one license based on what they do most of the time. So, if you’re chopping produce to make mixed, prepared salads more than 50% of the time and selling to a local grocer, then you will most likely receive a wholesale license. If you’re selling those salads at your farm all the time, then you may receive a retail license. 

  • After you and your food inspector are on the same page and everything is good to go, receiving a food establishment license can take around 30 days (if the well and septic review is already done!).


To help streamline the licensing timeline, here are some recommended next steps you can complete sooner rather than later: 

Article by Allissa Conley and Morgan Anderson, Produce Safety Technicians

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