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Definitions of Farmers Markets, Direct Marketing Farmers, and Other Related Terms

Last Published: 04/26/2016

Below are the FNS definitions for SNAP-authorized farmers markets, direct-marketing farmers, and other related terms.Farmer's market scene

  • Farmers Market: Two or more farmer-producers that sell their own agricultural products directly to the general public at a fixed location, which includes fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, and grains.
  • Direct Marketing Farmers: Farmer-producers that sell their own agricultural products directly to the general public, which includes fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, and grains. 
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): Are not SNAP-authorized retailers. Rather, they are a method of doing business in which a SNAP-authorized retailer — most often a farmers market, direct marketing farmer, or non-profit food buying cooperative — can engage.

Typically, entities operating a CSA require participants to pay an annual or seasonal subscription fee, in advance, for a “share” of the produce the entity expects to grow/produce that year/season. Shares are typically made available or delivered during regular intervals (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.) during the harvest season.

However, because SNAP participants have limited means and resources, and because CSAs are inherently risky (i.e., an entity’s harvest may not meet pre-harvest expectations or fail altogether), payment for CSA food purchased with SNAP benefits may be accepted no more than 14 days in advance of delivery/availability of the food (see Section 4012 of the 2014 Farm Bill).

Moreover, in the event a CSA share is unavailable or a person is unable to pick up or receive a CSA share they paid for with SNAP benefits, that person is entitled to a full refund of their SNAP benefits. Lastly, SNAP benefits may not be used to pay any administrative or membership fees associated with operating a CSA.

  • SNAP-Authorized Retailer: An eligible store that applies to, and becomes authorized, to accept SNAP benefits as a form of payment. Among other requirements, to be an “eligible store,” a retailer must sell food for home preparation and consumption and meet at least one of these criteria: (A) offer for sale, on a continuous basis, at least three varieties of qualifying foods in each of the following four staple food groups, with perishable foods in at least two of the categories — meat, poultry or fish, bread or cereal, vegetables or fruits, and dairy products; OR (B) more than one-half (50%) of the total dollar amount of all retail sales (food, nonfood, gas and services) sold in the store must be from the sale of eligible staple foods.
  • Non-Profit Food Buying Cooperative: These types of retailers range from multi-outlet supermarkets to small buying clubs with a few members, and are formed by consumers to obtain lower prices and greater control over food product range and quality.

Questions about the SNAP authorization process, or eligibility to accept SNAP, can be answered by contacting FNS at 1-877-823-4369.