Fido & Farmers

Know the rules before bringing the pooch to market

By Tessa Marguerite Outland
April 2020

It’s a brisk Sunday morning and the farmers market at 8th and W streets is already alive with a confluence of characters. Young families with strollers, college students in knitted sweaters and loyal patrons carrying baskets all buzz from booth to booth collecting organic acorn squash, cage-free brown eggs and lightly bruised oranges.

A young man and woman meander down the center corridor doting over a heap of broccoli with a wagging corgi in tow on a short leash. Passersby gesture to the sandy-colored dog with giddy chuckles and small gasps of amusement. When a balding gentleman in jeans and a plaid jacket strides up and gently pushes a piece of paper into the man’s hand, they all smile politely.

Holding the dog’s leash, the man looks down at the wrinkled paper and begins to scan the lengthy text. In bold at the top of the page it reads, “No Dogs at Farmers’ Markets.”

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that canines are not allowed at “certified” farmers markets. There are often signs visibly posted throughout the aisles. But are pet dogs really a harmful addition to these outdoor affairs?

In 2014, California added amendments to its law on “live animals” in the Retail Food Code related to pet dogs in outdoor dining areas. The law states that patrons may bring their pet dogs to an outdoor dining area if the establishment owner allows it and certain requirements are met. Requirements include an outdoor entrance, and dogs leashed and under control. Employees also must wash their hands if they touch the canines.

Then why doesn’t this law apply to farmers markets?

The answer lies in California Health and Safety Code 114259.5, which stipulates that, with the exception of service animals, “live animals may not be allowed in a food facility.” Certified farmers markets, although they usually take place outdoors, fall into the category of a “food facility.”

The Sunday Farmers Market under the freeway is a certified farmers market. Courtney Smith with Shared Abundance Organic Farm in Auburn cheerfully greets customers from behind a booth at the Sunday market. Smith says although she personally loves dogs, a farmers market with fresh produce and crowds may not be the place for them.

“People don’t contend with dogs lifting their legs on stands,” she says. “And sometimes dog hair clings to the lettuce.” Smith mentions that not all markets have the same policy on dogs—or perhaps there are just no signs posted to remind patrons of the law.

The Midtown Farmers Market is managed by a Northern California-based events marketing agency called Unseen Heroes and hosted by the Midtown Business Association. The market is certified by the Sacramento County Agricultural Commissioner, which allows both “certified” and “uncertified” producers to sell their agricultural products provided all produce meets certain minimum quality standards. 

At the Midtown Farmers Market, dogs are allowed to walk through the market, but not in the immediate market stalls (service animals are allowed in all areas). “We periodically set up our 4-footed-favorite mobile Pop-Up Dog Park adjacent to the market,” says John Adair, director of bid services and communications for the Midtown market. “Many of the surrounding restaurants offer brunch on the patios that are dog-friendly, such as LowBrau and the MARRS building.”

Jose Gallardo of Gallardo’s Organic Farm has a booth at the Midtown Farmers Market with a bounty of red, green and rainbow Swiss chard and other fresh produce. Gallardo says he has no problem with dogs, and with patrons walking in and out so quickly it doesn’t seem to cause any issues.

Shopping at farmers markets directly supports the farmers and helps preserve California’s farmland. Two year-round markets in Sacramento are the Sunday Farmers Market under the freeway at 8th and W streets, and Saturday’s Midtown Farmers Market on 20th Street between J and K streets. Many other markets will pop up throughout the city as springtime approaches.

Tessa Marguerite Outland can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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