LISBON — Rhonda M. Fletcher has been selling produce from her two-acre garden and canned and baked goods from her kitchen for nearly 10 years in front of her house on County Route 28.
This week an agent from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets stopped by Fletcher’s Garden Goods and told Ms. Fletcher her canned goods and baked goods had to be removed from her shelves.
“He said he was told by the state that they needed to start cracking down on roadside stands,” Ms. Fletcher said. “I needed to get the stuff out of the stand immediately or he would confiscate them.”
Word of the action caused a bit of a firestorm among Ms. Fletcher’s friends on Facebook. Many of the posts pointed out that most farm stands, including those run by the area’s Amish population, have been selling canned goods for years without consequence.
Representatives of the Agriculture Department in response to emailed questions said there is no crackdown on farm stands.
“During an investigation of Fletcher’s Garden Goods on August 8, 2017, a Food Safety Inspector with the Department of Agriculture and Markets seized several canned foods being sold at the farm stand,” the email stated. “If processed incorrectly, these products pose a serious risk of botulism. They were also being sold without the required documentation and license. The Department provided contact information to the owner of the farm stand to assist them in acquiring the appropriate license and documentation.”
Ms. Fletcher said she was aware that her kitchen was not certified, but that she had been selling canned and baked goods to her customers, many of whom are her friends, for years.
“I understand he is doing his job. That’s his job,” Ms. Fletcher said. “I’ve been doing this for over 10 years. My clientele trust me and look forward to my stand opening every year.”
“They trust me,” she said. “They don’t think I am going to poison them.”
The Agriculture department said that there has been no increase in enforcement and that the department will continue to educate processors and enforce Ag and Market law “as it pertains to the manufacture and processing of food products.”
Farm stands aren’t on any type of inspection schedule, according to the email from the Agriculture Department. Most actions on farm stands are driven by complaints. In the case of Fletcher Garden Goods, the inspector noted canned goods advertised for sale and made his inspection.
There have been nine food seizures made by the department in St. Lawrence County since June 1.
The department does not give out tickets.
Fletcher’s Garden Goods remains open for business, but has only fresh produce for sale.
Ms. Fletcher said she has cucumbers, lettuce, radishes, yellow and green beans, potatoes, peppers and onions.
She expects to have tomatoes in about a week and will have squash, pumpkins and gourds by mid-September.
Ms. Fletcher said she is considering getting her kitchen certified for jams but thinks the process for getting certified for canned goods is too involved.