Maybe you are a farmers’ market vendor thinking about participating in the AFMA verified vendor program.
Or maybe you are a farmers’ market shopper wanting to know more about why your favourite vendors are becoming verified.
In a series of blog posts, we will talk to some of the early adopters of the AFMA verified vendor program to find out why they decided to become verified and the impact it has had on their business.
We would like you to meet verified vendor, Marsha Gelowitz of Solstice Berry Farm near Crossfield. Marsha and her family grow and sell saskatoon berries, jams, syrups, sauces and more at various farmers’ markets and retail grocery stores.
Why did Solstice Berry Farm decide to become a verified vendor?
We visited a farmers’ market in San Francisco years ago. They had a similar verification program that confirmed the location of farms, what was grown or produced there and more. It was reassuring to know those farms had been checked out and verified.
Our farm wanted to be a part of something authentic and transparent and that celebrated and supported those who make it, bake it or grow it themselves.
Was the verification process time consuming or difficult?
The process to become verified was simple and easy to follow. We already had documentation to prove we harvested our berries. We also have invoices for the items we use to make our various jams, sauces and more. We simply had to pull these documents together and submit them to AFMA. We already had regular inspections of our farm and facility so answering questions about how we run our business was easy as it has always been critical to our success.
Has the AFMA verification helped your business?
Being verified gives our customers another layer of confidence. Not everyone understands what a CFIA or AHS licenses are, and many vendors don’t need those licenses. Who vouches for the integrity of those vendors?
The Vendor Verification program means that a vendor has been scrutinized for honesty & integrity, and in the case of food products, that they have employed safe methods to prepare their products. The program helps to check that vendors have their ducks in a row.
Since becoming verified, we’ve had some interesting conversations with our customers. While our farm is open to the public during the u-pick season, many customers have never seen our farm and orchard. When they learn that we have been verified by AFMA, they can trust that our farm actually exists and that we are real producers!
What would you tell other market vendors about becoming verified?
We operate in an increasingly challenging and competitive world and building customer confidence and loyalty is paramount to the success of any business. With the AFMA verified vendor program, you are not too small to participate! Even if you attend only one market a week, you can set yourself apart by proving your products are the real deal – that your products are made or grown by you.