Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cottage Food Laws On the Rise In The USA




Cottage Food Laws On the Rise

November 14th, 2011  By Susie Wyshak

In a Maine airport shop, I beeline for the local food souvenirs, my eye roving from a set of Stonewall Products over to several local blueberry jams. More than I expected, in fact. One comes from Out on a Limb, a small home jam-making operation that got started thanks to Maine’s cottage food law.

Today about 31 states have so called “cottage food laws,” allowing legal home-based food production on a small scale. The alternative is renting a commercial kitchen, which can cost $10 per hour, more often $25 or higher. Many of the laws passed recently thanks to grassroots efforts by bakers and jam makers eager to generate extra income, build a food community, control their cooking environments, and/or work at home. State guidelines differ, usually prohibiting riskier foods such as refrigerated items.

As a petition gathers momentum in California, along with a Facebook group, I took a look at the challenges and success of a few food entrepreneurs operating under cottage food laws in a time where local food reigns and career “Plan Bs” have become more like Plan A.

In most states, proponents have faced uphill battles. Two key objections tend to pop up:

It’s not fair to businesses that invest in commercial facilities.

As with the food truck versus restaurant battles, yes it’s more competition. I was thinking about a baker in Los Angeles who makes beautiful decorated cookies out of her bakery. If suddenly hundreds of home bakers could do the same without the overhead costs she might possibly need to drum up more commercial business to keep the bakery going.

But it’s also worth looking at the positive economic impact. Denay Davis, who runs a resource website for home bakers, believes “little food crafters are simply not a threat. It’s about sharing with other people, having control, and building relationships–not making a killing.” Etsy sellers exemplify typical cottage food law businesses, although many states only allow selling homemade goods locally, not online.

Retirees can supplement limited incomes. “If this was my only income I’d be earning about 40 percent of what I need. I didn’t have to make any capital investments. It’s a nice retirement job for me,” said Beth-Ann Betz, who bakes Middle Eastern pastries.

The laws also help those needing gluten-free or nut-free environments. “We’re gluten-free at home,” says Michigan baker Julie Rabinowitz. “So it’s easier to bake with confidence at home, without having to pay hourly to scrub someone else’s kitchen free of gluten.” The Michigan law caps her Tasty Sans Gluten sales at $15,000. It’s a delicate balance as commercial kitchens can run $12,000 a year. “My farmers’ market customers worry about price increases when I move to a commercial kitchen,” she adds.

Anni Minuzzo, California food consultant and former biscotti company owner, likes the idea of a cap. “It’s more fair to businesses who start out paying for a kitchen.” A cap also forces those who have outgrown their home kitchen to expand. Lori Jordan knows that “in the future if we want to grow beyond New England, we will have to move to a bigger place and hire more people.”

To read the entire article and for other information and links relating to this subject of food freedom, please click on the link provided below:


http://civileats.com/2011/11/14/cottage-food-laws-on-the-rise/

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