A Cottage Food Law in California could soon become reality
When I was 9 years old back in my native country, I started making my own money by baking cookies and making caramel fudge taffy at home and bringing them to school every day to sell. In California, such early entrepreneurship would not be allowed since one cannot sell food cooked at home. This scenario might change pretty soon. The Sustainable…
When I was 9 years old back in my native country, I started making my own money by baking cookies and making caramel fudge taffy at home and bringing them to school every day to sell. In California, such early entrepreneurship would not be allowed since one cannot sell food cooked at home. This scenario might change pretty soon. The Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) is introducing and nurturing a 2012 Cottage Food Law bill in California.
This is happening within an expanding movement aiming to localize food systems and support small-scale food production. If such bill passed, the California State Legislature would allow for the sale of specific home-made food products, such as baked goods (excluding those with cream or meat fillings), jams and jellies, candy, granola and other dry cereal, popcorn, waffle cones, nut mixes, chocolate-covered non-perishables (i.e. nuts and dried fruit), roasted coffee, dry baking mixes, herb blends, and dried tea. Cottage Food Laws, also known as Baker’s Bills, are laws that allow people to prepare certain foods in their own home kitchen. Such initiative also supports individuals who would like to start their own food business but can’t afford to sustain the financial and logistical burden of having a commercial kitchen. By taking the first small steps at their home kitchens, such sprouting businesses can begin to develop a customer base and raise part of the capital that will eventually expand their companies.
As of 2011, there are more than a dozen states in the U.S. allowing come sort of commercial homemade food: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. There are at least an additional eight states with organizations and communities working in order to implement similar laws, including Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, and Wyoming .
The majority of Cottage Food Laws allow only the direct sale to consumers (most times that means having a stand at a farmers market) but never to grocery stores or larger-scale businesses that would resell it. But each state has its own specific requirements and procedures. Most will charge for a permit. The trend goes hand in hand with other behavior changes in the country: awareness and demand for locally grown and produced food and goods, backyard vegetable gardening, organic farming, sustainable agriculture, and small batches versus mass-produced products.
SELC is based out of Oakland, California. It is a fiscally sponsored project of Community Ventures, a California 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and all of its projects are currently managed by volunteer attorneys. The organization facilitates the growth of sustainable, localized, and just economies through legal research, professional training, resource development, and education about practices such as sharing, bartering, urban agriculture, intentional communities, and micro-lending.
Isabel Bonfatti is a San Francisco journalist with a master’s degree in anthropology and a wandering eye for art, food, music, and sustainable living. She is finishing her first novel.