Home Bakeries Now Legal in Texas
Home bakers in Texas are feeling a little freer these days. SB 81, also known as the Texas Cottage Food Law, went into effect September 1, 2011. It allows the sale of certain home-produced foods such as cakes, cookies, pies, breads, jams, and jellies, from the producer’s home directly to the consumer. SB 81 is the result of a grassroots effort that began in the discussion forums of CakeCentral.com in 2006, and eventually expanded to include a popular Facebook page, the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, and local food advocacy groups throughout the state.
SB 81 was sponsored in the Texas House by State Representative Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), who also chairs the House Committee on Public Health. Under the bill, home bakers may legally sell certain low-risk foods at their homes, free of regulation by the local Health Department. However, the local Health Department must maintain a log of complaints, if any, received on Cottage Food Operations. Cottage Food Operators are also restricted to $50,000 or less per year in gross sales, and they may not sell their food over the internet (although advertising on the internet is permitted). The foods produced and sold must bear a label stating the name and address of the Cottage Food Operation, and a statement that the food has not been inspected by any Health Department.
Home bakers who are excited to be able to start their own legal home business often cite the economic benefits of being able to earn money independently at home. Home baker Charlotte Shaw of Georgetown, Texas says, “Passing the cottage food bill means that I will be able to add to my small retirement income from my own home. I am also disabled so this helps a great deal. It will help my state of mind and increase my pocketbook – two super things in this economy.” Others, such as Tamara Atkins-Waxler of Lakeway, Texas, have big dreams. Says Atkins-Waxler, “The law will allow me to save the money I have been using to rent kitchen space, and eventually open my own bakery.”
Whatever the individual’s reasons are for wanting to start a legal home baking business, it’s clear that this new law is a boon to Texas entrepreneurs who do not have the means to invest in a full-scale commercial kitc
hen. Texas follows in the footsteps of more than 20 states to enact such laws, with more states joining the ranks every year. The local foods movement is gaining momentum, with increasing numbers of consumers interested in knowing where their food was made, how it was made, and who made it. Paige Hill, of Urban Patchwork Neighborhood Farms in Austin, Texas, says, “Our urban farming non-profit is excited to teach neighborhood co-op members how they can make canned and baked goods at home to give and sell to neighbors to supplement their household incomes. We’ll be able to give preserved and baked goods in our shares for more diversity and so we’re not taxing the soil and water tables by growing food out of season. We’ll be able to teach people about growing in the best seasons while still providing fresh, community grown food year-round. A new food culture is about to take hold!”
Those seeking more information on the Texas Cottage Food Law can find the text of the law, FAQ’s, and other resources at www.TexasCottageFoodLaw.com.