2021 is a fresh start in so many ways, but as always, a new year means a new round of cottage food bills!
And what a big round it is! At least one-third of states are actively working on improving their cottage food law this year.
I actually can’t remember a year when there were this many cottage food amendments on the table. It reminds me of nearly a decade ago, when states were busy creating their initial cottage food laws.
In all likelihood, the pandemic, and the resulting surge of interest in cottage foods, is part of the push to improve the laws in many states.
WOW… what a year it has been for our growing cottage food industry!
As I wrote about last year, the pandemic really highlighted the need for people to be able to sell their homemade food.
And in 2021, states responded in a BIG way! This year, more states improved their laws for selling homemade food than in any other year in history.
Last week, on September 16th, 2021, California’s governor signed AB 1144, a cottage food bill that will improve California’s cottage food law.
It is the last of 17 cottage food initiatives that have passed in 2021 (the most of any year, by far).
This amendment was long overdue, as California had not amended their law since 2013!
But did I ever think I would be the one spearheading CA’s next cottage food law improvement? Definitely not!
After a 12 year battle, New Jersey finally has a cottage food law! They are the last state to create one, and they will be the last state to get the “pending” status on Forrager’s map.
Although the new cottage food rules passed on July 12th, they will not take effect until the rules get published by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL).
In other words, this law isn’t usable just yet. And once the law gets published (likely by mid-September), it’s not entirely clear how long it will take for the health department to start approving permits.
With over half of the states working on improving their cottage food law, 2021 already has been the biggest year ever for cottage food developments. New Jersey’s law is a big fat cherry on top of all of that!
2020 was not just a year full of changes for the nation and world.
It was also a year which changed the cottage food industry… sometimes for the worse, but mostly for the better.
There were a number of important storylines this year, and surprisingly, many of them were not pandemic-related.
In this year-end recap, I’ll give my take on the major events of 2020 that related to the cottage food industry.
Recently I was asked to briefly describe how COVID-19 has impacted the cottage food industry this year. Here’s what I wrote:
“The pandemic has impacted everyone differently, but it has impacted everyone. Some cottage food businesses have shut down temporarily or permanently, while just as many others have seen their sales skyrocket. More cottage food businesses started this year than any other by far, and overall, the pandemic has caused a huge surge of interest in this industry.”
That’s a very simplified view of what has been a crazy and complex year.
In this post, I’ll dig into some of the major trends and story lines that impacted the cottage food industry in 2020.
It’s July 1st, 2020, and for the first time in over 7 years, I’ve added a new rank to Forrager’s map. I named it “freedom”, and Wyoming has the honor of being the first state to reach this status!
As of today, Wyoming’s new amendment (HB 84) to their food freedom law takes effect, and it’s a big one. Because although their 2015 law has always been the best food freedom law in the country, truthfully, it still lagged behind some of the best cottage food laws in some ways.
North Dakota’s food freedom law regresses into a good cottage food law, after the state health department created new rules and limits.
You know how they say that having a business is like having a baby? I can confirm… it’s totally true.
Two months ago, Tara and I welcomed a baby boy into the world! His name is Ray.
If you want to learn more about your state’s cottage food law, or better understand how this site was made, this post will give you ideas for how to research and update a law on Forrager.
California’s new law (AB 626) has some lofty goals, but some of the bill language will keep it from making much of an impact. Cottage food bills have made some mistakes over and over again, preventing them from achieving their full potential.
Is the aroma of sweet victory coming from the ovens of Wisconsin wafting your way? Here in our state we can finally – legally – sell homemade, non-hazardous baked goods. Or more specifically, it took over five years, three cottage food bills that never passed and a successful lawsuit so that here in Wisconsin we… [read more]
Tips from the free Labeling Guide & Toolkit for Creating Canned Food Products that Sell, with ideas to communicate the quality of what’s inside your jars.
If you want to start a home food business, there are a number of potential limitations that you should be aware of. Learn about the different limitations that states may include in their cottage food laws.
Many states limit the amount of homemade food that you can sell. Learn about why sales limits exist, how they’re enforced, and why they shouldn’t stop your food business from taking off.
In most states, you can only sell certain types of homemade food. Most cottage food laws only allow nonperishable food items, but some states allow almost all types of food, while other states are very restrictive. Learn about what types of homemade food products you can sell under your cottage food law.
Cottage food operators often put too much stock into having their own website. They might think that their home food business will be hampered if they don’t have one, or they’ll be behind the times without one. Sometimes they even spend hundreds of dollars to get one designed and built, only to later find that it’s not generating much business for them.
Is a website worth your time and/or money? What are the benefits and what are the costs? Why are some websites successful while others are not?
Nearly all states require a label on cottage food products, and there are many things to consider when creating labels for your home food business.
When starting a home food business, it’s usually a good idea to take some form of food safety training, and it’s often required. Learn about the three most common types of food safety training.
When starting a cottage food operation, you may have to get your home kitchen inspected. Learn about some of the things you should check before an inspection.
Do you need to get a business license to sell homemade food? Learn about what to consider when setting up a business license for a cottage food operation.
When starting a home food business, you will likely need to deal with the health or ag department. Learn about what you should be aware of when contacting these departments.
Zoning laws may be the largest barrier to starting your cottage food business. Learn about why zoning laws exist and what you can do to comply with them.
Many states’ cottage food laws may limit sales to public events like farmers’ markets, fairs or other community gatherings. Rather than seeing your sales venue potential as half empty, view it as half full. This blog will offer ideas on how you can boost your sales at farmers’ markets.
For most of us, starting a business isn’t easy. Let’s say you want to start your home food business — what do you do? Depending on where you live, there could be any number of barriers between you and your first sale. Learn about a couple of the first steps to take when starting a cottage food operation.
If there is no fast and easy way to start your homemade food business, what should you do? Ironically, the best way to start your food business may be to not start a business at all.
Have you thought of starting your own food business? Learn about what it takes to get started… you might need less than you think!
Maybe you’ve read articles about entrepreneurs going from rags to riches overnight, but every business owner knows the real, unwritten story.
Once you collect email addresses from customers, you need a way to reliably send them email messages. Learn about the top five tools for sending bulk email.
If you are selling at a local market and are merely collecting money, then you are missing out! If you want to give your business a huge boost, try this.
Let’s say you’re thinking of selling your homemade goodies at a local market this summer. How will you set the price?
I had a simple goal: sell my homemade chocolate fudge at the farmers market this summer. How complicated could it be? Turns out that if the government has anything to say about it, the answer is “very complicated”. My experience is just one simple example of why cottage food laws can make a huge difference in a community.
Wyoming has tested the waters of food freedom for a year. Are people using their food freedom law, and if so, is it negatively impacting the public health? Is this the future of the cottage food movement?
Are you using the most important ingredient in your business? If you are using it, then you know how powerful it can be; and if you are not using it, then simply put, you are not leveraging your business’ most important asset!
One mistake startups often make is offering customers too many choices. Initially this may seem backwards and unintuitive… wouldn’t you sell more if you had more to offer customers? Not necessarily.
It’s that time of year again: cottage food laws being introduced, home bakers starting CFOs, and some entrepreneurs launching their cottage food marketplaces. As I’ve written before, Forrager was initially intended to be a cottage food marketplace, but now we have abandoned that idea. However, on the face of it, the idea seems to be… [read more]
Democracy is essential to the freedom to earn a livelihood by selling homemade food products.
I’m a dreamer. I can see my fudge business taking off… I can see it on store shelves, I can see huge batches being made, and I can see that I often get a little ahead of myself! With a new year comes renewed energy for our homemade food businesses. Maybe you’re looking forward to… [read more]
Organization improves your operation on many levels: efficiency; cleanliness; ease of use; food safety. Take these steps to organize your home kitchen.
Organization improves your operation on many levels: efficiency; cleanliness; ease of use; food safety. Take these steps to organize your home kitchen.
Do you wonder if your homemade food item would sell well? Are your sales lower than you would like? Learn about one of the common food startup mistakes that can prevent your business from taking off.
Store-bought cookies are pathetic and everyone raves about yours. Your friends keeps saying that you need to sell them, but are they right? Why do some food businesses succeed, and others fail?
People often wonder if the cottage food laws are too limiting. Should they use it to start their homemade food business? Is it worth their time?
Do you have what it takes to be a CFO, a cottage food operator? More than an idea, recipe or home kitchen filled with appliances, becoming a small food business owner will require a level of knowledge, skill and talent, each addressed below.
I recently received a few questions from Sid, a student at the University of Tampa who’s doing some research on the cottage food industry. The questions are high-level enough that I realized they’d make a good blog post, so I’m sharing my answers here.
Cottage food operations often get frustrated by health departments, who can be slow, uncommunicative, and sometimes downright unfriendly. Do health departments really dislike the cottage food industry as much as people think they do?
From Buy Local to Small Business Saturdays, from slow food to fancy food, from farm-to-fork to handmade artisan breads, more people than ever are demanding real food made by real people — not by machines in factories, the same way they make cars and computers.
Yes, food freedom is real. The term has become increasingly popular: you may have heard it around the dinner table, at farmers markets, or even at a food freedom fest. This catchphrase of locavore culture has become so common that, until recently, you may have thought it to be a real thing. Proponents of food… [read more]
Live in a state with no cottage food law? Get one passed. If your state law is limited, you’ll need to amend an existing cottage food law. Here’s how.
While you may have a great-tasting product, you still have to test it in the marketplace. It’s one thing if everyone you know loves your muffins — especially, if they’re free. It’s something completely different to see if customers will buy them at two dollars a pop. This process of testing the market for your products is often called a feasibility study; it may take the following route:
This page includes affiliate links, so we may get a small commission when you make a purchase John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist know the difference between Corporate America and a homemade business. Although they started their careers in marketing, today, they run an eco-farm in rural Wisconsin, where you can buy a jar of their Pucker… [read more]
UPDATE: This initiative did not pass again, but hopefully they will try next year. Soon after it failed, Wyoming successfully passed the Wyoming Food Freedom Act, making them the first state to deregulate almost all direct sales of homemade food. Fox News just aired a segment with Bernadette Barber, who has been heading up the Virginia… [read more]
Half a year after publishing a detailed report of California’s cottage food law, the Institute for Justice has now published a new report about the amended cottage food law in Texas. It gives a thorough overview of their current law and gives some good examples of people that are using it successfully. One of the more… [read more]
This article was written by the Food Liability Insurance Program, one of the leading insurance providers for small food businesses, including many cottage food operations. Although some parts of this article may contrast with our opinion, we think it’s best to have a variety of perspectives when making an important decision. The cottage food law makes it… [read more]
Here’s a wonderful article detailing a couple success stories of cottage food operations in Ohio.
The Institute for Justice has published a report titled “The Attack on Food Freedom“, which feeds off the rising trend of saying no to excessive government regulation in the food industry. The report aims to relate current food laws to the food regulations put in place by Britain in the 18th century, suggesting that the… [read more]
Shouldn’t I be saying “a fresh start for cottagefoods.org?” After all, cottagefoods.org is what received a design and code refresh today, but it’s now called Forrager (and it’s now forrager.com). Why the change, how did we get here, and what’s the future of this community? I’ll address some of those questions in this post. An… [read more]
Peers is hosting a conference specifically about the sharing economy, called SHARE: Catalyzing the Sharing Economy. The cottage food industry is still small (but growing), but it is really part of a much bigger trend. The local food movement has been busting at the seams recently, and nowadays it seems like people are sharing anything possible,… [read more]
Real Food Real Talk interviewed a number of the key players surrounding the cottage food law in California. Their podcast, Home Cooking Your Way To Your Own Food Business, does a good job of summarizing the progress of the cottage food industry in that state.
Forbes just published an article detailing California’s cottage food industry in its first year. Most notably, the research found that at least a thousand CFOs have been started already!
Another food entrepreneur’s dream (in this case, an 11-year-old girl) gets shut down by the government. Maybe it’s time to get Illinois’ cottage food law amended! Is this girl really hazardous to the public health? As Kathleen mentioned below, coincidentally, a campaign for an improved cottage food law in Illinois just begun. Show your support by… [read more]
UPDATE: This bill was initially tabled, and has now been abandoned Virginia has a new bill filed for the next legislative session (HB 135), call the “Virginia Food Freedom Act”, which is trying to go where no cottage food law has gone before! Its basic premise is to allow home cooks to make any kind of… [read more]
A couple bakers in Minnesota, along with the Institute of Justice, have just taken the state’s Department of Agriculture by surprise. As part of IJ’s Food Freedom Initiative, they are filing a lawsuit that is designed to question the very premise of the cottage food law in Minnesota. But in the bigger picture, they are… [read more]
A new research paper, titled Cottage Food Laws in the United States, by Alli Condra, has been published by the Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard University. The goal of the paper was to create a comprehensive overview of the cottage food industry, including what is allowed in different states, how to create a… [read more]
Can you sell homemade food? The short answer is… probably, if your state allows it. Most states have cottage food laws in place, but there are still some things you should check before getting started.