The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Cottage Food Laws: Promoting Fresh! Promoting Local!

diverpro94's picture

Cottage Food Laws: Promoting Fresh! Promoting Local!

As revolutionary as homemade products are these days, there has been a new intrest in local food and local products. Although for some reason, doing so is a crime in most states. And what does that bring us to?  ….Cottage Food Laws!


In my small town in Oklahoma, local goods have always been in fashion for as long as I can remember. We recently got a Farmer's Market about a year or so ago. That's great and all, but the city has watched it like a hawk! Many home bakers have asked to join but some of the merchants from the Farmer's Market have advised them not to, being that the market is under surveillance. Even fresh home grown produce is being watched!


It's very sad that it has come to this. I would love to sell my miches and croissants, but not at the expense of a huge fine! What ever happened to the days of all you bought was local? Or, everyone sold things from their kitchen? Everyone nowadays is under some financial crutch or another. Why is promoting local people and fresh ingredients a crime?!? But no, the country wants to promote artificial slop mechanically assembled in a factory in who-knows-where.


That has brought me to searching cottage food laws. Today, only ten states allow cottage food to be sold. My state of Oklahoma, however, does not allow cottage food. I'm thinking about bringing this to my local representative, who happens to be a friend, to see if he can try to pass a law allowing this.


What's your advice? Any good pointers? Good stances or ideas?

LindyD's picture

Here's a link you may wish to explore - as much as you can, that is, without paying the rather outrageous $20 monthly membership stipend.


Hubitom's picture

In 1978 Jimmy Carter signed into law that every person in the US can produce homemade wine, or beer up to 100 Gal (200 per houshold) without having to pay taxes (it's all about the money). However, he left it to the individual States to pass that law on their own respective turf.


Needless to say that not every Stated passed it right a way. By 2010 only 3 States were left that didn't do it. Alaba,a is one of those. Do I need to tell you where I live, and where I homebrew "illegally"?


It is sad to see how backwards the United States can be in certain areas. Local produce is just another example of ridiculous laws that date back to the ice age. And because of lobbyists and special interest groups some people want to keep things just the way they were hundreds of years ago.


Here's to progress. Wishing everyone here Happy Holidays!!!



Thaichef's picture

Hello: I lived in the State of VA. and we are allowed to sell our foods at the farmers market. For any of the food sale at the Community market or farmers market we are under the inspection of the Agriculture Dept. Restaurants and food stores are under the jurisdiction of the Health Dept.

 Four years ago I was selling foods to the public under the mobile unit. It was Thai food take out which after about 3 months went  busted because of low interest. I pay $100.00 per year for the inspection fee to the Health Dept.

At present, I sell foods at the community market and I am paying $40.00 a year to the Agriculture Dept. who came and inspect where I am storing my flour and tools for baking and cooking. They inspected my kitchen once, taking about 10 minn.

This year the State of VA up the price of the inspection fee to $100.00 per year. The fee is the same for Walmart, Sam's wearhouse, Kroger, Food Lion. The farmer markets open 5 months a year, one day week at about 5 hrs. a day and the others stores 365 days . The legislature decide to raise the price to help put the money back to the State. Fair or not is not their problem.

Any way, I realize that the laws are there to help  with the public safty. I have been to many restaurant kitchens and you can't believe how dirty they are.Last year I went to one of the well known chain restaurant in the neighboring town when it was close for personal reasons.They auction off the kitchen equipments. I went there to purchase some and came home empty handed reasons being that the equipments were so filthy beyon believe. There were several electric fryers for sale at $5.00 each and no one touch it. The Health Dept. was less than five miles from this store.

So, my question is why are we trying to  stop all the Mom and Pop and regular people from making some money at farmers markets and community markets by making so many laws to prevent them from even starting it! If the laws are to protect the publics so why so many cases of food poisoning from giant, inspected company, and food stores?

Unless we, small Mom and Pop food operators ban together as a unit  and fight back,we will never survive.



Chuck's picture

...the city has watched it like a hawk! ... the market is under surveillance. Even fresh home grown produce is being watched!...

Dumb questions: aren't these "watchers" elected? Can't the Farmers' Market folks throw them out by all voting against them in the next election? Don't the managers of the Farmers' Market form a natural lobbying group, one that could negotiate quite effectively? How does the Farmers' Market contribute to the city coffers: space rental? assembly license? inspection fees? public music license? Does the Farmers' Market have rough statistics on how many out-of-towners it pulls in, and how much money beyond its own sales it thus adds to the local economy? Does the Farmers' Market management have connections with either other Farmers' Markets in other towns or a statewide umbrella group?

flourgirl51's picture

Here in MN you can bake/sell up to $5000.00 a year at a farmers' market with no license or inspection, but it is illegal for your neighbor to stop by and buy a loaf of bread from you. A farmer can legally sell UNinspected eggs, butchered chickens and produce, no limit, which confuses me as cases of salmonella and ecoli most often come from these sources.

I know some folks that don't have refrigeration that are selling butchered poultry  and eggs from their farms- totally legal, but baking/selling baked goods that are baked at at least 350 degrees is illegal except at the market and under the allowed amount. It makes no sense to me.

mimifix's picture

Approximately half the U.S. states have laws allowing some kind of home-based food production. For other states, it's feasible to rent a commercial kitchen for food production while keeping your home as the business base. (Shared use kitchens are nice but can be expensive. I always suggest to my students that if they cannot use their home kitchen they should first investigate other commercial kitchens in their community, such a schools, social service organizations, and churches.)

I began a licensed home-based baking business more than 30 years ago. Since then I have owned busy retail bakeries with a variety of products, numerous employees, and numerous headaches. That's just part of business.

If making money is your main concern, working from home is the most lucrative. Artisan breads are labor-intensive, so I also suggest to my students that they do a variety of products, especially for the farmers' markets.


loribe's picture


guess we are fortunate here in NY state ( did I just say that?? ...lucky in NYS???)

we can sell a wide variety of products under the NYS Ag. Markets and our home kitchens are not even inspected ...not sure I think that is a good thing - but if we want to offer samples of our products we fall under a different set of rules ( which we do - sample our foods) - we cannot offer inter state sales however until we meet FDA regulations ...which is our goal ...good luck to you

hanseata's picture

with its low income per capita, people are allowed to sell homemade products from their kitchen. I have a so called home processors' license ($ 20) to sell breads and pastry. All it needed was a home inspection by a friendly inspector who wanted to make sure my sink had 2 bowls and the floor was tiled.

He told me that he had never encountered problems with people selling from their home kitchens - but conditions in commercial kitchens were often so disgusting that inspectors lost their appetites listening to the horror stories of their colleagues...


bonnibakes's picture

Last year, the day after I officially closed my bakery/cafe after a 12 year run, Florida passed a Cottage Food Law. So, instead of quitting cold turkey, I decided to do some limited baking. You can sell from your home, at a Farmer's Mkt or Roadside Stand. Everything has to be packaged and labeled indicating it hasn't been inspected. There is NO sort of inspection or requirement for food handling. That concerns me regarding food safety. You are limited to a list of "safe" products that don't require refrigeration. There goes my NY cheesecake. Instead, I've started canning jam & chutney from my incredible Keitt mango tree in addition to baking.

As a former New Yorker (Brooklyn to be specific) I missed all of those delicacies from the old Jewish bakeries. Thanks to Stan & Norm's wonderful book, and a lot of additional research, I bake some of those items weekly. I publish a blog Monday indicating what I'll be baking that week. My subscribers place orders by Wed pm for pick-up Friday or Saturday. Sunday I'm at a Farmer's Market. It's a novel formula that works for me. You can see the blog at 

The FL law came about due to public pressure on elected officials. You guys go in Oklahoma, you're on the right track. Politicians are sensitive to public opinion. Get as much publicity as you can.

Thaichef's picture

Hello All:

Two years ago I wrote in this column(TFL) about VA. cottage food laws is hurting little people by increasing the inspection fee over night that it is hard for us to make it. To be fair, it was the legislature whom increased an inspection fee from $40.00/year to $100.00 year. (It seem low when you think of a year cost but when I was informed by a kind food Inspector in Richmond that all the big box store, Walmart, Kroger, Food lions were also paid the same amount for inspection fees It made my blood boil.)  Looking at the fact that Walmart is "Gazillion" dollars company which opens 7 days a week and almost 365 days a year while my Farmers market(which I volunteered) opened 5 months a year on Sat. 5 hours only. doesn't make sense.   My vendors traveling a long way( one was a new Mom with infant son and traveled 40 miles each way to sell bakery!) Anyway the Legislature changed the law and now all of us pay $40.00/year including all the big box stores(Don't you think that they can afford to pay more than $40.00/year.

I am no longer the market manager( with no pay  and  since we are older and make meager money from the market with the economy at rock bottom).  So this year  I visited another farmers market in my area and decide to sell some foods and also promote my cooking school( which in need of help).  I contacted VA. Dept. of Agriculture in early Sept. to apply for licensing. I was asked by food Inspector if my food will have meat or poultry in it.  It old him yes and he said that I must talk with the Fed. Meat Inspector in Richmond since no meat and poultry will be allow in food that sell at the Farmers market.  After 5 phone calls to the Inspector he came. His job is to inspect all meat processing area and farms. I told him that my meat will come from Sam's wear house, frozen. It will be prepared in my approved Mobile unit and take to the market to sell one day/month for two month.  He told me that I can't. The Federal rules do not allow it. He pointed to his big book which he brought with him (but did not show me the law nor rule).  I asked him that who would be able to sell this kind of food at the Farmers market and he said that retail food stores and restaurants!  I was flabbergasted. Why should food stores and restaurants sell foods at farmers market? Don't they make enough money and also busy enough with their stores?  The meat processing plants here in my area are huge. They sell their organic meat in DC. and New york. I saw the story in the paper. 

I tried to plead with him that I am a grand mother trying to make a few bucks and those companies are big companies. He said that it doesn't matter laws are laws to all big and small.

Two days after the meeting, I went to Charlottesville, Va. on farm day and went to a Farmers market called City market to shop. It was a very vibrant market with more than  40 vendors. To my surprise, I saw more than 10 food vendors selling all kinds of food with meat in it. ( I saw Mexican tent which sell taco with beef, chicken, pork. I saw Philippine tent with lumpia, fried noodles and soup with meat).  When I asked the market manager she said that they have no problem with meat at their market. all vendors are approved by the Same VA. agriculture dept.

I telephoned Roanoke Supervisor(Dept. of Agriculture) to asked for copy of rules, laws governing meat restriction at farmers market since I saw that it is o.k. to do so in our neighboring town(two hours drive).  He told me to contact an agent/ meat inspector to get the copy!   I seems to be running around trying to get an approval just to do this little stint. Two months now passed and my chance of being at the market has passed. (Market is closed in October.)  I called the meat Inspector 3 days ago and no answer yet. (He has a lot farms and meat processing firms to inspect. I had to call him and left messages 5 times before he came the last month.)

I have a suspicion that in our state(and may be others?) is working toward "big business" and in one way or other will try to put more restrictions  to all of us so that we will not be able to operate?  Can I go ahead and only sell food with no meat? Yes, but my experiences in America told me that people love meat and to sell Vegetarian only will cut down my sell significantly. It will take me almost one hour each way to get to the market, put up a tent, take down and drive home. I have 5 hours each Sat. to do it. 

What do you think? Does you State help you in doing your business at the Farmers markets?  It doesn't see so in VA. Please let me know.