The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

I've Gone Semi-Pro Part 2:Five Weeks Later

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verminiusrex's picture
verminiusrex

I've Gone Semi-Pro Part 2:Five Weeks Later

I've been selling bagels and breads at my local Farmer's Market for five weeks now.  I started on a cold day where it actually had snow flurries coming down, despite the sparse crowd my sales were good.

 Now, on week 5 of the Market, I've increased the amount that I bake and expanded my bagel flavor range.  Just yesterday I sold 8 boule loaves (white, wheat and rye), and 7 dozen bagels (plain, sesame seed, poppy seed, Asiago, garlic onion, basil & chives, cinnamon raisin).  I've also come up with new flavors including the basil & chives and a favorite, cranberry orange (which I overbaked for the market, darn it!  I used them to feed family and friends).  

Now that the weather is warming up and there are actual greens and veggies for sale at the Farmer's Market, the attendance keeps increasing and sales continue to grow.  I've accumulated regular customers, including another bread baking booth that sends her daughter over for a half dozen bagels every weekend. 

 My original bagel research included browsing the results on this site, so thanks to everyone to the part you played in my continuing success. 

-Verminiusrex

Brian D's picture
Brian D

Don't let the lust for profits consume your love for baking. When fun turns into business, it is no long fun. Know what I mean? I like diving and I like sailing. I dive on my own sailboat to clean the bottom. I thought about doing it as a business, but then I realized it wouldn't be fun anymore.

verminiusrex's picture
verminiusrex

I'm keeping this on the level that I can enjoy it.  Market is only 4 hours long on Saturday morning, which isn't that long at all (I've worked 12 hour days on a regular basis before, so 4 hours flies by).  I have my regulars that rave about my bagels, and being currently situated between a farming family I've been acquainted with for years and the guy selling worm poo as organic fertilizer, working the market is a blast.

 And baking is very zen, once I got one of those elastic back supports so I'm not sore after leaning over the counter for hours, I enjoy the constant work it takes to make, bag and tag 7-9 dozen bagels and a half dozen loaves.

And since I'm in Kansas, the Market is only for 6 months out of the year, so burnout is not an immediate threat. 

rainbowbrown's picture
rainbowbrown

That's so neat.  I had the pleasure of working at a farmers market stand for the summer a couple years ago.  It was so much fun being a part of the market.  Brian has a good point though, as it gets bigger remember to keep it fun!

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Do you have a commercial oven or are you doing the baking in your home oven?

At any rate, congratulations on your success!

verminiusrex's picture
verminiusrex

I bake everything in my home oven.  I can fit 4 boule loaves that take 1 lb of flour each, or 1 dozen bagels at one time.  The bagels cook faster than the loaves, although they take more work the dough is more forgiving.

 

Janedo's picture
Janedo

In the States can you sell anything you want at the market? Here in France doing that is totally illegal. I looked in to selling cookies, etc at the market and the only way to do it was to have a licence and a professional kitchen because it's food. I keep reading success stories of Americans starting small and then going pro. I don't get it. Is that really possible there?

Jane 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

In the United States the health codes vary from state to state.  The states in the United States are similar to the regions or administrative districts of France, but they have conisderably more autonomy.  Each state passes many of its own laws.  The balance of power between the states and the federal government has been a long standing battle in the USA.

 

Further, cities may pass laws of their own.  In all cases, the most stringent law takes precedence.  So, California may pass laws that require cars meet pollution standards more stringent that the USA government requires, and the state's laws take precedence in California. 

So, whether or not you can bake something in your home and sell it legally depends on where you are located.  Having baked, or tried to bake, in several states and having talked to bakers in other states, I am amazed at the variety of laws.

 

To start with, a good farmers market will be aware of the requirements in their state and make sure that the vendors are in compliance with local laws.  If they don't do this, they can be sued by unhappy customers and/or fined and/or shut down.

 

What are the range of requirements?  In Texas, you may sell goods baked in your home.  However, your home is tightly defined as being your actual home kitchen.  Not a kitchen you built in the garage in which you have commercial equipment.  You aren't living in the garage, it's not your home.  If you are baking in your home kitchen, you are largely exempt from licensing and inspection laws.  If you rent a commercial kitchen, you need to have it re-approved for your use, even though it was previously approved for the person from whom you are renting it.  Even if you are using the kitchen one or two days a week while the restuarant you are renting it from is still in operation.  I think that's a way for the inspectors to make more money for the state.  However, it is possible a kitchen is good enough to be a steak house, but not really appropriate for use as a bakery.  Or vice-versa.

 

In Colorado, it is theoretically possible to bake in one's home, however the kitchen must be licensed and inspected.  In practice, your home kitchen has to meet commercial standards and no pets may have access to the kitchen.  In practice, it is not possible to bake goods for sale in your home kitchen. In Colorado the rules governing retail sales are much more stringent than those governing wholesale sales.  I prefered to operate as a wholesale bakery in Colorado, especially since I could operate as a wholesale and retail bakery under the auspices of the wholesale food inspection group.  The retail people gave me 40 pages of incomprehensible paperwork to fill out.  The wholesale people took my registration fees and sent me a license.  (It wasn't QUITE that easy.  But it was a lot easier than the retail certification.)

In most states there is a "bake sale" exemption for charitable groups who bake goods in their homes on an irregular basis to raise funds for their group.

 

In short, the USA is a hodge-podge of laws that serve to confuse people who move between jurisidictions.  And even people who do not.

So, is the Original Poster within the law?  Without knowing what the laws are in that city and state, there is no way to know a priori.

 

Mike

 

Janedo's picture
Janedo

Thanks for all the info. I've been curious about that for a while. Here, a home kitchen is viewed as a very dirty place and so it is absolutely impossible to sell anything made in it. AND, a law was recently passed forbidding any home baked goods to be served to children in schools. So all those moms (like myself) who love baking cakes and cookies for their children's birthday to share at snack time, can no longer do so. They must provide a commercially baked, usually full of additives and crap, because it is more "HYGENIC".

It's too bad. I would have loved to do the same and sell baked goods at our wonderful Tuesday market because I am in an area where it is impossible to find goodies like cookies, muffins, sweet breads, etc. When you've been living in France as long as I have, eclairs just aren't good anymore! :-)

Jane 

verminiusrex's picture
verminiusrex

In the state of Kansas, I can sell baked goods made in my home kitchen without any special licensing.  If I was to make hummus or any non-baked goods then I'd have to make them in a commercial kitchen with approved equiptment. I like being able to make baked goods without dealing without permits and such, and don't mind the limits. 

 There are all sorts of permits and such involved with selling eggs, meat and produce.  I'm happy to stay in my little niche.  

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

Janedo commented:

So all those moms (like myself) who love baking cakes and cookies for their children's birthday to share at snack time, can no longer do so. They must provide a commercially baked, usually full of additives and crap, because it is more "HYGENIC".

 

It's not so much a matter of hygiene.  Schools live in fear of being sued.  Maybe if someone sucessfully sued schools for not educating children, things would get better.

 

But, with the number of children with severe allergic reactions to things like nuts (one school I visited had a special nut-free table in the lunch room - NO ONE could eat nuts there as it would hurt the kids who ate there), and the schools who have implemented sugar bans, they just don't want to take the chance that a kid might get sick = or die - because Suzy Homemaker didn't understand that the no-nuts thing was real and serious.

The sugar thing is, IMNSHO, overblown.

It isn't good, but it is, sadly, understandable.  I don't understand why there are so many more kids with life threatening allergies than there used to be.  Maybe when I was a kid they'd all died off before they reached school age?

Mike

 

sphealey's picture
sphealey

I try my best to avoid the Nut Wars, since even though I have a child who is fatally allergic to almonds I view it the responsibility of my wife and I to ensure his safety and to teach him to do so for himself when he reaches the appropriate age (3 years ago), and not the responsibility of anyone else (or "society") to protect him or us, nor to take undue burden on themselves.

But if you have ever seen, as I have (and most parents of fatally allergic children have), a "well-meaning" room parent trying to force a nut-containing food on a fatally allergic child because it "can't really hurt you" you would lose the reverse-politically-correct snark very fast. In our case the "well-meaning" parent was actually an RN. Think about that a bit.

sPh

Janedo's picture
Janedo

That is logical over there. We hear about kids having allergies here, too, but it isn't taken in to consideration regarding these "rules". I'm allowed to bring any commercially baked good in a nice wrapper or box, nuts or no nuts. The teachers take responsability for any allergic kids. It's the HYGENE issue here. France isn't a suing country... yet. The French laugh at the americans suing everybody for anything. You can't do that here, though some people are trying. My husband showed me the things that are marked on our two american cars, warnings to prevent suing (on the side view mirror for example).

But it would be a very scary thing having a child with a fatal allergy. I have five kids and for the moment, no allergies. I just cross my fingers. I don't know why there are more and more allergies. Though I am convinced that the industrial food revolution that's been going on for a very very long time is NOT helping.

BTW... I've got my bigga ready to do your sourdough ciabatta found on your site. I've never even tasted that bread but I keep seeing it and hearing about it.. so had to try. A sourdough version is an obvious choice for me to start, but I'll try yeast one day to compare. So, wish me luck!!!

Jane 

Arlette's picture
Arlette

Hello verminiusrex,

I am also participating in the Farmer's Market and here we will start next Saturday, May 17, I am doing Lebanese baked goods, and pastries, and wanted to see if i can add some Middle Eastern Bread as well, and was wondering, how far in advance do you prepare your bread, and keep them fresh, I have a gas convection home oven and not commercial and its pretty good one, (not cheap) but still a home oven. what advice can you give me for the farmer's market, this is my first year.  So i will be the new addition, and there are two bakers beside me, but they do local breads, and i used to buy from them, nothing fancy smanshy which we call it the Artisan Bread we know.  that is why i might add this later.

thanks in advance Arlette

 


 

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

When I was selling at farmers markets, I baked my breads the night before the market.  If the market was on Saturday, I was baking Friday night.  I wrapped early Saturday morning and then we travelled to market.

 

I would, from time to time, sell leftover bread from one market in a market held the next day.

 

How long you can sell the bread isn't the big question.  The big question is how happy will you make your customers.  Even though people buy bread and eat a loaf for 2 weeks, they want it the day it was baked.

 

You know how your bread ages.  And how significant a day more or less freshness is.

In the end, having a reputation for selling fresh bread is a good thing.  I was about to have a t-shirt made that reads, "I was up all night baking this just for you!" but then the season ended, and I'd never gotten around to it.

 

Good luck,

Mike

 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

While researching Michigan law, I came across Ohio's cottage food production rules which allow any Ohio resident to bake at home and sell the product to the public:

"A “Cottage Food Production Operation” is defined in Chapter 3715 of the Ohio Revised Code to mean a person who, in the person’s home, produces food items that are not potentially hazardous foods, including bakery products, jams, jellies, candy, and fruit butter. These foods must be labeled properly or they will be considered misbranded or adulterated.

"'Home' means the primary residence occupied by the residence's owner, on the condition that the residence contains only one stove or oven used for cooking, which may be a double oven, designed for common residence usage and not for commercial usage, and that the stove or oven be operated in an ordinary kitchen within the residence."

Michigan law isn't quite so generous but I did find one interesting line in the statute exempting a person from licensure if the person "Offers only an incidental amount of food, such as the sale of single-service packages." 

verminiusrex's picture
verminiusrex

Like Mike said, I bake the day before.  I use a lot of high gluten flour, which makes the bread fluffier and fresh for a couple more days than your typical artisan bread.  I bake my loaves in the morning and my bagels in the afternoon and evening. I don't know if flatbreads would last as long.

 My best advice is like they said, know how long your bread lasts. Experiment with high gluten flour or adding vital wheat gluten, it'll help extend the life of your bread.  Save money on your bagging, order from a supplier (http://www.uline.com/ has great prices on plastic bags).  If you can, make something that no one else at market has, I went with my personal style of artisan bread and bagels, which are totally unique to this market.  Start with moderate amounts and see just what market saturation is for your.  I've been keeping track of what I make and what is left over. For my booth, a dozen of each flavor seems to do best, and if I want to sell more bagels I have to come up with more flavors.  I also buy my flour at Sam's Club in 50 lb bags, so buy in bulk if you can.

 Above all, have fun.  

Brian D's picture
Brian D

Here in the states it is not unusual for someone like verminiusrex to take this hobby of baking and selling in a local market to a level of a small business. That is what makes hobbies so interesting. My hobbies of sailing, diving, photography, or even music, could easily become businesses if I desired so. But like I said in my post above, once it becomes a task it is not fun anymore, so why do it?

Janedo's picture
Janedo

I think that's really great! You're very lucky to be able to do that because it can be a great way for someone to make some extra money and do what they love to do. I do agree that sometimes a hobby, if it becomes a business, can lose it's FUN quality. My friends always ask me why I don't open a restaurant or something and I say, FORGET IT! I love cooking and baking for family and friends, but I would not want to be a slave in a kitchen with godawful hours. But I would definitely get in to baking for market sales once a week. I love the ambiance at the market and the idea of the casual contact and the pleasure of sharing my 'goods'.

Jane 

Oldcampcook's picture
Oldcampcook

I just looked up the Tulsa County Oklahoma Heath Department regulations.  Their food handling regulations are 145 pages long.

 Part of their regulations are quoted:

"Can I prepare food items in my home and sell them to the public?

Foods offered for sale to the general public must be prepared in a licensed, commercial-type kitchen. The facility must be completely separate from any living or private quarters. Commercial grade equipment is needed which, depending on the foods prepared, may include refrigerators, hot food units, dish-washing equipment, hand-washing sinks, and mop sinks. Construction materials for the floors, walls and ceilings of the food preparation area and the restrooms are required to meet certain standards as well as certain lighting requirements. Licenses are required from the Oklahoma State Department of Health and some cities require a separate license also. The Tulsa Food Code is available on our web site which goes into more detail on food establishment requirements."

Janedo's picture
Janedo

It's incredible the differences from State to State but seeing as how big the USA is, it only seems normal that certain laws be decided by state gov't.

It's the prefect way of making money for certain people, no contract, no licence, you can develop or stay on the same level, or give it up when you want to. And what better pleasure than having people rave over your very own creations.

Jane 

 

 

Arlette's picture
Arlette

Hello my friends,

that is exactly what i am doing, since I am the only Lebanese in North bay, with 90 families from the Arab Countries, and since we don't have either a Middle Eastern Food Store, or Restaurant in all this area here, I am doing Lebanese/Middle Eastern food.  I got the approv from the Health Dept to prepare the following in my home kitchen.  

1- baked sweets and desserts, bread and pies (no cream or icing) I will have a unique table I am making all kind of baklawa and maamoul , namourah,  and for breads iam doing oregano bead, safron sweet bread, olive bread, Challah, and Strudels with fruits and nuts

2- i got the okay to do Hummus, Baba Ghanouj, and Zucchini Dip, and Roasted Pepper

3- I go tthe okay to prepare falafel at home, and bring them packaged to the market.

As you can see from the above, every thing has to be fresh and tasty. and ready for 8: 00am on Saturday  

 

Janedo's picture
Janedo

You must be a real hit at your market! In our we have a woman from North Africa (maybe Algeria?) who makes those wonderful little pastries, about 10 different varieties. They cost 1 euro a piece and they are really small. They are famous in the area. She makes them fresh for the Tueday market.

For the dips, that is incredible because everyone loves them but never actually wants to make them. I'd buy some every week if someone sold fresh, home-made ones.

Jane