The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

California cottage law!

hmcinorganic's picture

California cottage law!

I've been out of the loop for about 2 years, but apparently CA passed a cottage food law and it is now relatively easy for me to (legally) sell my bread that I make at home. Wow!

Anyone have any suggestions? I am not doing this for the money, but I am excited about the possibility of selling something that I made. I LOVE to make bread, and the opportunity to get paid for it... even a few hundred dollars a year, so exciting.

In other news, I taught a chemistry of cooking lab for non-majors this past spring and am gearing up to do it again in 2 months. Its almost like everything has come together to make this a perfect opportunity for me. I took a week long faculty development workshop on cooking chemistry, have experience working with and heading up an albeit small kitchen, and have a ready audience of testers for my recipes.

Any advice for someone who literally JUST FOUND OUT about this yesterday and is already planning to start operation ASAP?


Trevor J Wilson's picture
Trevor J Wilson

If you wish to profit from your endeavor, be sure you accurately nail down every cost. 

Every. Single. One.

I'm not just talking about the obvious ones like cost of ingredients, cost of production, packaging, transportation, promotion, etc. Consider costs such as liability insurance (which you'd better purchase), cost of goods sold (such as returns, if CA cottage laws allow you to sell wholesale) and even opportunity costs like what you'll be giving up in order to pursue this idea (time, social life, more profitable opportunities, etc.)

Not trying to bring you down, but the more aware you are of exactly what these things cost, the more likely you will be able to succeed in the long term. However, if you just like making lots of bread and are looking to recover some of the costs, then don't sweat it too much. Good luck!




bonnibakes's picture

Life works in strange ways. After twelve years I decided to close my bakery/cafe in Florida because I didn't want to be so tied down anymore. The following day the state of Florida passed a Cottage Food Law. I thought I'd have to go cold turkey from constantly baking to zero, but instead it became an opportunity for me to reinvent myself. That was three years ago. Now I write a weekly blog which includes photos & descriptions of what I'm baking that week. People order by Wed afternoon and pick-up at my house on Friday. I've also done a Sunday Farmers Market for two years. You can see my blog at

My advice is to GO SLOWLY and only offer what you enjoy baking. It's easy to get overly excited (which is a good thing) but spend some time working on how to schedule your time as well as time & SPACE in your home oven, rising and refrigeration. Most  Cottage Food laws only allow you to use the usual appliances a home kitchen extra stoves, etc. Build a following, do a lot of sampling and find out what your customers are interested in, and what's comparatively available locally. I agree with Trevor that you should take many things into account to figure out pricing, but I personally value my happy state of mind while playing with flour as a plus. Check what's specifically allowed in your state. If you haven't checked out this sight, you might find this helpful:

One of the great things of operating a small operation is the ability to try new things, experiment & have your customers be "taste testers", customize orders and rarely get bored doing the same old...same old. Have fun!


chris d's picture
chris d

The cottage food laws are great, but you need to understand them on the county and city/municipality level not the state level. I started C&C Artisan Breads a few months ago and it's been great! I have a full time job and was baking more bread in my free time than I could get rid of. My first trip home with 250 pounds of flour and whole grain berries told me that I needed to do something. Ha!  

Living in Redlands, CA, I was required to get a Cottage Food Operation permit from the County of San Bernardino.  I got a Type A - Direct sales permit...there's a Type B for indirect sales that costs an additional few dollars and requires an inspection of your kitchen. If I was in unincorporated San Bernardino county, I think that's all I'd have needed. Living in Redlands, I also had to get a city of Redlands Business License and a Home Occupation Permit. All of these things are good for 12 months, require only the completion of some forms (mostly promising that your house will still look like a house and not tax the utilities or your neighbors' patience), and cost, oddly, exactly $300 for all the permits and licenses. I had everything just a couple days after I applied for them, pretty much.

I was at a point where I knew I needed to make a lot of bread to get better at what I was doing. I was right, too. The cottage food thing is perfect for that. I knew I could bake four loaves of bread each day without impacting my schedule (I have a full time job, after all). All of the money I've made has been re-invested in the operation. I've bought a couple of mills and an old Berkel bread slicer that I just finished rebuilding. The bread slicer in particular would have been a tough purchase to justify to the wife if I hadn't spent "Bread Share Money" on it. :)  I love old machines.

Over thanksgiving, I offered "extra loaves" to folks and quickly promised 30 more loaves than I'd normally bake so I bought an old Jenn-Air fridge for the garage to retard the dough and freeze the loaves in the weekend before the holiday. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, we baked 20 loaves of my Whole Wheat Country Loaf. Ha! That was a crazy day. It's been a ton of fun.

At four loaves a day (plus weekend experiments) I have a 20 subscribers (almost all at my office) who get a loaf of bread a week, plus a lagniappe once a month or so. I'm at capacity, and also have a long waiting list in case anyone ever drops. And I'm not obliged to deliver, since it's "just a hobby." Still, I've developed a number of spreadsheets to manage my subscription list, all of my bread formulas, and another to help estimate my bi-monthly orders with a pivot table that feeds on data from my formulas. I've learned a lot, for sure.

I guess I could scale up, but the beauty of the cottage food laws is that while they're designed to allow people to really run a business to make a living from their home (My county caps the size of your business by limiting gross sales. For 2015, that limit is $50,000) you can do pretty much whatever you want, within reason, and be completely legit. I didn't want to sell food (even if I wasn't going to do it for the profit) without being completely above board.