Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cottage Foods Act: Coming to a farmer’s market near you

Just last year Governor Gregoire signed the Cottage Food Act of Washington into law, which directs the Department of Agriculture to license cottage food facilities and allows the permit holder to prepare and sell certain foods in their home kitchens. State law previously required folks to operate a commercial kitchen, complete with stainless steel countertops and three sinks, in order to sell their baked goods. A full-scale commercial kitchen was out reach for most families, and this meant that a lot of cherry cobblers and blueberry muffins were being sold under-the-table without permitting or regular inspection by the local health jurisdiction. A sort of underground baked goods black market, if you will.
The Department of Agriculture is currently in the rule-making process, and the law could go into effect as early as this summer. Friday’s Seattle Times reports on some of the entrepreneurial excitement surrounding our state’s new law. From the story:
For more than a year, Jennifer Greiner Clark sold cakes under the table. Specifically, she baked them in her Ballard kitchen and not in a commercial kitchen, as the law required. When it looked like her sales would expand beyond friends (who reimbursed her for ingredients rather than paying $150 for fancy 8-inch layer cakes), Clark looked into renting commercial kitchen space. She found it prohibitively expensive, particularly because she also would need to pay for child care. At home, she bakes and decorates after her children are in bed.
Then came the Cottage Food Act of Washington, an economic blessing from the Legislature on small, home-based entrepreneurs looking to sell cakes, cookies, jams, jellies and other so-called "low-risk" foods.
"I was kind of feeling hopeless about it, and now I'm very excited," said Clark, who hopes to launch an aboveboard decorated-cake business when her 2-month-old daughter is a little older.

The law also ensures that the rule applies only to small operations, by limiting the annual revenue from a home kitchen to $15,000.  Families across the state will have a cost-effective way to supplement their income, and consumers will know that the delicious baked goods from their local farmer’s market are safe and healthy. A true win-win for Washingtonians!

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.