Home Kitchen Producers, Lawmakers Hope To See Cottage Food Law Expand
Cottage food laws are on the books in almost every state. These statutes allow people to make food products in their home kitchens and sell their goods directly to consumers. In Colorado two bills would expand the state's three-year-old Cottage Foods Act.
Monica Wiitanen is adding wood to her outdoor brick oven. She uses it to bake artisanal breads that she makes in her home kitchen.
"Well there are just some many interesting kinds of breads," Wiitanen says. "And every week it’s a little bit different but most weeks there’s a light sourdough and a sourdough rye and some kind of whole wheat at least."
She has been baking bread for over 50 years. Now she runs Small Potatoes Bakery out of her home in Colorado’s Delta County.
She opened for business three years ago after the state passed the Cottage Foods Act.
Under the law, people like Wittanen can sell products made in an unlicensed home kitchen directly to consumers.
"So it allows people, as it has allowed me, to start with almost nothing, just a safe food handling class, and make a little money," she says.
Wittanen thinks the cottage food law is good for the Colorado’s economy.
Because of it, she’s able to pay someone to help her bake, and she tries to locally source her ingredients, which means more money spent in-state.
"I think expanding the law to allow more people to have the benefits that I have seen from this cottage food law is a really good thing." she says.
Under the act, people can make and sell items like jams, spices, candies, and certain baked goods. All of these products are considered to be potentially non-hazardous and don’t require refrigeration.
A bill being considered by the state legislature would add pickled vegetables, tortillas, fruit empanadas and flour to list of permitted goods.
Democratic Representative Millie Hamner is one of the measure’s sponsors.
"So because we are expanding into the pickled products we are running into some concerns about making sure that whatever is produced meets health standards," Hamner says.
The bill would require people who produce picked products to provide documentation to local health agencies that details what’s in the item, how its prepared and display a sign that says it made in a home kitchen.
There’s also a separate bill making its way through the Capitol that would increase the amount of money a person can earn under cottage food law. It would raise the cap from $5,000 to $10,000 per product.
Hamner says the cottage food industry is growing and that’s why she wants to see it expand.
"It’s very popular among small kitchen producers as well as [with] consumers who really have an appetite for freshly made products," she says.
Back at her farm, Wiitanen talks about the hearing she attended in Denver where she told lawmakers that the cottage food law helped her start her own home bakery. And she encouraged them to support the expansion bill.
"A number of them asked me if I could send them some," she says.
Wiitanen told the state House committee that she doesn’t do mail or online orders, but she would reserve them some bread if they wanted to pick it up at her house outside of Paonia.