Launching a Kitchen-Based Food Business from Home



Photo courtesy of John D. Ivanko/HomemadeForSale.com

Depending on the relatively new cottage food laws in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota, home bakers, picklers and jammers can now launch a food business from their home kitchen and sell certain food products to neighbors and friends. The laws in question refer to “non-hazardous” food products, often defined as those that are high in acid with a low pH, like jams, jellies or pickles, or low in moisture, such as breads. Every state’s new cottage food law will specifically answer four key questions about home food production and sale: what products can be sold; where they can be sold; how they can be sold; and how much of each product can be sold.

“We have value-added products like salsas, spreads, pickles and jams,” says Erin Schneider, who, with her husband Rob McClure, operates Hilltop Community Farm, in LaValle, Wisconsin. They produce only high-acid food products with their organically grown crops. “Our black currant and honey jam is sold before we even make it. Rob has quite the following with his garlic dills.” They sell at a holiday farmers’ market and earn about $2,000 a year.

“I’m eager to encourage vendors who have products produced under the Illinois cottage food law,” says Roxanne Junge, market manager for the Glenview Farmers’ Market, in Glenview, Illinois. “The cottage food law is an awesome thing for people to get their foot in the door, try out a new product and sell it direct to their customers. It allows them to do this without investing too much money into the business before they’ve figured out what will sell. Eventually, many of them are able to take the next step to open a storefront or start an online sales business.”

“Being able to use our kitchen for the operation made our lives easier, and it gave us the opportunity to stay in business, as it lowered our costs considerably,” explains Blanca Berthier, co-owner of Mundo Verde, an Illinois company that has been making premium and amaranth granola since 2010. Berthier moved her operations from a certified kitchen into her home after the Illinois cottage food law was passed in 2012. Thanks to the success of her products, Berthier expanded her operation beyond her home kitchen by using a commercial co-packer to manufacture the granola to her exacting specifications. By using the co-packer, her products can be sold at local grocery stores and by direct delivery.

“Your best research comes directly from your customers. Ask them what they like and make it,” advises Dorothy Stainbrook, owner of HeathGlen Farm & Kitchen, in Forest Lake, Minnesota. HeathGlen specializes in preserves, syrups and scrubs made from organic fruit harvested at Stainbrook’s farm. What started out of her farmhouse kitchen under Minnesota’s cottage food law exceeded the state’s sales cap, so she opted to build a commercial kitchen on-site to keep up with demand. Some food entrepreneurs choose to rent space in a community or incubator kitchen when they scale up.

Cottage foods and specialty food products are ultimately defined by their quality ingredients, distinctive flavors and taste. By meeting a seemingly insatiable appetite for more, these local, small batch food entrepreneurs are rebuilding a community food system. “We think it’s much more important to produce what grows well on our soil and then sell it, so that ecology drives economics, rather than the other way around,” says Schneider. “Paprika peppers, elderberries, hardy kiwi, garlic, pears, currants. These are the plants that are adapted here, and it’s our job as ecologically minded farmers to show how delicious these things can be, fresh or preserved.”

Click here to read The Smorgasbord of Midwestern Laws

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

City Homesteading

Across the country, people in communities of all sizes are crafting ways to grow food, build eco-homes and live in harmony with the environment and each other.

Big Breakfast, Lower Body Mass

People that make breakfast their largest meal of the day have lower body mass, while those that make dinner the biggest meal are likely to weigh more, a recent study concluded.

Zinc Inhibits Throat Cancer

University of Texas researchers have found that zinc supplements can inhibit or slow the growth of esophageal cancer cells.

Moderate Exercise Guards Against Depression

A mere one hour of exercise a week reduced depression in 12 percent of Norwegian study participants.

Antidepressants in Pregnancy Linked to Autism

Children born to Swedish mothers that took antidepressants when pregnant had a slightly higher risk of autism compared to mothers with psychiatric conditions not taking the meds.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

See More »This Month

Riverwoods Smiles

Foad Rasekh, DDS, knows that few people look forward to going to the dentist. To change those perceptions, he has made Riverwoods Smiles, in Riverwoods/Deerfield, a family-friendly and environmentally conscious setting where patients feel relaxed and comfortable.

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s New Cosmology Inspires a Quantum Leap

The nonprofit parapsychological research institute looks at spiritual experiences from the view of quantum science, and performs scientific research into a transcendental potential capable of inspiring global civilization to collective systemic actions that move toward a more sustainable future.

Conveniently Host Fundraising Events with Bake425°

After hosting more than 50 successful fundraising events, local bake-at-home pizza concept Bake425° wants to partner with more nonprofit organizations this summer to support the causes that matter most to its customers.

New Custom Team Events from Peterson Garden Project

Peterson Garden Project (PGP) now offers custom programs focused on food and community for team building, health and wellness and outreach initiatives, and also does private events in their kitchen and gardens.

Awaken Wisdom with Maytawee

Maytawee, a Buddhist Monk-nun and minister of divinity, will offer a variety of Awakening Your Authentic Wisdom classes and workshops this July and August in the Chicago area.

The True Cost of the Food We Eat

By investing in more sustainable production practices instead of borrowing from future natural capital, agriculture can actually improve environmental outcomes through carbon capture, soil building and sustainable water management.