The Smorgasbord of Midwestern Laws



Photo courtesy of John D. Ivanko/HomemadeForSale.com

The Midwest has a great tradition of home cooking, and its potlucks are legendary. Yet, state laws are sometimes hostile to the home cook that tries to test the market or grow a business selling homemade goodness. Nevertheless, new laws are pending in local state capitols. Be sure to check on the most recent developments nearby before starting (Forrager.com is a good resource). If the results are not favorable, legislators seem to be listening to enterprising home cooks lately—contact them.

In Illinois, a cottage food operation may sell specific baked goods, jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butter, and dry herbs or dry teas, if they have a low pH. The city of Chicago, however, does not allow cottage food operations to sell at the farmers’ markets that the city sponsors. Newly approved legislation now allows individuals to sell up to $36,000 per year at farmers’ markets or, if the products feature a locally grown agricultural product, they may deliver it directly to the consumer.

Also in Illinois, a home kitchen operation may sell up to $1,000 a month in baked goods to consumers, but only if the local city or county has adopted an ordinance allowing it. Chicago has not approved home kitchen operations.

In Minnesota, a new law still pending at press time would allow home cooks to sell up to $18,000 per year of homemade foods that are labeled as homemade and are not potentially hazardous, as well as home-processed or home-canned pickles, vegetables or fruits with a low pH. They would be able to sell at farmers’ markets or directly to the consumer (even over the Internet, if the home cook delivers it personally), as long as they register with the state and take a short food handling class.

In Wisconsin, home-based producers cannot sell anything other than jams, jellies, pickles, sauces and canned goods with a low pH, and their sales are capped at $5,000 per year. Sales are allowed at farmers’ markets and community events only. Wisconsin has been named by some as the most restrictive state for cottage foods.

Home cooks make great lobbyists: canners know how to put the pressure on, and bakers know how to sweeten the pot. To learn more about entrepreneurs’ fights for freedom to serve and sell food across the country, visit ij.org/foodfreedom.

Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko are co-authors of the newly released Homemade For Sale, a how-to guide for anyone that wants to launch a food business from their home kitchen (available online and for order in local bookstores). They are also co-authors of ECOpreneuring, Farmstead Chef and Rural Renaissance. Beth Kregor is the director of the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship and a founding member of Chicago’s Street Vendors Justice Coalition. Kregor has written articles and reports on the regulatory barriers that micro-businesses face.

Click here to read Launching a Kitchen-Based Food Business from Home

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