Thousands of bakers, picklers, canners and other modern-day homesteaders in Minnesota have set up their own small businesses, thanks to a recent expansion of the state’s “cottage food” law. This law allows people to sell foods made at home without a license or an inspection. As in many other states, the law only includes shelf stable food that don’t require refrigeration, like cakes, breads, cookies, and other baked goods, pickles, jams and jellies. Without cottage food laws, home-based food entrepreneurs are otherwise forced to rent out costly commercial kitchen space before they can legally sell their treats.
Today, more than 3,000 cottage food producers have registered with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Previously, Minnesota had some of the strictest regulations in the nation. But after the Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of two bakers, state lawmakers eased restrictions in 2015. Their reforms allowed bakers to sell directly to consumers and raised the annual sales cap to $18,000. Additionally, anyone who wants to sell more than $5,000 annually need only pay a $50 registration fee and complete a short class (typically 3 hours long) on food safety.
Cottage food laws have fostered entrepreneurship in other states too. Both California and Texas saw over a thousand local businesses flourish in each state, after more sweeping reforms were enacted. In Texas, none of the largest environmental departments reported any complaints of foodborne illnesses related to cottage food.
Unfortunately, earning the right to sell cake is not a piece of cake in every state. The Institute for Justice is currently challenging Wisconsin’s ban on selling goods baked at home, one of only two states with that type of culinary criminalization. The other state, New Jersey, penalizes selling homemade goods, with bakers potentially facing up to $1,000 in fines. The Garden State has seen efforts to repeal its ban though.