All across the United States, Americans are making food at home to sell in their communities. Together, they form a small but growing industry—the homemade or “cottage food” industry. The movement fits within a larger trend toward healthy eating and responsible sourcing, as consumers take greater interest in where their food comes from and who makes it. The Rhode Island Farm Home Food Manufacture Law, adopted in 2002 and modified as recently as 2012, specifies that homemade food sold at farmers’ markets and other venues in Rhode Island must be prepared “in a kitchen that is on the premises of a farm.” Even for farmers who qualify, complying with the law not easy.
Until 2022, all non-farmers were excluded from selling homemade food. As a result, fewer than 1 in 500 residents could sell food prepared in their own kitchens. Based on 2017 data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, overlaid with U.S. Census data, the Rhode Island law excluded about 99.8% of residents.
Fortunately, in June 2022, the state passed H. 7123, which created a “cottage food” program that finally allows anyone who isn’t a farmer to sell food made at home.
|Grades For Homemade Food Laws||Rhode Island Non-Farmers||Rhode Island Farm Home Food Manufacture|
|Food Varieties Grade||D||C-|
|Sales and Venue Restrictions Grade||B||C+|
|Regulatory Burdens Grade||F||C-|
For more information about how the state was graded, see the Baking Bad report page.
Rhode Island cottage food types
|Food Varieties||Rhode Island Non-Farmers||Rhode Island Farm Home Food Manufacture|
|What Shelf-Stable Foods Can I Sell in Rhode Island?||No restrictions||No restrictions|
|Can I Sell Refrigerated Baked Goods in Rhode Island?||No||No|
|Can I Sell Meat in Rhode Island?||No||No|
|Can I Sell Acidified or Pickled Foods in Rhode Island?||No||Yes|
|Can I Sell Low-Acid Canned Goods in Rhode Island?||No||No|
|Can I Sell Fermented Foods in Rhode Island?||No||No|
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. For non-farmers, the state defines “cottage food” as foods that “do not require refrigeration or time/temperature control for safety.” The law specifically mentions double crust pies, yeast breads, biscuits, brownies, cookies, muffins, and cakes as examples.
As for farmers, the state regulates “farm home food,” which refers to “nonpotentially hazardous food and foods that do not require refrigeration,” prepared on a qualifying farm. Examples mentioned in the law are: Jams, jellies, preserves, vinegars, double-crust pies made with locally grown fruit, yeast breads, maple syrup from the sap of trees within a 20-mile radius of the farm, candies, fudges, dried herbs and spices.
Rhode Island cottage food venues
|Sales and Venue Restrictions||Rhode Island Non-Farmers||Rhode Island Farm Home Food Manufacture|
|Annual Sales Cap||$50,000||No limit.|
|Where Can I Sell Homemade Food Direct to Consumers in Rhode Island?||At farmers’ markets, roadside stands, events, and from home.||At farmers’ markets, farm stands, events, and from home.|
|Can I Sell Homemade Food to Retail Outlets?||No||Only at outlets operated by farmers.|
Thanks to a 2022 reform, home bakers can sell their goods direct to consumer at venues like farmers’ markets and special events. Home bakers can also sell online and take mail delivery orders. Meanwhile, under the farmer-specific homemade food program, qualifying farmers may sell their products only at farmers’ markets, farmstands and other markets and stores “operated by farmers for the purpose of the retail sale of the products of Rhode Island farms.” Rhode Island farmers may not sell homemade food online or at any venue not operated by farmers. Farmers do not have any sales caps for selling homemade food, but must sell at least $2,500 to qualify. On the other hand, non-farmers can sell no more than $50,000 a year.
Getting started in Rhode Island
|Regulatory Burdens||Rhode Island Non-Farmers||Rhode Island Farm Home Food Manufacture|
|Inspections Required Before Starting||No, but inspectors can inspect home kitchens “at any time.”||No|
|Are Local Ordinances Preempted or Overridden?||No||No|
|License, Permit or Registration Required||Yes||Yes|
|Recipe Approval or Lab Testing Required||No||Yes|
|Food Handler Training Required||Yes||No|
Although the 2022 reform expanded economic opportunity for home bakers in Rhode Island, it came with some restrictive red tape. The state requires certificates of registrations, notarized affidavits of compliance, and food handler training, while inspectors are allowed to inspect home kitchens “at any time to ensure compliance.”
Before receiving permission from the Rhode Island Department of Health to sell homemade food, farmers must ensure that their kitchens meet standards specified in the law. They also must submit to inspections and make their recipes available for government review. If their water comes from a private supply, then it must be tested annually. Rhode Island farmers who sell homemade food must keep pets out of food preparation and storage areas, and they must not use cooking facilities for “domestic food purposes” while preparing farm home food products.
Tell your Rhode Island story
Is the government trying to crack down on your food business?
Do you own a food or drink-related business that is facing problems or is even under threat of shutdown because of burdensome laws and regulations?
Do you face excessive fines from the government if you don’t shut down your business, limit what you sell, or dig up your garden?
We might be able to help.
If you want IJ to review your case, please share your situation through the following form.
Rhode Island cottage food labels
Rhode Island farmers who sell homemade food must list all ingredients on product labels, which also must include the farm name, address and telephone number.
Rhode Island cottage food facts
Myths about cottage food abound. Here are the facts:
- Cottage food is safe. Critics who talk about the risk of food-borne illness give hypothetical examples of what could go wrong because real-world cases are rare or nonexistent.
- Cottage food is local. When neighbors trade with neighbors, money stays in the local economy.
- Cottage food is transparent. People who buy from a cottage food producer know what they get. If they have questions about ingredients, sourcing or safety, they can ask.
- Cottage food creates jobs. Many homemade food producers use their income to provide for their families. Others seek a secondary or supplemental income.
- Cottage food empowers women. IJ cottage food research shows that most cottage food producers are women, and many live in rural areas with limited economic opportunity.
- Cottage food expands consumer choice. Some stores simply don’t sell what you want. This is especially true if you have a gluten-free, peanut-free, halal, kosher or vegan diet. Cottage food fills market gaps, giving consumers more options.
Rhode Island cottage food resources
As part of its Food Freedom Initiative, the Institute for Justice provides a variety of resources for home bakers and other food entrepreneurs. These include:
- Model Food Freedom Act from the Institute for Justice guides activism efforts at state capitols nationwide.
- Flour Power: How Cottage Food Entrepreneurs Are Using Their Home Kitchens to Become Their Own Bosses surveys 775 cottage food producers in 22 states about what their businesses mean to them.
- Ready to Roll highlights nine lessons from the Institute for Justice’s cottage food victory in Wisconsin.
- The Attack on Food Freedom examines the impact of regulations on farmers, chefs, artisans, restaurateurs, food truck operators and others.
Support Rhode Island legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in Rhode Island by teaming with the Institute for Justice. Send an email with your name, background information and availability to get started…
Defending homemade food freedom nationwide
People have a right to earn an honest living without arbitrary and excessive government interference. Since 2013, the Institute for Justice has defended home bakers and chefs as part of its Food Freedom Initiative. Read about IJ’s nationwide food freedom advocacy…
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All information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Statutes, regulations, and processes are subject to change at any time, and specific facts and circumstances could alter how they are applied. If you have questions about the regulation of cottage foods in your jurisdiction, we recommend consulting a lawyer who can help you navigate the process.