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. Vermont was one of the first states to allow cottage food sales. Vermont Department of Health rules allow significant freedom, but a multitier licensing system creates complexity. Separate rules apply to Vermont “home bakers,” “home food processors” and “home caterers.”
Vermont cottage food types
Many states regulate “cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale. Vermont cottage food producers may sell almost any food, depending on the type of license they obtain. Vermont “home bakers” may sell breads, cakes, muffins, cookies and other baked goods that do not require refrigeration or temperature control for safety. Vermont “home food processors” may sell jams, jellies, candies, chocolates, salsas, sauces, salad dressings and certain other foods. Vermont “home caterers” may sell prepared meals and foods containing meats or other products of animal origin.
Vermont cottage food venues
Vermont cottage food producers may sell their products almost anywhere, depending on the type of license they obtain. Vermont “home bakers” and “home food processors” may sell their products at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, special events and online with mail-order delivery. The state also allows home delivery and pickup. If Vermont home bakers or home food processors obtain a state license, they also may sell their products through restaurants and other third-party vendors. Vermont “home caterers” must sell their products directly to consumers.
Getting started in Vermont
Starting a cottage food business in Vermont is easy. “Home bakers” do not need a license, inspection or state-mandated training if they keep their annual gross revenue below $6,500 and do not sell their products to restaurants or other third-party vendors. Qualifying home bakers must file a License Exemption Self-Declaration. If Vermont home bakers exceed $6,500 in annual revenue or sell their products to restaurants, then they must apply for a license from the Vermont Department of Health, pay a $100 annual fee and pass a home inspection. Vermont “home food processors” operate in another category. No license, inspection or state-mandated training is required if they keep their annual gross revenue below $10,000 and do not sell their products to restaurants or other third-party vendors. Qualifying home food processors must file a License Exemption Self-Declaration. If Vermont home food processors exceed $10,000 in annual revenue or sell their products at restaurants, then they need a license and state inspection. Vermont “home caterers” also must apply for a license from the Vermont Department of Health and pass a home inspection. Their annual fee is $155. In addition to the regular license, Vermont home caterers who operate at special events or farmers’ markets must apply for a Temporary Food Stand license. Vermont home caterers who sell food containing meat or other animal products must contact the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets. Other state and local agencies may require additional licenses, permits or registration for Vermont cottage food producers. The Vermont Department of Health provides guidelines…
Vermont cottage food labels
Vermont cottage food producers must attach labels on their products with the following information: Name and address of the manufacturer; product name; quantity by weight, volume or number of items in the package; and ingredient list in descending order of predominance by weight. The University of Vermont Extension provides guidelines…
Vermont 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.
Vermont 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.
Tell your Vermont story
Is government violating your homemade food freedom in Vermont? Do you have a potential case for IJ? Get started here…
Support Vermont legislation
Help expand cottage food laws in Vermont 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.