January 31, 2019

In 2017, IJ defeated Wisconsin’s unconstitutional ban on the sale of home-baked goods, freeing Wisconsinites to use their home kitchens to earn money for their families. Now a new report from IJ’s strategic research team, Ready to Roll: Nine Lessons from Ending Wisconsin’s Home-Baking Ban, finds the end of the home-baked goods ban has already made a real difference in people’s lives.

To give people a chance to tell us, in their own words, what the end of the ban has meant for them, we created an original survey for Wisconsin home bakers. In total, 79 bakers took the time to tell us about their brand-new businesses.

For many of these entrepreneurs, their newfound home-baking income helps pay the bills, buy lessons for their kids, and even afford health insurance. Other new businesses are providing neighbors with additional options for purchasing tasty treats beyond the single grocery store in their small, rural towns.

The vast majority of Wisconsin home bakers surveyed were women—many of them homemakers—and they live in rural areas at a higher rate than the general Wisconsin population. Given that rural areas lag behind the rest of the state in employment growth, it makes sense that home-based businesses, including home-baking ones, would be a particularly attractive option for rural Wisconsinites. Additionally, 62 percent of the bakers we surveyed put at least some of the money they earned baking back into their businesses—and many bakers hope to open their own brick-and-mortar bakeries one day.

These results demonstrate the near-immediate impact of an IJ courtroom victory—not just for our clients, but also for countless others like them. Before our 2017 victory, Wisconsin’s half-baked laws allowed enterprising individuals to sell homemade items like jams and jellies, but threatened fines and jail time if they sold even one cookie or muffin. To make legally salable cookies, bakers had to rent commercial kitchen space, making it impossible for most of them to turn a profit.

While far better for business than it used to be, Wisconsin is still one of the many states that place unnecessary limits on the ability of home-based cooks and bakers to earn an honest living. A previous study by IJ’s strategic research team suggests restrictions on the types of homemade foods that can be sold may inhibit entrepreneurship in rural communities across the country. Without the ability to sell a wider variety of foods, many rural home cooks and bakers report having no plans to expand their businesses.

That is why IJ continues to push for greater food freedom across the country. Using our model Food Freedom Act—the product of collaboration between IJ’s legislation, activism, and strategic research teams—we will persuade more and more state legislatures to broaden opportunities for home-based food entrepreneurs and give consumers access to more delicious homemade foods. And as this new report shows, IJ’s sweet victories in court mean everyone gets an extra helping of freedom.

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