Free the Treats! IJ Fights for the Right to Sell Home-Baked Goods

February 1, 2014

Jane Astramecki and Mara Heck love baking delicious treats at home in their Minnesota kitchens. The mouth-watering recipes include pecan chocolate chip cookies and mini pumpkin cheesecakes. Both women take their culinary passion very seriously. Jane has a certificate from Le Cordon Bleu in pâtisserie and baking and teaches cake-decorating classes at a local Michael’s craft store, while Mara has won ribbons for her goods at the Minnesota State Fair four years in a row.

Both want to take their love of baking to the next level and serve up some hand-crafted entrepreneurship by selling their goods. Jane has even started Jane Dough Bakery out of her home kitchen, where she contributes to her family’s income despite debilitating back injuries that require her to work from home.

But Minnesota has shut the oven door on Jane and Mara. The state bans home bakers from selling more than $5,000 in baked goods annually and only permits them to sell their goods at farmers’ markets or community events. Home bakers violating the law are subject to a misdemeanor conviction punishable by 90 days in jail or fines of up to $7,500 per violation. These regulations exist even though Minnesota recognizes that the types of foods Jane and Mara make are perfectly safe for production in a home kitchen.

Jane and Mara are banned from selling their goods online, at a jobsite and from retail shops, and they cannot make deliveries. These completely arbitrary restrictions prevent what could be profitable ventures for them both. If it is safe to sell a cookie from a farmers’ market, it is just as safe to sell that same cookie online or from a retail shop.

These regulations also hurt consumers. It is illegal for Mara or Jane to sell a custom-baked wedding cake to a friend and then deliver it to the bride’s home or to the wedding or reception; they can only sell wedding cakes if the bride drives to a farmers’ market and finds a way to transport and store the wedding cake herself.

Fortunately, the Minnesota Constitution protects the right to earn an honest living, which includes the right of home bakers to sell goods the state acknowledges are safe. If you have a recipe and an oven, you should be able to start a business. That is why Jane and Mara have joined the Institute for Justice to fight Minnesota’s restrictions on the sales of homemade baked goods. A victory in this case will ensure that Minnesota home bakers can sell as many treats as they want, from wherever they want, to whomever they want.

This case is not just about selling cookies. More often than not, the first step to building a successful business is starting and testing that business in the home, where the start-up expense is minimal. But Minnesota makes it impossible for home bakers to thrive and eventually expand into larger businesses outside of the home. With IJ putting up a fight, Minnesota will have no choice but to free the treats.

Katelynn McBride is an IJ attorney. 

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