Minnesota Slams the Oven Door on Home Bakers

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · November 18, 2013

St. Paul, Minn.—Can the government arbitrarily restrict where home-baking entrepreneurs can sell their treats or how much they can sell? According to a new lawsuit from the Institute for Justice and two Minnesota home bakers and filed in Minnesota Second Judicial District, the answer is no.

Minnesota bans home bakers from selling home baked foods like cakes, cookies and breads—foods the state has deemed safe—anywhere other than a farmers’ market or community event. Worse, the state prohibits home bakers from making more than $5,000 annually—an average of only $96 per week. Violating these restrictions can lead to fines of up to $7,500 or up to 90 days in jail.

Minnesota’s location restriction and sales cap hurt home bakers like Jane Astramecki and Mara Heck. Jane started her home-baking business, Jane Dough Bakery, after sustaining a serious injury that made work outside the home impractical. Mara—a ribbon winner at the Minnesota State Fair for the past four years—has a day job but would love to supplement her income through baking and eventually turn her baking into a full-time business.

“If you have a recipe and an oven, you should be able to start a business,” said IJ Attorney Katelynn McBride, lead counsel on the case.

Minnesota’s location restrictions and sales cap don’t just affect home bakers. If a customer wants to purchase one of Jane’s or Mara’s custom-made wedding cakes, Jane or Mara can bake the cake but cannot deliver it to the bride’s home or to the wedding. The bride would have to go out of her way to pick up and pay for the cake at a farmers’ market and, in the midst of everything else she is trying to finalize before the wedding, find a way to transport and store the cake until the wedding.

IJ Client Jane Astramecki said “Minnesota home bakers ought to be able to sell however many treats they want, from wherever they want to whomever they want.”

“The Minnesota Constitution protects the right to earn an honest living and this law violates that right by forbidding home bakers from selling inherently safe products at a store, at a jobsite or in a restaurant. Jane and Mara are also prohibited from taking orders over the phone or online for later delivery or pick-up,” said McBride.

IJ’s challenge to Minnesota’s location restriction and sales caps for home bakers is part of its new National Food Freedom Initiative. This nationwide campaign that will bring property rights, economic liberty and free speech challenges to laws that interfere with the ability of Americans to produce, market, procure and consume the foods of their choice. To launch the initiative, IJ is today filing two additional cases: a challenge to Oregon’s ban on the advertisement of raw—or unpasteurized—milk and a challenge to Miami Shores, Fla.,’s ban on front-yard vegetable gardens.

According to IJ Senior Attorney Michael Bindas, who heads up the initiative, “Jane and Mara are part of a nationwide movement of small-scale food producers who are tired of the government dictating what foods they can grow, sell and eat. Their case and others in IJ’s National Food Freedom Initiative will put an end to government’s meddlesome and unconstitutional interference in our food choices.”