It seems these days everyone has a side hustle. Etsy shops, selling on Ebay, walking the neighbor’s dog… there are so many ways to bring in some extra cash these days. Ever wonder just how to make money from your homestead? Cottage Food Laws just might be your answer!
What are Cottage Food Laws?
Have you ever seen someone selling cookies or jams and jellies at a local farmer’s market? There’s a good chance they’re operating under their State’s Cottage Food Laws. Cottage Food Laws were (and still are!) developed for people to sell shelf stable and low risk food products from their home. No commercial kitchen or regulatory inspection needed. Shelf stable products (non-potentially hazardous) are things such as breads and other baked goods, pickles, jams, sauerkraut, jarred sauces, and more. Cottage Food Laws vary greatly from state to state, so be sure to do your research on what your State allows when you’re planning on starting your own business.
These Laws feed right into the rising demand for local, small production, and healthy and organic foods. People are calling out for the return to the simple life, and there usually isn’t a whole lot of room in that life for large scale manufacturing facilities. Not only do these Laws give your local Farmer’s Market much more variety, but you can take advantage of them and become a market vendor yourself! It wouldn’t be the first time a “side hustle” turned into a full time job. Who doesn’t want to work for themselves?!?
Not every State in the US has a form of Cottage Food Laws (also knows as Cottage Food Exemption, Home Food Production, etc). Each State that has a form of these Laws molds them to their own, so it is very important that you research the laws in your State specifically prior to selling anything. You may also need a State business license, citylicense, and to pay local sales taxes. Starting up a business can be overwhelming, but I speak from experience when I say it’s worth it!
Cottage Food Laws By State
District of Columbia
If you are in New Jersey, don’t give up hope. Many local bakers have not given up hope on bringing Cottage Food Laws to NJ. Talk to your local electives! Believe it or not, many of the States that currently have these Laws only recently adopted them.
I’m Legal – Now What?
Now that you know the Laws for your State, you have the decision of just what are you going to make and sell? Do you have a wonderful sandwich bread recipe that isn’t full of chemicals or high-fructose corn syrup? Does your family rave over your coffee cake? Are your jams and jellies on high demand every year for Christmas gifts?
Once you’ve decided WHAT your’re going to sell, then you need to figure out the WHERE. Local Christmas bazaars and farmer’s markets are great places to start out. Go visit some of your local markets and talk to the vendors about what you’re doing. Most of the time, they’ll be happy to answer your questions and help you out. (If they’re getting buying customers, step to the side and let them make their sale. Believe me, they’ll appreciate it!)
I personally recommend two books to help you get started; Homemade For Sale by Lisa Kivirist & John D. Ivanko and The Farm to Market Handbook by Janet Hurst. Not only will these two books give you lots of great ideas of what to sell, but they’ll also help you with the how to sell too! The Profitable Hobby Farm and Sell What You Grow are great resources too.
Want some other ideas on how to make money from your homestead? You can also try selling eggs, raising goats and bees (local honey is always a big seller!), and growing delicious mushrooms! Your homestead may have started as a desire to get back to the simple life or to simply eat healthier, better food, but there is no reason that you can’t make something profitable from it too!
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