This summer, something quietly happened that should give area locavores reason to rejoice: the Florida Cottage Food Act became law. As a result of consistent lobbying by local bakers, pasta makers, and beekeepers, the Cottage Food Act took effect August 1st. Although few Floridians are aware of it, the law makes a big difference in what local entrepreneurs can sell and what local foodies are able to get their hands on.
The legislation allows entrepreneurs to start a food business out of their home kitchen without getting a permit. The law primarily focused on home-based bakers until August 29th, when it was expanded to include beekeepers. Previously, these small business owners had to rent space in a commercial kitchen in order to sell edibles they had prepared. With start-up businesses’ tight budgets, money saved on kitchen-space rental can often make the difference between a business’ success and its failure.
Foods covered under the Cottage Food Act include: bread, honey, biscuits, cakes, pastries, cookies, pies, jams, dried fruit, herbs, pasta, cereals, granola, nuts, vinegar, and popcorn. Cottage businesses are also required to put a label on their products, stating they were not made in a commercial kitchen and not subject to Florida’s food safety laws.
Aimed squarely at local food, the law targets small-scale food producers, not large food production enterprises. Businesses that make more than $15,000 are prohibited from using home kitchens. Once that profit threshold is reached, companies must use commercial kitchens. Also, to protect the larger food-production companies currently in the market, the law prohibits wholesale transactions, including online sales, so consumers are most likely to find products from these home-based businesses at local farmers’ markets and other events.
How will this affect us locally? Expect to see new bakers and honey producers cropping up at farmers markets and roadside stands this fall. With the choice of local foods and food-products expanding beyond produce, it will be easier than ever to eat local!
Want to Turn Your Hobby into a Business?
If the Cottage Food Act inspires you to make your kitchen-based hobby a business, check out the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services’ Cottage Food webpage. It has FAQs, tips, and links on starting your own cottage food business. And don’t forget to let us know when you launch onto the local food scene: listing your business in our Eat Local Resource Guide & Directory is a great way to let locavores know about your offerings.