August 13, 2015

What I'm Reading: "Homemade for Sale" Cottage Food Business Primer

You know all those small-batch products you're seeing at farmer's markets: pickles, jams, pretzels, vinegars, and other items you wish you had time to make yourself but are glad others are making for you? Well, their makers are worth supporting for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious is that if you shop selectively, you're getting delicious, high-quality, homemade products straight from the hands of the person who made it. Another is that if you believe in the value and transparency of local food systems, this is a first step in capitalizing yours. Reward a quality cottage food business and you're helping the next generation of makers establish a foothold in the local economy.

If you want to be the next Jeni Britton Bauer (Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream) or Beth Linskey (Beth's Farm Kitchen), here's a great book to help you get started: Homemade for Sale: How to Set Up and Market a Food Business From Your Home Kitchen, by wife-and-husband team and back-to-the-land gurus Lisa Kivirist  and John D, Ivanko. 

This user-friendly guide explains that the explosion of culinary entrepreneurs we're seeing at the greenmarkets and online (just check out, or go down the list of winners of the annual Good Food Awards) owes a lot to changes in state laws governing small-scale, independent home-based food businesses. Over 42 states have recently established such laws, making it easier than ever before to launch a business out of your kitchen.

Homemade for Sale covers everything from navigating your state's cottage food laws to product development, design, packaging and pricing; navigating zoning, licensing and legal hurdles; managing the books, and for those who want to, scaling up. Interspersed are profiles of successful "cookiepreneurs" and "profitable picklers," as Kivirist and Ivanko dub members of the kitchen entrepreneur movement, as well as tips gleaned from the couple's own experience of starting and running their carbon-negative inn, Serendipity Bed & Breakfast, and their farm in southwestern Wisconsin.

Helpful tips include advice on making sure your baked good is a "non-hazardous" one (meaning low moisture and shelf-stable to prevent mold and harmful bacteria growth); offering samples of your product (check venue rules and local health department regulations first), and a word of warning to Canadians (where selling food made in your home kitchen is outlawed for all but farmers).

The promotion, advertising and public relations chapter offers plenty of helpful links to web design and social media sites, and to free directories on which you can list your business (,, and, to name a few).

Read this book and you, too, will feel that you can play a part in changing our food systems for the better and changing the way America eats.