Illinois Should Let Home Bakers and Farmers Sell Directly to Customers

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My name is Kelly Lay and I have dreamed of owning a bakery for most of my life. Because of medical and financial issues, I can’t afford a storefront with a commercial kitchen right now. But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my dream. 
 
I bake a wide variety of products in my home kitchen, with the goal of saving toward a future storefront. I love using ingredients from my own garden, a local mill, and nearby farms for my delicious raspberry lemon cupcakes and savory heirloom tomato tarts. But right now, I don’t have any way to sell my products. 
 
In my town, a registered home-based food business is only allowed to sell at a farmers’ market, with a few limited exceptions. I had been hoping to sell at the Bloomington Farmers’ Market this summer on the Saturdays that I have off from my retail job, but because of the pandemic I couldn’t risk paying the $500 market fee up front for a few days of uncertain sales. And unfortunately, because Illinois law lets my town block other ways of making direct sales to my customers —I am not allowed to sell all my products at other events, online, or for home pick-up or delivery.   
 
I’m not the only one who is hurting. Cottage food producers and farmers across Illinois are in the same boat, missing out on the sales of cakes, breads, jams and jellies, preserved produce, and much, much more. There are also many talented people who could consider starting cottage food businesses to make ends meet in these difficult days—if they had a way to legally sell their products. 
 
Cottage foods are safe and many other states allow their residents to sell directly or online to their friends and neighbors. I’m working with the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, and others across the state calling on Illinois leadership to take action as soon as possible to allow cottage food producers all across the state to sell directly to customers. An executive order lifting tight sales restrictions would help during the pandemic, when entrepreneurs and customers want to stay close to home, and the General Assembly can change the law in the next legislative session. 
 
If cottage foods in Illinois are safe enough to be sold at farmers’ markets, then they are safe enough to be sold in other ways. People are hurting, but Illinois lawmakers can help. Please sign my petition and tell Illinois lawmakers to lend a hand to Illinoisans struggling to support themselves and their families. 
 
If you would like to see some of the many products Illinoisans want to sell, follow us on Instagram and send us photos of your cottage foods so that we can share them.