Why Are Grandma's Cookies Illegal In Kentucky?
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Why are grandmas in Kentucky committing crimes when they sell cookies to neighbors?
Because Kentucky's current cottage food law states that: "Kentucky law allows farmers to grow, harvest and process limited food products in their farm kitchens for sale at farmer’s markets, certified roadside stands and from the farm provided they grow the predominate agronomic ingredient." This means that unless grandma is a farmer, she is breaking the law selling her baked goods.
My name is Jennifer Lopez and I am a mom raising 4 kids. I’m also a talented cake decorator. I started baking cakes in 2006 for my children’s birthdays. At the time, I lived in Missouri. By 2009, cake decorating had become something I really enjoyed. I found myself starting a business from my home and making cakes for clients. This was and still is completely legal in Missouri, in fact the laws are even better now than in 2009. I was able to start a career that I loved and have been passionate about ever since. I steadily built up a clientele, and worked hard at honing my skill set. I am going on 11 years now of being a cake decorator, or working with cake in some fashion.
In 2013, I found myself faced with a huge dilemma. I had found out my husband of 11 years was cheating on me and as soon as I confronted him, he cleaned out our joint bank account leaving me and my children with nothing. I didn’t know what to do, but I did still have 2 checks I hadn’t cashed from selling cakes. I used that money to open myself a bank account.
Because the laws in Missouri allow for home bakers to also sell at farmer’s markets, I took a gamble and went to Aldi to purchase cupcake ingredients. My kids and I then took them to the farmer’s market. I ended up selling $90 worth of cupcakes, and even had a customer order a cake because she liked my cupcakes so much. By the beginning of July of that year, God had sent me cake order after cake order. In just a few weeks I had over $1,000 in my bank account. Having this income took a lot of stress off my plate during this extremely stressful time. I was able to buy gas for my vehicle, food for my children, and start thinking about my new future as a single parent.
I was faced with divorce, and I had no family or support system in Missouri, as all my family lives in Kentucky. After years of hard work and getting the word out, my cake business had just started to really take off. It was also the only real skill I had after staying home for 8 years to raise my children. I looked up Kentucky’s cottage food laws and found that I could in no way sell cakes like I had been, and that the laws were extremely restrictive. Kentucky is one of 3 of the most restrictive states in America. I was astounded to see that even California had better cottage food laws than Kentucky.
I ultimately had to make the decision to move to where my support system was located. After moving to Kentucky, I tried to find a few ways to keep my cake business alive and to keep doing what I loved. I found a business with a vacant kitchen, but it needed thousands of dollars of work to even start, and on top of that they wanted $400 a month just for me to use the facility. This was not something I was able to even consider while being a newly single mother to 3 children. I would also have to start from scratch building up clients in a new town.
I finally had to put cake decorating on the back burner and got a job to support my children. My friend of 33 years keeps our cake business alive in Missouri. Every now and then I get to make a cake for some fun reason and keep my skills active. If I could, I would be out promoting myself and working hard every day to make cakes for people in my area, but I am not allowed to do that. I can’t tell you how extremely frustrating it is to be skilled in an area and not even be allowed to start it up for fear of fines and legal drama. Even now, I am still not in any position to where I would be able to go open a storefront. What I do, which is custom cakes, would not keep the doors open without having to make other items or sell lunch, which is not something I’m interested in doing. As a renter, it is also not possible for me to turn my basement into an extra commercial kitchen or place a building in my backyard.
There are so many large businesses that once started in homes or garages. A local Cross Fit started out of the owner’s garage. Super City Cross Fit, now River to River Fitness has 3 locations in Paducah, KY and Metropolis, IL. Microsoft and Apple were both started at home in garages. When starting out, it isn’t always smart or economical to open a storefront especially when the risks can be so high and you have a family to feed. If a home-based business fails, you turn your oven off and go back to life, you aren’t out thousand or hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s also a great way to even see if this is an area you would want to keep pursuing or are even good at, without having to invest a lot of money to get started.
There are also extremely talented cake designers that started from or are still based out of their homes. Liz Marek is a perfect example of a home-based decorator who made it big in the world of cake. Artisan Cake Company is still based out of her home, and within the last year she was finally able to convert her garage into a kitchen space. Charm City Cakes owner, Duff Goldman better known as Ace of Cakes, started out of his small apartment. He would walk up and down sidewalks outside of bridal shows with a cake in hand to build his business. (Charm City Cakes)
“Duff opened his cake business in his Baltimore apartment after leaving a personal chef job. "I called my dad, business guru extraordinaire, and asked, 'Hey, Dad, how do I start a cake business?' And he says, 'Get some business cards, get a website and sell some cakes!' Astounding, basic advice, but I followed it...I baked [cakes] in my rickety joke of a home oven and delivered [them] in my hatchback VW."”- 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Duff (FoodNetwork.com)
I ended up quitting my position at a good job when I had a baby 2 years ago. I could no longer afford child care for 4 children, almost $800 a month. Baking custom cakes from home would benefit my family considerably. I could still help my husband out, who works 2 jobs, and would not have to give over half my paycheck to childcare expenses. We would love to buy our first home, but are not yet in a position to do so. Having that extra income, while saving money would also help us do that.
My story is not unique. Some people start baking because physical limitations or childcare responsibilities make it difficult to work away from home. Some have been the victims of layoffs, scraping together gigs to get by. Others are retirees, looking to supplement their fixed income and stay active. Regardless of the reason, people across the country have realized that home baking allows them to use their talents to earn extra income. Home baking is the way to get started right away without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on professional equipment and commercial kitchen space.
It also makes sense for customers. Home bakers have the flexibility to make small batches of goods and cater to food allergies and dietary restrictions. People who live far from traditional bakeries can buy locally. Who doesn’t want the option of a home-baked treat on demand?
The solution to Kentucky’s restrictive current cottage food law is a piece of cake. I and many bakers just like me, would like to legalize the limited sale of home-baked goods that do not require refrigeration—like cookies, cupcakes, custom cakes, and bread.
You can help me and home bakers across the Bluegrass State claim our slice of the American Dream and provide a better life for our families. Please sign this message to our lawmakers asking them to support a home bakers bill and let home-based entrepreneurs get to work serving delicious baked goods to our friends and neighbors.
Learn more about our campaign at http://www.kentuckyhomebakers.com
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