Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 26th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Homemade in California

Proposed California law would allow for the sale of non-perishable homemade foods

When Kathryn Lukas started her artisan organic sauerkraut business, Farmhouse Culture, the local worked out of a friend’s cellar. She couldn’t afford rent on the commercial kitchen required under California's food safety regulatory laws, but because she had previously owned a restaurant she knew enough to craft her own commercial kitchen.

However, she soon realized that it would be at least a year before the permitting process for her kitchen was complete. As soon as she could, Lukas purchased an existing 2,500-square-foot commercial kitchen. She couldn’t quite afford the kitchen, so she rented it out hourly to other small-scale food producers in Santa Cruz.

“I think what’s happening, to be perfectly honest, is a lot of people start off kind of illegally anyway,” she says, noting that she sold her sauerkraut at small farmers’ markets before she officially had a legal kitchen.

Lukas’ Farmhouse Culture business is now thriving, but she realizes that many people undergo struggles like her own before they are able to launch their small-scale local food businesses. This is why she says she supports the California Homemade Food Act proposed by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) in February.

The California Homemade Food Act, AB 1616, would allow people to prepare certain non-perishable foods in their own kitchens and sell them on a small scale, typically directly to consumers and at farmers’ markets.

Assemblyman Gatto, who introduced the bill, says he has always been a supporter of locally grown and produced food. He first decided to push for the bill when he read an article about an artisan bread maker, Mark Stambler, who turned out to be a constituent of his.

“He was talking about how many problems he was having just being able to sell his bread,” says Gatto. “I called him up and I heard his story about what was happening with the local county health departments. The staff there was really giving him a hard time. They were giving him some very paradoxical and nonsensical orders to comply with. So I just thought, ‘the state ought to step in. We ough to regulate this on the state level and sort of standardize state laws so that the different county inspectors have better guidelines to apply.’”

Thirty-one states already have laws in place that are similar to the proposed California Homemade Food Act. These laws are often referred to as “cottage food” laws.

Peter Ruddock, communications director for the local chapter of the international nonprofit Slow Food, says the Santa Cruz branch solidly supports the introduction of a cottage food law to California.  

 “We need to make it easier for people to safely produce good, local food,” he says. “We don’t want a Wild West situation where anybody can do anything they want because then we’d have food safety issues. But it should be easier for local food producers to get started.”

 Ruddock notes that the proposed cottage food law takes food safety into account, as it would support only non-perishable food items.

The proposed law would allow for the small-scale sale of homemade baked goods with no cream or meat fillings, jams and jellies, granola and other dry cereal, popcorn, waffle cones, nut mixes, chocolate-covered non-perishables (such as nuts and dried fruit), roasted coffee, dry baking mixes, herb blends, dried tea, dried fruit, honey and candy.

The California Homemade Food Act has secured a bipartisan list of co-authors who have signed the bill, including assemblymembers Jared Huffman, Bob Wieckowski, V. Manuel Pérez and Allan Mansoor, as well as Sen. Mark DeSaulnier.

Christina Oatfield, food policy director for the Sustainable Economies Law Center, helped Assemblyman Gatto and legislative council in Sacramento craft the original draft of the California Homemade Food Act.

“We were inspired by some of the existing laws, like Ohio, [which] has one of the longer standing cottage food laws,” she says. “A lot of the laws are there for good reason and with the intention to protect consumers, but they’re very much geared towards large-scale food operations.”

 Oatfield adds that the proposed act falls in line with the growing movement to localize food systems and stimulate small-scale food production.

“I think the laws weren’t really written bearing in mind the value of homemade food and microenterprises that aren’t feeding lots and lots of people, and don’t have lots of people handling the food,” she says. “Consumers are increasingly interested in supporting small businesses, local businesses, eating local, knowing the person who makes the food—things like that.”

Oatfield says there has been no vocal opposition of the bill thus far, however certain aspects of the bill are undergoing an amendment process. 

AB 1616 will be voted on in the state Assemby Health Committee on April 10.

“I think what we have right now is a really good start,” says Oatfield, “and I am hoping we’ll see something similar passed in the legislature this year.”

Comments (3)Add Comment
written by Deborah, October 21, 2012
I have a honey business. I have to pay a local kitchen $500 per year to say I process my honey there. I cannot move 60 lb. buckets of honey around, nor the 50 lb. mixers I use to whip my honey with spices. Now I no longer have to worry about being illegal. Thank you God - or I should say Rep. Gatto and Gov. Brown - you know, those small business killers, democrats.
written by Charlie Fields, April 14, 2012
This is an important step in the right direction Keep up the good work!
written by Mark Stambler, April 04, 2012
Hi -- The California Homemade Food Act, AB1616, is now scheduled to be heard before the Assembly Health Committee on April 17 rather than April 10.

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Santa Cruz Gives

A look at the organizations we’re asking you to support in our new holiday giving campaign


Gratitude—For Each New Morning With its Light

The full moon of Wednesday brings light to Thanksgiving (Thursday) under the Sagittarius Sun and Mercury. Mercury in Sag offers humanity the message (Mercury) of thankfulness and joy (Jupiter). No other sign represents food, music and joy better than Sagittarius (only Pisces, when not in despair). Beginning on Thanksgiving, we can list what we’re grateful for. Then we can continue the list, creating a daily Gratitude Journal. What we are grateful for always increases in our lives. On Thanksgiving Saturn/Neptune square (challenging) is in full effect. This can manifest as traditions not being honored, disappearing, falling away. It can also create a sense of sadness, confusion, of things not working out as planned. It’s best to be as simple as possible. And to focus on gratitude instead. Gratitude is a service to others. It is scientifically and occultly a releasing agent. Releasing us from the past, allowing our future—the new culture and civilization, the new Aquarian laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarius, the Age of Friendship and Equality—to come forth. Gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution for humanity and the world’s problems.” The hierarchy lays great emphasis upon expressing gratitude. Gratitude illuminates all that is in darkness. Let us be grateful during this season together. Being, for others, the light that illuminates the darkness. A Poem by R.W. Emerson: We are grateful … “For each new morning with its light/For rest and shelter of the night/For health and food/For love and friends/For everything thy goodness sends.” (poem by R.W. Emerson). I am grateful for my family of readers.


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Pluck of the Irish

Mid-century immigrant tale engagingly told in ‘Brooklyn’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Second Street Café

Pies and tarts for all tastes—from traditional to adventurous


How are you preparing for El Niño?

Getting ready to buy some rain gear. Cory Pickering, Santa Cruz, Teaching Assistant


Fortino Winery

Cabernet and superb fruit wine from Fortino Winery


Tap Dance

West End Tap & Kitchen’s impressive menu to expand to Eastside location