Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Apr 25th
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

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

We Can Rebuild You

A look back at how downtown Santa Cruz recovered from the 1989 earthquake

 

International Earth Day—Mother Earth Day

Every April 22, humanity celebrates International Mother Earth Day and Earth Day. As more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year, Earth Day has become the world’s largest civic observance. The massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the living being we call Earth is evidence of humanity’s love of the Mother. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming “the interdependence existing among human beings, other living species (the kingdoms—mineral, plant, animal and human) and the planet itself, the Earth which we all inhabit.” The Earth is our home. Celebrating Earth Day helps us define new emerging processes (economic, social, political) focused on the well-being of the kingdoms. Through these, humanity seeks to raise the quality of life, foster equality and begin to establish right relations with the Earth. We dedicate ourselves to bringing forth balance and a relationship of harmony with all of nature. Learn about planting a billion trees (the Canopy Project); participate in 1.5 billion acts of green. Disassociation (toward Earth) is no longer viable. We lose our connection to life itself. Participation is viable—an anchor, refuge and service for all of life on Earth. Visit earthday.org; harmonywithnatureun.org; and un.org/en/events/motherearthday for more information. From Farmers Almanac, “On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, companionship with nature! Go barefooted. Walk through woods, find wildflowers and green moss. Remain outside, no matter the weather!” Nature, Earth’s most balanced kingdom, heals us. The New Group of World Servers is preparing for the May 3 Wesak Buddha Taurus solar festival. We prepare through asking for and offering forgiveness. Forgiveness purifies and like nature, heals.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Mission Critical

How reading Lisa Jensen’s reviews taught me to love film
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Oral Fixations

Blown away by a Tuesday night dinner at Oswald

 

What would you like to see a TED talk about?

Hydrogen-gas cars that are coming this summer. Scott Oliver, Santa Cruz, Professor

 

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard of Gilroy is known for crafting fine wines—and one of my all-time favorites is its Chardonnay. But this time, its Viognier has my vote.

 

Munch

East Coast meets West Coast in new meat lover’s paradise