Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Feb 06th
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

 

On the Run

Is there hope for California’s salmon?

 

Chinese New Year of the Red Fire Monkey

Monday, Feb. 8, is Aquarius new moon (19 degrees) and Chinese New Year of the Red Fire Monkey (an imaginative, intelligent and vigilant creature). Monkey is bright, quick, lively, quite naughty, clever, inquiring, sensible, and reliable. Monkey loves to help others. Often they are teachers, writers and linguists. They are very talented, like renaissance people. Leonardo Da Vinci was born in the year of Monkey. Monkey contains metal (relation to gold) and water (wisdom, danger). 2016 will be a year of finances. For a return on one’s money, invest in monkey’s ideas. Metal is related to wind (change). Therefore events in 2016 will change very quickly. We must ponder with care before making financial, business and relationship changes. Fortune’s path may not be smooth in 2016. Finances and business as usual will be challenged. Although we develop practical goals, the outcomes are different than hoped for. We must be cautious with investments and business partnership. It is most important to cultivate a balanced and harmonious daily life, seeking ways to release tension, pressure and stress to improve health and calmness. Monkey is lively, flexible, quick-witted, and versatile. Their gentle, honest, enchanting yet resourceful nature results often in everlasting love. Monkeys are freedom loving. Without freedom, Monkey becomes dull, sad and very unhappy. During the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC), the Chinese official title of Marquis (noble person) was pronounced ‘Hou,’ the same as the pronunciation of ‘monkey’ in Chinese. Monkey was thereby bestowed with auspicious (favorable, fortunate) meaning. Monkey years are: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016.  

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of February 5

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Wine and Chocolate

West Cliff Wines gets its game on, plus a brand new chocolate cafe on Center Street

 

How would you stop people from littering?

Teach them from the time that they’re small that it’s not an appropriate behavior. Juliet Jones, Santa Cruz, Claims Adjuster

 

Dancing Creek Winery

New Zinfandel Port is a ruby beauty

 

Venus Spirits

Changing law could mean new opportunity for local spirits