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COTTAGE INDUSTRY: Making money the old-fashioned way is back

Remember when food came from the pantry and your sister’s kitchen? And a family business was selling homemade candy, pastries and popcorn?

Those possibilities have returned to Nevadans with the new Cottage Food Law SB206 effective July 1.

It has taken a few weeks to get the materials and literature together for the public, licensing and definitions in place and people informed, according to Debby Woodland, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) Master Gardener Coordinator.

The new law, as an extension to Nevada Revised Statues Chapter 446, allows a person who manufactures or prepares food items in a non-food establishment to sell directly to an end consumer. Gross sales from a cottage food operation can be up to $35,000. “This is exciting news for many people,” Woodland said.

Food can now be prepared in the home, for direct sale to an end customer, however, it cannot be prepared in a kitchen or area where meals are prepared. There must be a separate area.

Those food products and preparations of them are not inspected by a government entity as are restaurants.

Foods to be sold must be limited to: nuts and nut mixes, candies, jams, jellies and preserves; vinegar and flavored vinegar;

Dry herbs and seasoning mixes, dried fruits, cereals, trail mixes and granola.

Baked goods must not be potentially hazardous foods and cannot contain cream, uncooked egg, custard, meringue or cream cheese frosting. There can be no garnishes, fillings or frostings, no low sugar content and products may not require time or temperature controls for food safety.

Master Gardener Les Carrey said he won’t be selling his naturally dehydrated herbs right now, but is thinking about it. “Once I know more and see how others are getting along, I might consider taking advantage (of the Cottage bill).”

The foods that can be sold seem limited to some, but the advantage of Cottage Food Operations is not being subjected to government food safety inspections.

Products can be prepared at home, in the kitchen of a fraternal or social clubhouse, a school or religious, charitable or other non-profit organization. Fundraising and simply making a living become easier.

The new law is called a “commerce-booster” by some. One local person expressed angst at not being able to access the information to start her business for weeks after the bill was signed. Without income, but someone able to make jams and preserves, she is obtaining the certifications required and is now making products to sell in the Nye County area.

Others talk about the return of canning kitchens, which were popular after World War II, and still continue in some rural areas. Leather fruit rolls, popular with pre-teens, made a comeback in the 80’s from pioneer times. They are easy to make and perceived as a possible fundraiser for 4-H and other organizations.

With the passing of the new bill, Nevada became the 12th state to embrace the cottage food industry.

What has prompted this shift away from earlier legislation either limiting or ending home cooking/selling enterprises? It is likely in part the nature of the economy and according to Woodland, “It’s also a desire to community-build and make life both simpler and less expensive — especially in rural areas.

“There is more,” she said. “Organizations like ours (Southern Nye County Extension Service) are teaching people how to plant, garden, harvest, preserve and store foods. It saves money, is highly productive beginning to end, and puts food on the table — not from corporate farms — but from our backyards and kitchens.”

National Public Radio reported on July 31 that cottage industries are indeed making a return. What people need to know about the Nevada bill is that life in cottage business is more self-regulated, therefore people taking advantage of the new law need to be aware of the law, its restrictions and guidelines before proceeding to plan and open a business.

Woodland reports there are new regulations for jam-making in order to be safe from bacteria. The extension service offers classes on food handling safety. Producers need to be well-informed before personally selling or allow someone else to sell on their property or under their license.

“Read the new guidelines; be aware; know your farmer/producer,” says the extension service to their Master Gardeners.

A great deal is left up to each individual to self-regulate under the new bill. It is vital to realize that if a cottage seller doesn’t follow Nevada health regulations explicitly, and someone becomes ill or harmed by their product there are repercussions. Equally true is if an existing business allows a cottage operation to sell from its location the owner must require the cottage vendor is both certified and following regulations.

Those well versed in cottage operations believe this will be a boon for local economies. Farmers markets could become booming enterprises again and individuals long without work could have steady income doing what they enjoy. Cottage food products can be sold: directly to the customer for their consumption (and not for resale) on the cottage food operator’s private property, site of manufacture or at a farmer’s market, swap meet, flea market, church bazaar, garage sale or craft fair, according to the new law.

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