Business

Can you sell goodies from your cottage kitchen?

Mom uses social media to market custom cakes

Working out of her home kitchen, Taylor Durand has created a huge following on Facebook and Instagram where she markets her baking skills at "Treats by Tay."
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Working out of her home kitchen, Taylor Durand has created a huge following on Facebook and Instagram where she markets her baking skills at "Treats by Tay."

For Christmas this year you’ve dug up your grandma’s vintage recipe for Linzer cookies, those delightful jam-filled sandwich confections dusted with clouds of powered sugar. You bake a batch and gift them to your child’s teacher.

Afterwards, the teacher contacts you, raving rapturously about your Linzers. She is taking orders on your behalf from her mother, her neighbors, her pet sitter and random members of her extended family who have tasted the cookies and are ready to lay down big bucks for more. This seems to be a great way to make some extra money, you think. But is it legal?

As of September, 2012, it is legal in Georgia to sell home baked goods or other cottage foods if you play by the rules. Each state has unique cottage food industry regulations with contentious state bans lifted in all but New Jersey. Until their laws change, New Jersey baking entrepreneurs can face heavy fines and even risk incarceration for baking and selling goodies from home. In other states, selling baked goods is allowed, but where you sell them and/or the amount of money you make annually may be capped, so as not to turn your kitchen into a full-fledged commercial food factory under the noses of state regulators. This is not the case in Georgia.

Georgia bakers not only have the leeway to bake and realize unlimited sales of their goods in many places including online, the state’s Department of Agriculture provides plenty of information via YouTube videos and online resources like webinars to help you set up a profitable Linzer cookie biz or something similar.

Established in 1874, Georgia’s Department of Agriculture is the oldest state department of agriculture in the nation. Visit its website www.agr.georgia.gov for comprehensive information on operating a cottage food industry.

For Georgians, here are the basics of baking and then selling:

Only non-hazardous baked goods are allowed; no meringues, cheesecakes or cream-filled cakes, donuts or other pastries.

Home bakers must take a food safety training course from one of three accredited entities.

An application and license costing about $100 is required.

Home bakers must comply with their city and county zoning or other business ordinances, so call downtown before you begin.

If you use well water, it must be tested for the bad stuff like coliform and nitrates.

If you use public utilities, your food operations must meet its requirements. If you use a septic system, the health department will need to give you the nod of approval.

You must bake with home-grade, not commercial-grade, kitchen equipment (stoves, refrigerators, etc.) unless you are planning to operate a larger, licensed establishment off premises, which is another matter with another set of rules altogether. The thought here is that home kitchens are not equipped to clean and sanitize commercial equipment.

Happy baking. Here’s to creating great holiday memories this year.

Paige Henson is a local writer and a new media consultant for businesses and non-profits. Her email address is paigechenson@gmail.com.

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