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Test Your Cottage Food Product Ideas and Business at a Farmers Market

Cinnamon and sugar hot donuts

Finally, the freedom to earn from our home kitchens. As we wrote about in our last blog, home cooks can now sell to their neighbors and community certain "non-hazardous" food products made in their home kitchen, often with very few regulations or governmental entanglements. Cottage food laws in all but a few states now allow homeowners to sell to the public either low moisture foods, like breads and cookies, and/or high acid food products, like jams, jellies and pickles.

We delve into the details on how to get started in our new book, HOMEMADE FOR SALE, the first authoritative guide to launching a food business from your home kitchen. And we're always on the lookout for food entrepreneurs who are making it happen in their community.

On a recent trip to Hollywood, Florida, we couldn't help trying out Bags & Buckets: Hot Mini Donuts, owned by Stacee and Brian Munroe, a husband-and-wife team who have embraced Florida's amazing cottage food law by turning out hot donuts sold at the Yellow Green Farmers Market. Within a month of deciding to move forward, they were selling to happy customers.

Stacee Munroe co-owner of Bags & Buckets Hot Mini Donuts

Easy Start-up for Home Kitchen Food Businesses

"When we visited the market, we noticed no one was selling donuts," said Stacee Munroe as she packed up a bag of her warm, cinnamon and sugar coated treats for us. "Within a month, we had our business set up and operating." She also sells a selection of dips on the side, plus a donut bread pudding.

"We were not required to be inspected before starting," explains Brian, who makes the piping hot treats in a tent outside. Nor did they have to pay any government license fee for their cottage food operation. "We just needed to make sure we are compliant mainly around safety, like the fire extinguisher I keep right beside me at all times by the donut machine."

Every cottage food law in the country allow operators to sell at farmers' markets. And Hollywood's Yellow Green Farmers Market is ideal. It's only open on the weekend, provides affordable stalls or spaces that can be rented in the large, airy warehouse, and the space is enclosed, so there's no need to worry about a rogue thunderstorm dampening your customers' enthusiasm. Besides fresh produce, there are numerous artisanal products and craft items available in over 300 booths, so the market draws a wide and diverse crowd.

Test out your Products and Business at a Farmers' Market

Farmers' markets are a perfect way to figure out whether what you love to make is worth selling. If people are clamoring for your products, that’s an excellent sign. Farmers' markets also allow you to try new product combinations, adjust your price points and grow your customer base that might lead to lucrative special orders (if your state's cottage food law permits them).

"Stacee has added a holiday treat of four donuts on a stick with a vanilla topping on them and green and red sprinkles," explains Brian. "They are selling really well at $1."

"For anyone one just starting out and launching a food business from your kitchen, know your rules and regulations," advises Brian. "Know what you can and can not make under your regulations. Even in Florida under the cottage law, there are a lot of food items that we could not sell due to their milk or egg contents.  Know your rules first and make sure you are clear to sell your product. Second, make sure you have a product that people want and one that does not cost you a ton of money to make while you are starting up and developing your following."Brian Munroe, co-owner of Bags & Buckets Hot Mini Donuts

"Learn to be smart with your extras or leftovers," continues Brian, on becoming a viable business. "Our leftover donuts get refrigerated and on the following Friday night, Stacee prepares donut bread pudding using donuts instead of bread.  On Saturday and Sunday morning, she bakes those up fresh before we head to the market. Last week's leftovers turn into this week's profit with a few extra ingredients.  Last weekend Stacee sold out of three pans each day on Saturday and Sunday.  Keep an eye on your leftovers and your costs."

For more about how to start a food business from your home kitchen, pick up a copy of the September/October 2015 issue of GRIT Magazine that contains a more detailed article about doing so. Or you can catch one of our talks at an upcoming MOTHER EARTH NEWS Fair in 2016. We'll be both speaking at the Fairs in Asheville, North Carolina, West Bend, Wisconsin, Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, and Kansas.

If you have a home-based food business you'd like for us to feature, please let us know on our Facebook page.

John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, have co-authored Rural Renaissance, Homemade for Sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and Farmstead Chef along with operating Inn Serendipity B&B and Farm, completely powered by the wind and sun. Both are regular speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer and photographer, Ivanko contributes to Mother Earth News, most recently, 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, millions of ladybugs and a 10 kW Bergey wind turbine.

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