Selling Homemade Baked Goods Now Legal in Wisconsin

| 12/26/2017 1:51:00 PM

Plaintiff Lisa Kivirist in the Kitchen

Who would think a cookie could create such controversy and eventual sweet victory? After years of legal maneuvers and grassroots organizing, Wisconsin bakers can sell homemade baked goods thanks to a judge’s ruling in 2017.  New Jersey is now the only state still with a ban on the sale of homemade baked goods. 

Thanks to cottage food laws across our country, homesteaders can diversify and sell to their community certain “non-hazardous” food products made in their home kitchen, such as breads and cookies, and jams, jellies and pickles.  It’s community commerce at its finest, crafting something in your own kitchen and selling to your neighbors. 

While these state specific laws vary in what you can produce, how much you can earn and where you can sell, some states like Wisconsin and New Jersey unfortunately have been intensely fighting such entrepreneurial opportunities.  I’ve learned it takes homestead bakers like myself to fight unconstitutional laws.  Our success results in positive change that supports all of us small scale food entrepreneurs.   

I’m one of a trio of baking activists that recently, successfully, sued the State of Wisconsin on behalf of home bakers.  Alongside my farmer friends Kriss Marion and Dela Ends, we spent years working with the Wisconsin Farmers Union to expand our state’s cottage food laws to catch up with the rest of the country that fosters such entrepreneurial spirit and include baked goods via the Cookie Bill.  While this bill had broad-based support, passing in the Senate multiple times, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos refused to put the Bill on the Assembly floor for a vote, resulting in Wisconsin being one of the most unfriendly states in the nation for home-based food entrepreneurs, especially those who want to launch a baked enterprise from their home kitchen.

When the Legislative branch bogged down as it became clear Speaker Vos would never put the Cookie Bill on the agenda for a vote, we took our case to the Judicial branch, suing the state in partnership with the Institute for Justice.  Our point and Judge Jorgenson in Lafayette County agreed, was that Wisconsin’s ban on the sale of home baked goods is unconstitutional and reflects the illegal influence of big industry groups.  Apparently, these groups felt threatened by mom and pop competition.  While the Judge ruled in our favor back in May, 2017, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) had argued that the ruling was limited to just myself and Dela and Kriss.  Fortunately, Judge Jorgenson officially disagreed and clarified that his ruling applies to all home bakers in the state of Wisconsin.  Not, as DATCP claimed, just us three plaintiff bakers.

1/9/2018 7:58:10 AM

Good for you! That is a major feat. A huge Thanks from all of us who wish to sell from our homes!

1/6/2018 12:05:27 AM

Great! This means that West Virginia, where I now live, allows me to sell my home baked goods to restaurants and health food stores nearby. I wasn't sure if I could do that or not.

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