Emmy Stallings of Oakdale loves that she’s able to work from home and set her own schedule.
The mother of three young children is one of the first 37 home bakers to receive a license under Connecticut’s new Cottage Food Law, which went into effect Oct. 1.
For a $50 annual licensing fee, Stallings and others are allowed to sell what they cook in their home kitchens directly to consumers at events such as farmers markets or local fairs and festivals.
Stallings, who owns The Cookie Nook, said that aside from spreading the joy of decorated cookies, her kids are also proud to say their mom is “The Cookie Nook.”
The driving force behind Connecticut’s Cottage Food law was outgoing state Rep. Melissa Ziobron, R-East Haddam, who saw it as a way for residents like Stallings to generate additional income doing something they love.
It wasn’t easy. Connecticut struggled for years to create a cottage food law.
After an unsuccessful attempt in 2013, it looked as if legislation in 2015 provided a path forward, but the rules were never finalized. Then earlier this year those Cottage Food industry rules became part of an omnibus consumer protection bill. The measure was passed unanimously by the Senate and 142-8 by the House.
“With this bill and the legislation we passed three years ago, we now have law on the books that sensibly lowers the barrier for home producers, in order that they may bring their products to market,” Ziobron said when the bill was signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in June.
The process by which the law passed means there was little, if any, debate about the legislation. It also means there will now need to be a push to educate the public about the industry.
There are several rules that cottage food producers must follow.
Cottage food products must be pre-packaged and labeled with the baker’s name and physical address. They also must include the name of the product, and the ingredients in descending order by weight along with any allergen information. Somewhere on the package it must say, “Made in a Cottage Food Operation that is not Subject to Routine Government Food Safety Inspection.”
There are a number of items that cottage food licensees are not allowed to produce because they are considered dangerous. Prohibited products include low-acid canned foods, garlic in oil, juices made from fresh fruit or vegetables, dehydrated meat, fruit butters, or beverages.
Also, pets, infants, or children under age 12 are prohibited from being in the kitchen during the preparation, packaging, or handling of any cottage food products.
The state Department of Consumer Protection is also authorized to inspect a home kitchen to ensure compliance.
The two-page application asks cottage food producers to specify what types of products will be produced and their production method to ensure safety.
Meredith Newman of Meredith Lee Events was the 36th resident to get her Connecticut Cottage Food license.
She said baking has always been her passion and the new law made it easy for her to apply.
Newman said it’s too expensive to rent space in a commercial kitchen and she was never one for being a law breaker, so she was excited to be stepping “out of the cookie shadows.”
Under the new law, a cottage food operator must attend a food safety training program that includes training in food processing and packaging before obtaining a license.
Newman, who is now able to sell everything from cakes to tarts and experiments with vegan and gluten-free options, said she paid $15 to take a course online.
She said she’s on public water in Hartford so the approval process for the license took less than a month. To obtain a license in a location with well water, the applicant must include a water analysis with their application.
Aside from the 37 licenses that have been granted thus far, the Department of Consumer Protection says another 15 applications are pending.
The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated that 100 licenses will be issued in the first year and up to 500 licenses once the program is in full operation.
Under Connecticut’s law, cottage food producers are limited to gross sales of no more than $25,000 a year.