New law puts lid on homemade goodies

Published: Jul. 6, 2011 at 10:04 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 7, 2011 at 4:56 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Customers shopping at farmer's markets are accustomed to finding homemade jams, jellies, and breads, right next to produce. Starting in September, that may become a thing of the past.

Carol Dormady brings out her artisan bread. As the name implies it's a craft. Carol learned breadmaking from her mother. Someday she'll teach her daughter, Helen. Right now, homemade bread is gladly given to her daughter as a healthy snack.

What Dormady doesn't give away, she sells. The farmer's market is her favorite venue. However, after September 1, all homemade goodies, including fresh jams and jellies, will not be allowed at farmers markets.

"At the last minute there was little change to the bill and they took out the word 'farmer's market,' so you could no longer sell from a farmer's market," Dormady said.

In addition, home bakers and canners won't be able to resale to restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops or online. The only legal place to share a homemade product is from the home.

Homemade items can still be found at the Nacogdoches Farmer's Market. "All of our vendors follow all applicable local and state health laws for several years," said Sarah O'Brien, Main Street director. "All of our vendors are required to be licensed or prepare their goods in a licensed kitchen. We even go on site and do inspections as needed," said O'Brien.

The law's original wording would have allowed the cottage vendors to prepare the foods in their own kitchens without the need to rent or borrow commercial kitchens. Cottage food blogs refer to instances where the home cook rents a commercial kitchen, but chooses not to use it because it was so dirty.

"If the notion is people are going to get sick, that's the risk you take anywhere," said Brenda Morgan, who sells homemade canned goods. "If you go out to eat in a restaurant, you can also get sick, but they don't close the restaurant down."

Dormady says the law does allow door-to-door deliveries, something she does each week.

And there are loop holes. Call it a bake sale, give a portion of the proceeds to charity and you're legal.

Diann Avriett stays legal by maintaining a commercial kitchen license. Even so, she feels bad for her fellow market vendors.

"Yes, most of these small farms are out in remote areas that people from the urban areas are not going to drive to, so they're not going to have that many sales anyway," Avriett said.

Which hurts the farmer and the customers who love homemade goodness.

Under the new law, any cottage food must be labeled that it wasn't prepared in a licensed kitchen.

Health departments will not be allowed to inspect home kitchens, but inspectors will maintain a record of complaints on any cottage.

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