New wage cap for cottage food producers allows Minnesotans to “earn a living wage”

Louden – an Anoka stay-at-home mom of five – doesn’t just cook for her family.

Since 2015, she has been an artisanal food producer. Louden calls his home business “Ginny’s Bites”.

“It was more like a hobby income,” she said. “You can sell up to $ 18,000 and you have to take all of your expenses on top of that, so to support the family it wasn’t a lot.”

After registering with the state and taking a food safety course, Louden is allowed to sell certain items outside of her home, including baked goods, jams, jellies, and canned vegetables and fruits. – foods with a shelf life.

“I can bake you apple pie, I can bake you cherry pie, but I can’t bake you pumpkin pie or cheesecake,” Louden explained. “It’s more about safety, you know, refrigerated items versus non-refrigerated items. “

In August, traditional food producers received a big boost from the state.

Minnesota Department of Agriculture rules now allow an annual gross salary cap of $ 78,000, up from a cap of $ 18,000 approved in 2015 for producers.

Shelley Erickson, president of the Minnesota Registered Cottage Food Producers Association, says the new cap is a big deal for thousands of entrepreneurs.

“It allows people to make a living now, which is very important for people who have to stay at home,” she said. “There are people who love to cook but can’t afford a brick and mortar store… and that way they can still make their dream come true and do it from home.

The Ministry of Agriculture says this cottage industry has grown rapidly since regulations began in 2015.

The agency says that in that first year, there were only 464 family farmers registered in Minnesota. In 2019, they were 3,969. Since the start of the pandemic, this number has increased to 5,804.

“Here in Minnesota, when grocery stores ran out of bread and other very important staples, people in small communities turned to their food producers at the cottage and they could bake them bread and whatever they wanted. otherwise, ”Erickson said.

Louden says she has limited sales during the pandemic.

“I decided to take very few orders during my quarantine, and it was a personal choice I made to keep my children safe,” she said. “I told myself that the more I did the shopping the more people came and went at my front door increased our visibility as a family.”

Louden says that with the opening of farmers’ markets and other places, she is more easily able to display and sell her products.

She says that currently she earns around $ 4,000 a year in sales and sells hundreds of items.

“But now the law has changed and I’m able to get back there – it’s really growing,” Louden said.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Since 2014, Louden – with the help of friends – has been running a non-profit organization she calls Food With Love, which cooks meals for families in the area in need.

“We are doing a huge [batch], like seven dinners, one breakfast, one side and one dessert, ”she said. “We are up to three or four families right now, families in medical crisis.”

Louden encourages anyone interested in artisanal food production to visit the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website. A list of the rules that producers must follow is available here.

“So it’s really important for people who are already home food producers or looking to be home food producers to check out the MDA website and make sure they are all following. the guidelines they set for us, ”she said.

Among the guidelines:

  • Each product must be labeled with the name and registration number or name and address of any producer.
  • The label should include the date the item was prepared and a list of ingredients, including allergens.
  • Address and product labels should include a statement that the product is homemade and not subject to state inspection.
  • Cabin food producers can also make cat and dog treats, but in addition to the above rules, the treats must be baked or dehydrated, and they must be safe for humans and pets.

For her part, Louden says these trying times have set the stage for people who want something homemade.

“Really over the past two and a half to two years, so much has come into perspective about what’s important and what isn’t, and what the little things mean to you,” Louden said. “I was able to start digging into what I love to do. What does Ginny want to do? You want to cook!”

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