Want to sell homemade foods? Here’s what you need to know

Have a well-loved, homemade recipe or a unique take on a dessert or a dish that highlights a part of your cultural heritage that you would like to share and sell to the public? Consider taking an online class through the Michigan State University Extension Program to learn more about the state’s Cottage Food Laws.

Lisa Treiber is the Food Safety Extension Educator at MSU.Starting on Feb. 16, MSU Extension will offer an online Cottage Food Law Food Safety Training program to teach people more about what those laws entail and additional information on how to prepare food and start a food business in Michigan.

Because a cottage food operation has to comply with many provisions, the class is a great way to know the ins and outs of what a person needs to do before taking the leap.

Lisa Treiber, MSU Food Safety Extension Educator, says the virtual class is beneficial on many levels. 

“It’s a two-hour class, and it’s a great place to see if it’s something a person is interested in and to ask questions,” says Treiber, adding that virtual classes are typically well-attended. 

The past two years have generated a lot of interest from people who want to sell products like baked goods, cookies, muffins, cakes and pies.According to Treiber, operating a business under the Cottage Food Law is not for everyone. Some foods do not fit under the exemptions and some businesses aren’t eligible if they aim to earn more than $25,000 annually. However, the Cottage Food Law is an opportunity for many who have been thinking about starting a food business but have been reluctant to spend the money needed to establish or rent commercial kitchen space.

Michigan’s Cottage Food Laws differ from other states. It’s beneficial to understand the provisions and requirements before getting into selling homemade foods.

Treiber explains that selling food directly to consumers under the food law provides an opportunity for new, small-scale food processors to see if operating a food business is the avenue they’d like to take. She has seen growth in the past two years with people wanting to expand their cooking or baking hobbies into a business.

“It’s not that people are leaving their jobs to do this [sell products]; it’s more of it being a supplemental income,” says Treiber. “A chance to be unique, to be an entrepreneur.”

With spring right around the corner, the Midland Area Farmers Market will once again open up to the community. Applications are now available for potential market vendors. Go to mbami.org, for more information.

The Midland Area Farmers Market opens on May 7 for the 2022 season.The past two years have generated a lot of interest from people who want to sell products like baked goods, cookies, muffins, cakes and pies. A well-balanced array of products is one of market organizers’ key aims, says the Farmers Market Manager, Emily Lyons.

“We are very careful with the amount of homemade goods we have offered at the market,” says Lyons. “We want to make sure we are meeting the needs of our community, that we are successful and that we are well-balanced. We have diversity in our shoppers, and we’d like our offerings to reflect that. If there’s something specific to an ethnic offering or representative of a culture, that would be great.”

The Midland Area Farmers Market will be located at Dow Diamond’s East parking lot for the 2022 season. The market operates on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m.-1 p.m. early May until mid-November. The 2022 season opens Saturday, May 7.

What are the Cottage Food Laws?

According to Michigan.gov and MDARD, the Michigan Cottage Food Law was signed into effect in 2010. This allows a person or persons to prepare non-potentially hazardous food items — such as baked goods, jams, jellies, candy, snack foods, cereal, granola, dry mixes, vinegar, or dried herbs — in their home kitchen, for sale directly to a consumer at farmers markets, farm markets, roadside stands or other direct markets. The products can’t be sold to retail stores, restaurants, over the Internet, by mail order or to wholesalers.

The Cottage Food Law is an opportunity for many who have been thinking about starting a food business.Michigan’s Cottage Food Law exempts “a cottage food operation” from the licensing and inspection provisions of the Michigan Food Law. A cottage food operation still has to comply with labeling, adulteration and other provisions found in the Law as well as other applicable state or federal laws or local ordinances.

The Safety Training Program is funded by a Food Safety Education Fund grant from the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. It covers safe food production, packaging, labeling, storing and transportation. 

To complete the online training through MSU extension, visit msue.msu.edu or go to michigan.gov and search Cottage Food Laws.

Read more articles by Erika M. Hirschman.

A veteran freelance writer and former reporter with The Midland Daily News, Erika has covered a wide array of topics in and around Midland and Saginaw counties. She’s an award winning reporter, and holds a journalism degree from the University of Detroit-Mercy/Marygrove College. When Erika is not writing, she enjoys dancing in her kitchen with her two dogs and family. She loves to read, cook, travel and go to concerts. She’s lived in Saginaw County for 26 years.