New cottage food law helping home-based businesses expand

LINCOLN, Neb. Home-based food businesses in Nebraska have a new way to sell their product thanks to a relatively new state law.

It allows these business owners to reach customers year round and Lancaster County is working to update its ordinances on the issue.

The legislation commonly refers to these businesses as Cottage Food Operation but they sell everything from baked goods to produce.

This is the first winter these businesses have been able to sell at more than farmers’ markets and craft fairs.

Michelle Pulford has been baking biscotti to sell around Lincoln for the past 10 years but she was usually limited to selling her items at farmers’ markets.

“It’s a six month lull in between the markets,” said Pulford. “It’s a pretty long vacation to take to not be baking.”

With the changes she can now invite customers new and old into her home to sell directly to them instead of having to go somewhere else.

“The law has really allowed us as home bakers to expand our business,” said Pulford. “Taking that next step to a commercial kitchen is a huge hurdle for a lot of people so hopefully this expansion for our business will help us get to that a little quicker.”

The change means that cottage food operations will be subject to permitting, fees and inspections by the health board just like brick and mortar businesses.

Pulford along with Sherri Erickson who sells specialty Swedish breads, have registered with the state to expand their business to include that at-home aspect.

“It feels really good that Lincoln is supporting us like this,” said Erickson. “That they see that we have a place in the market and it was really simple to fill out that form online.”

Both women’s products are in high demand for the holidays and they say the change means an opportunity to expand in their off season.

“Just makes it easier to get the word out that I have some time to bake,” said Erickson. “If anybody wants some I can do that in a legal way.”