Washington's Cottage Food Act provides a launchpath for small
by Carolyn Goodwin
Myra Zocher is the first Cottage Food Operator to be licensed in Kitsap County
In July of this year, a woman living near Olympia, Washington sold a cake baked in her home kitchen.
So what's the big deal, you ask? Until just a few months ago that baker would have been breaking the law. So this seemingly unexciting event marked a significant change in food law in Washington State. The Cottage Food Act, which passed last year, allows people to make low risk foods in their own kitchens and sell them. The first Cottage Food Operation licensed under the new law was permitted on July 3, 2012.
On Bainbridge Island, the first business to be licensed under the new law was A Woman Sconed (see related article above). Owner Myra Zocher said that the process of gaining approval for her new business went quite smoothly. "The people from the Department of Agriculture were helpful, informative, and they genuinely seemed to care about my business," she continued. "The gal who came out to inspect my kitchen was fabulous."
That gal would be Kim Hoffman, the inspector for Kitsap, Clallam and Jefferson Counties. She receives each application after it has received initial State approval in terms of items and recipes. It is Hoffman's job to make sure that the kitchen itself meets the requirements of the law.
"I had to submit a sketch of my kitchen," Zocher explained, "You need to have a designated storage area for the ingredients, a designated shelf in your refrigerator. You must have appropriate non-porous surfaces to work on, and be able to show them your packaging procedures."
Even though she's thrilled to be able to sell her home-baked goods, Zocher does have some quibbles with the new law. "It limits your creativity, because you have to get all of your recipes approved in advance," she explained. Zocher submitted 44 different recipes for approval, and received the OK
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Step-by-step guide to getting started as a Cottage Food Operator
1. Download the complete Cottage Food Operation Application Packet http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/CottageFoodOperation for a complete list of the requirements and all of the necessary forms.
2. Review the Frequently Asked Questions section on the Department of Ag's site: http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/CottageFoodOperation/FrequentlyAsked.aspx
3. Visit the Cottage Food Facebook page to see the tips and discussions happening there:
4. Begin preparing your kitchen, your recipes, and your labeling and packaging.
5. Complete the application, and submit it to the Department of Agriculture. They will review it and come back to you with any concerns or questions. Once your application is approved, you will be put on the schedule for a kitchen inspection.
6. Once your kitchen has been approved, you're in business! You can begin processing your approved product, and selling it directly to consumers over the internet or at sales venues like Farmers' Markets.
7. Questions? Contact Lucy Severs, Program Manager at the Department of Agriculture. 360-902-1876.