Thursday, October 17, 2013

The New CFO is in the Kitchen

Pretty Kitchen by Spurwink Country Kitchens
CFO.

Sounds impressive doesn't it?

Well I am now a CFO but it does not have a thing to do with corporate finance! The new CFO, the one in the kitchen, has a registered Cottage Food Operation in their home.

What is a Cottage Food Operation? It is a business that makes food in a home kitchen and is able to sell to the public and do it legally.

Almost all states in the U.S. now have a Cottage Food Operation law on the books. Basically the law states that you cannot stop people from making food in their own homes and selling to their neighbors and friends. The laws are carefully constructed to maintain a level of food safety and CFOs must register their business, as well as pass food-handlers classes. There are many websites with the basics of the laws in your state so you can easily find the information you need to become a Cottage Food Operator.

Sounds easy, let's cook up a quick, profitable business right at the kitchen table.

But is it really that simple?

This is a new concept and as with any new ideas, people are resistant at first. Many people I encounter during our weekend swap-meets are very skeptical about foods from a home kitchen. They wonder if you wash your hands regularly, how clean is your kitchen, what do you put in the food, is it organic, laced with marijuana, what kind of person are you? We all have been pushed into fear of germs and food-borne illnesses for decades now. Many of us cringe at the site of street vendor or a catering truck. Well, catering trucks (also known as roach coaches back in the day) have busted through the fear and have renamed themselves as gourmet food trucks. I have a feeling that Cottage Food Operations will be the same way. It will just take time for the public to trust their neighbors again. I notice folks relax a little when I tell them I am a CFO and explain about kitchen registration. Once they get a taste, they become customers!


Besides the public, you have to deal with the health department and maybe the county recorders office. Be aware that the staff may not know what you are talking about (it's new for them too). The websites for these agencies are often not up-to-date and you may have to do some digging to find the forms and fees needed to register your CFO. I had to make a couple of calls to get everything I needed here in California but was able to to take care of my registration by taking an online health class and mailing in my registration forms, a copy of my health permit and the registration fee of $134. The registration is easy, there is a self-questionnaire which you sign off on. There is NO kitchen inspection unless the agency receives a complain.

Did I mention the labels? You do have to label everything and there are quite a few specific things that have to be on the label. The labels must be on everything you sell. Check your local requirements.

Lastly, there is debate over whose laws prevail, the state's, the counties or local government when it comes to selling food. I wouldn't let this stop me from starting a Cottage Food Business. As long as you register your kitchen you can deal with any problems as they come up.

Have you started a Cottage Food Business? Please share your experiences with us.

If you have started your CFO and need an online ordering system (even if it's regional and delivery only) you can list your business and your products with us at HandmadeCatalog.com.

Have a sweet and crafty day!
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