New State Rule Will Help Heat Up Homemade-Food Sales

By Daniel Axelrod The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Denise Larson, who's been making cookies and baked goods at her home under the Aunt Nenee's brand since 2010 says the latest rule changes will "give people even more opportunities to share their creativity, and for their businesses to grow."

The Times Herald-Record, Middletown, N.Y.

Maya's Jams co-founder Maya MacLaughlin found her calling, plucking fruit from her family orchard and cooking concoctions in her Swan Lake kitchen.

On Monday, New York Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball expanded the list of foods that can be legally made in a home kitchen and sold without licenses, to encourage more dabbling cooks to open commercial food businesses like MacLaughlin's.

Among the new exempt foods are rolls, biscuits, bagels, caramels, crackers, doughnuts; pretzels; Rice Krispies treats; scones; toffees; and vegetable chips, including potato chips.

New York Department of Agriculture and Markets staff also announced that those exempt from licenses can sell their products online within New York.

Previously, they could only sell direct from home or at events like farmers' markets.

Home food processors, who are exempt from the Article 20-C food processing and Article 28 retail licenses, must still register with the department.

But Ball hopes to grow the ranks of the department's 4,200-plus registrants, and his goal is for some to turn into economically viable small businesses, his department's spokespeople said.

More New Yorkers are already increasingly registering for small-scale food production at home without sales and processing licenses.

The current 4,200 registrant tally is up 75 percent from 2,400 since 2014; and it's 14 percent higher from nearly 3,700 just since last year.

Now, the department's latest rule changes "give people even more opportunities to share their creativity, and for their businesses to grow," said Denise Larson, who's been making cookies and baked goods at her Hurleyville home under the Aunt Nenee's brand since 2010.

Those with license exemptions must still follow local health and sanitation rules, show their well water is potable and check with their homeowners' insurance policies. Plus, there are caps on their earnings and other restrictions.

But they face a less-steep burden to experiment and learn, said Maria Grimaldi, a board member of the New York Small Food Processors' Association.

"To get a license, you really have to be educated. There are fees, usually you have to lease a commercial kitchen, and you'd better have business and marketing plans or you're going to have issues," Grimaldi added.

It took MacLaughlin, 27, three years to learn the ropes and grow.

Since she began tinkering with jam and fruit-flavored syrup recipes in her family's Sullivan County kitchen in 2015, MacLaughlin, mom Irinel Stegaru-MacLaughlin and grandma Beatrice Stegaru have expanded and licensed their business.

Now, the company, which makes jams like pear-lemon, raspberry-Thai chili pepper, plum-cinnamon and strawberry-jalapeno, has grown into being part of the Hot Bread Kitchen's culinary incubator in Harlem, while selling products at Whole Foods, boutiques, festivals and online.

"It's cool that you can dip your toes into the life of an entrepreneur, to see if it's your jam," MacLaughlin said. Registering as an exempt home food processor "is a good stepping stone to move into a commercial cooking space or an incubator."

While resources like the Cornell Food Venture Center prep cooks for professionalization, those who don't go pro can still have fun learning cooking, via organizations like the Cornell Cooperative Extension's local branches, said Meghan Young, a consumer sciences educator at Cornell's Middletown offices.

"You're more likely to continue cooking traditions, and to keep enjoying them throughout your life, when you share them," Young said.

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