Thursday, February 7, 2013

Celebrating One Month of Homemade-Food Businesses in California - Jennifer Huerta

This week, we're celebrating one-month of homemade foods by profiling cottage-food producers from throughout California.  While many people think of trendy neighborhoods like San Francisco's Mission or Los Angeles' Silver Lake as the only places where cottage food industries thrive, as I have looked around the state I have found homemade food business almost everywhere. 

Today I'm profiling a cottage food entrepreneur from California's great breadbasket, the central valley city of Visalia, and home-jelly artisan Jennifer Huerta.  The article below is an excerpt from a larger article on Ms. Huerta and AB 1616 that appeared in the Visalia Times-Delta.  I wish her all the best as she continues producing delicious home-made jams and jellies.

Tulare County 'cottage' food businesses appreciate new state law

After months without a job and dried up unemployment benefits, Jennifer Huerta was looking forward to the start of the new year, and with it, the start of a new law for “cottage” food businesses.

Huerta, a Visalia mother of four, said she heard about the California Homemade Food Act last year, before Gov. Jerry Brown in September signed it into law...

...Huerta can’t afford to lease a kitchen or to pay for somebody to watch her three youngest children while she’s out making jellies, so the new law will allow her to earn some income by starting a home-based — or “cottage” — business, Jams by Jen.

“I can be home with my children, making a living,” said Huerta, who lost her job as a finance officer after her family’s staffing business shut down in September 2011 because of the poor economy. Huerta couldn’t find another job and while she’s been out of work she learned how to cook jams and jellies, inspiring her idea to start a home-based business.

“I’m just really excited to go out into the community to sell something different and homemade,” said Huerta, who has 60 jars of jelly neatly stacked on shelves in her home office. She can’t sell them yet.

She hopes that will change after Tuesday, when the Tulare County Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the registration and permit fees that would allow Huerta and others to start their cottage food businesses here.

Before the new law — California Assembly Bill 1616 — took effect Jan. 1, food prepared in private homes couldn’t be offered for sale or used in food businesses, including restaurants. The new law “requires a cottage food operation to meet specified requirements relating to training, sanitation, preparation and permissible types of sales,” according to the report...

...“Providing people with the opportunity to make and sell these foods directly to their neighbors at the local farmer’s market or through the specialty shop up around the corner is a matter of access to opportunity,” stated California Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, who wrote the bill, in a news report after California’s governor signed it into law in September.

It goes on to say the bill should promote neighborhood commerce and help “micro-entrepreneurs” start businesses.

“Now, cottage food producers will be permitted to produce and sell every-day foods such as breads, tortillas, dry roasted nuts and legumes, cookies, granola, churros, jams, jellies and other fruit preserves to their communities,” Gatto’s statement continues...

...The state isn’t paying for the counties to register and oversee cottage food businesses, so each can set its own fees based on the projected costs. In Tulare County’s case, the supervisors will consider on Tuesday whether to set the Class A registration fee at $175 a year and the Class B fee at $291 a year.

“Wow, that’s high,” said Huerta, adding that she has been in touch through Facebook with other people looking to start cottage food businesses in other parts of the state, and they have heard of Class A registration fees being as low $62...

...Despite the cost, Huerta said she plans to register as a Class A cottage business, because she plans to sell her jams and jellies on her own and get customers by word of mouth...

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You can read this entire article and more at the Visalia Times-Delta HERE

Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the California State Assembly.  He represents the cities of Burbank, Glendale, La Canada-Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Atwater Village, and portions of the Hollywood Hills and East Hollywood.

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