Cottage Food Operations

The following information comes from the University of Illinois Extension website From Garden Gates to Dinner Plates at

Farmers markets continue to grow and expand each year as a result of increasing consumer demand for fresh, local food.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the number of farmers markets in the United States has increased 184% from the year 2000 to 2013. In 2013 there were 8,144 farmers markets listed in USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory.

As the number of farmers markets has grown, so too has the ever increasing selection of foods sold at these venues. Fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t the only items present. Cookies, pastries, dried herbs, jams, and other foods have also become popular. In support of this surge in local agriculture and small business development, the Illinois Cottage Food Operation Law was enacted on January 1, 2012.

This new law is in support of energetic entrepreneurs who want to start a food business at the farmers market. The purpose of the law is to encourage small business growth by easing regulatory start-up costs. Cottage Food vendors will not face some of the usual financial impediments such as commercially certified kitchen rental by allowing the use of a home kitchen and direct sale of specific foods to the public at Illinois farmers markets. The Cottage Food Law is designed for small home-based business development.

The Illinois Law definition of a “Cottage Food Operation” is a business operated by a person at the farmers market who produces or packages non-potentially hazardous food in a kitchen of that person’s primary domestic residence for direct sale by the owner or family member. The food is stored in the residence where the food is made. No prior inspection or use of a certified kitchen is required.

In Illinois, a Cottage Food Operation (CFO) may only sell products at a farmers market. “Farmers’ Market” means a common facility or area where farmers gather to sell a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and other locally produced farm and food products directly to consumers.

Items sold by a cottage food operation are intended for end-use only. Gross receipts from the sale of food exempted under the cottage food law may not exceed $25,000 in a calendar year. Products can’t be resold to retail stores, restaurants, on the Internet, by mail order, to wholesalers, brokers, or other food distributors who resell food.

Cottage Food Operators  preparing and selling products as a cottage food operation must be registered with the county health department where the cottage food operation resides. A fee may be charged for registration.  The person preparing and selling products as a cottage food operation must also have a current Department of Public Health approved Food Service Sanitation Management Certificate.

For information on other reuqirements, visit the Univeristy of Illinois Extension website  From Garden Gates to Dinner Plates.

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