Act Now to Support Small Farms and Cottage Food Businesses

“I have dreamed of owning a bakery most of my adult life but I have a poor credit score from medical issues early in my adult life. I believe that building up from a home operation would allow me the financial stability to create something despite my damaged credit score. I also believe there are thousands of entrepreneurs like myself, who are not classically a choice banks would make, that would hugely benefit from reasonable home operation laws.” — Kelly Lay

Note: The petition his hosted by our allies at the Institute for Justice

Kelly Lay, featured above, makes amazing pastries, and hot sauces, and cupcakes. She supports her area farmers by sourcing as much local as possible — grain from Janie’s Mill, veggies from Cook Farm, and herbs from her own garden. 

But you can’t buy her products. 

Burdensome regulations prevent cottage food producers like Kelly from selling their products outside of farmers markets, with few exceptions

They cannot sell from their home, they cannot sell through fairs and festivals, and they cannot deliver to your door. 

This is bad for entrepreneurs like Kelly, it’s bad for farmers — many of whom operate their own cottage food businesses or sell to ones, and it’s bad for you

Now with the pandemic forcing many farmers markets to delay opening and causing lower attendance and sales, cottage food businesses are struggling. 

You can help.

Sign the petition to urge our state leaders to expand legal sales avenues for Kelly Lay and hundreds of cottage food farmers and businesses across the state. 

Your voice will help these small businesses weather the storm – and give yourself more delicious local food choices!

Note: The petition his hosted by our allies at the Institute for Justice


Kelly’s Story

Kelly’s Raspberry Lemon Cupcakes made with local raspberries

My name is Kelly Lay and I have dreamed of owning a bakery for most of my life. Because of medical and financial issues, I can’t afford a storefront with a commercial kitchen right now. 

But that doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my dream. 

I bake a wide variety of products in my home kitchen, with the goal of saving toward a future storefront. 

I love using ingredients from my own garden, a local mill, and nearby farms for my delicious raspberry lemon cupcakes and savory heirloom tomato tarts. But right now, I don’t have any way to sell my products. 

In my town, a registered home-based food business is only allowed to sell at a farmers’ market, with a few limited exceptions. 

I had been hoping to sell at the Bloomington Farmers’ Market this summer on the Saturdays that I have off from my retail job, but because of the pandemic I couldn’t risk paying the $500 market fee up front for a few days of uncertain sales. 

And unfortunately, because Illinois law lets my town block other ways of making direct sales to my customers, I am not allowed to sell all my products at other events, online, or for home pick-up or delivery.   

I’m not the only one who is hurting. Cottage food producers and farmers across Illinois are in the same boat, missing out on the sales of cakes, breads, jams and jellies, preserved produce, and much, much more.

There are also many talented people who could consider starting cottage food businesses to make ends meet in these difficult days—if they had a way to legally sell their products. 

Cottage foods are safe and many other states allow their residents to sell directly or online to their friends and neighbors. 

I’m working with the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, and others across the state calling on Illinois leadership to take action as soon as possible to allow cottage food producers all across the state to sell directly to customers. 

An executive order lifting tight sales restrictions would help during the pandemic, when entrepreneurs and customers want to stay close to home, and the General Assembly can change the law in the next legislative session. 

If cottage foods in Illinois are safe enough to be sold at farmers’ markets, then they are safe enough to be sold in other ways. 

People are hurting, and Illinois lawmakers can help. 

Please sign my petition and tell Illinois lawmakers to lend a hand to Illinoisans struggling to support themselves and their families. 

Note: The petition his hosted by our allies at the Institute for Justice


Supporting cottage food businesses means supporting the growth of small businesses in Illinois; it means supporting women-owned businesses; it means supporting scale appropriate regulations that enable people of all income-levels, but especially those of lower income, to start and grow a business; it means keeping food dollars local; it means reinvesting in Illinois communities; and it means laying the groundwork for a food secure Illinois, where Illinois farms can feed Illinois.