New Home-to-Market Act to grow small food businesses and make Illinois more delicious

Legislation awaits Governor Pritzer’s Signature

The newly passed Home-to-Market Act gives small farmers like Derek and Libby Ervin of Glacier’s End Farm in rural Southern Illinois an opportunity to reach new customers by selling their unique jams, jellies, syrups, shrubs and hot sauces online.

Springfield, IL— New legislation passed by the General Assembly will bring more jams, jellies, pickles, baked goods, and artisan products to Illinois. The Home-to-Market Act SB2007, sponsored by Rep. Will Guzzardi and Sen. Dave Koehler, creates smart new regulations for cottage food operations, enabling them to reach new customers, while giving the public greater access to unique Illinois products.

“Illinois has an  estimated 500 cottage food businesses, most of them small farms and women-owned businesses,” says Molly Gleason, spokesperson for Illinois Stewardship Alliance and lead organizer for the bill. “Improved cottage food regulations will not only support these existing businesses, but potentially help grow thousands more, at the same time providing shoppers with more opportunities to buy local and support their neighbors.  It’s a big win for the local food economy in Illinois and one step closer to our goal of helping Illinois farmers feed Illinois.”

Cottage food laws exist in varying degrees in every state of the nation to provide farms and food entrepreneurs an avenue to produce and sell certain low-risk products from a home kitchen without the need for a costly commercial kitchen or storefront.

In Illinois, the current law limits sales of cottage foods to seasonal farmers markets, with few exceptions. Illinois is one of just three states in the nation with this restriction, which prevents cottage food operations from reaching new customers and growing their businesses. The Home-to-Market Act addresses this issue by expanding sales avenues for cottage food producers to include direct-to-customer sales avenues such as fairs and festivals, home sales, pick-up, delivery, and shipping. Not included are sales to retailers or distributors.

“In October, in my neighborhood, we have a festival that’s called ‘Autumn Drive,’ and people from all over the Midwest come. I would like to be able to sell my jam and jelly during Autumn Drive to lots of people who are coming here. I also make a raspberry tea that I’d like to sell online. The Home-to-Market Act will allow me to do that,” says Ann Chaney, owner of Grace Farm Studios in Woodstock, Illinois where she raises primarily raspberries and sells a variety of cottage food products.  “I’m in favor of this legislation because it makes farming more efficient and helps me sell all of my products to people who want to buy my products.”

“Our farmers don’t do this as a side-gig, they need this opportunity to have other outlets to sell their products,” says Liz DeRuntz, operations manager for the LEAF Food Cooperative in Southern Illinois, which organizes 18 small farmers to collectively market, package, and sell local products. Many of those farms produce cottage foods, ranging from dried noodles to herbal teas and hot sauces.

Both Chaney and DeRuntz are members of Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s Local Food Farmer Caucus, a group of 60 farmers that works to identify barriers to growing the local food economy, research solutions, and put forward legislation. The Caucus identified cottage food reform as their top priority for 2021. Members of the Caucus partnered with the Institute for Justice, Illinois Environmental Council, Chicago Food Policy Action Council, and Illinois Farm Bureau to draft the new legislation and champion the bill. The bill was also supported by a broad stakeholder group of cottage food producers and food justice organizations. 

“The Act presents an important opportunity to support marginalized and low-income communities that are oftentimes unable to access the necessary assets and finances required to start a business,” says Kevin Erickson, manager of the urban ag program at Loyola University, and a member of the Alliance’s Local Food Farmer Caucus. Kevin notes that his work in the city opened his eyes to the inequities facing urban farmers, which drew him to the Alliance’s policy work. “As long as food can be produced safely, and we feel very confident that this bill outlines a very safe process that can be done successfully at home, the Home-to-Market Act will allow new businesses to start and existing ones to grow and flourish.”

The bill could not have come at a more crucial time for cottage food producers, many of which were negatively impacted by the pandemic.  “I began selling my baked goods at an indoor farmers market during the winter of 2020, but when the pandemic hit, that venue closed and I no longer had a way to sell my products,” says  Danielle Robinson of Dottie’s Kitchen.

Danielle was eventually able to start selling again at the Elk Grove Village Farmers Market in the summer, and even started purchasing some local ingredients, like zucchini for her zucchini bread. She is excited to see the new Act pass. “Being able to sell direct-to-consumer through a website will allow me to reach a wider audience and make my business more resilient during events like COVID-19, which disrupted farmers markets nationwide.”

In addition to expanding sales avenues, the Home-to-Market Act: 

  • Adds a handful of new food safety provisions negotiated with public health stakeholders to insure public safety, including a written food safety plan for products like pickles and kimchi
  • Approves buttercream icing for sale under cottage food law, freeing home-bakers to make cakes, cupcakes, and other high-demand baked goods that customers desire. 
  • Directs IDPH to work with a stakeholder group of public health associations and non-profit organizations to issue guidance on a standardized registration form, inspection form, and a home-self certification checklist that outlines procedures and equipment for a home-kitchen.

The Home-to-Market Act passed the House and Senate unanimously and now awaits the Governor’s signature. Once signed the bill will go into effect in January 1, 2022

For more information about the bill and how to to support this effort, visit www.ilstewards.org/hometomarket

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Contact:
Molly Gleason
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
molly@ilstewards.org, 217-871-9041

We are an alliance of farmers and eaters. Our mission is to find, connect, train and amplify the leadership of farmers and eaters who use their choices and their voices to shape a more just and regenerative local food and farm system. Our statewide community unites to educate policymakers and form a powerful voice that has a seat at every table where decisions are made.