Jump for Joy! The Governor just signed the Home-to-Market Act, supporting hundreds of small farms and food businesses

Senator Dave Koehler and Alliance staff celebrate the Governor’s signature on the Home-to-Market Act. Senator Koehler, a former small business owner and baker, sponsored the legislation to give a leg up to small businesses across the state.

Springfield, IL— On Friday, August 27th, Governor Pritzker signed into law the Home-to-Market Act SB2007, supporting hundreds of small farms and home bakers. The Act marks an important step for growing the local food economy and supporting equity. 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 home-made jams, jellies, pickles, hot sauces, and unique Illinois products. 

Cottage food laws across the nation allow entrepreneurs to prepare certain low-risk foods in their home kitchen for sale to the public. Prior to the Governor’s signature on the Home-to-Market Act, cottage food producers in Illinois could only sell their products at farmers markets, with few exceptions. As a result of the new law, they’ll now be able to sell their products directly to customers through fairs and festivals, home sales, pick-up, delivery, and shipping. Not included are sales to retailers or distributors. The law also includes additional food safety requirements, reduces red tape and confusion by creating statewide standards, and adds buttercream icing to the list of products that can be produced in a home kitchen. 

“We’re grateful that the Governor sees the value of this Act to building local food systems,” says Derek Ervin of Glacier’s End Farm. Ervin’s farm is located in rural southern, IL where he and his wife Libby recently planted an orchard and dream of opening a cidery. “Our farm depends on cottage food sales while we wait for our orchard to mature. We sell our jams and hot sauces at  different farmers markets, but we could reach so many more customers with online sales. Here in Illinois we import 95% of the food we eat. This law gives Illinois farmers the ability to feed more people in Illinois and keep those food dollars in our state.”

Derek and Libby Ervin of Glacier’s End Farm pose with IDOA Director Jerry Costello. Earlier this year they were awarded the Local Food Changemaker of the Year Award for their role in advocating for the Home-to-Market Act.

Prior to the bill signing, the Ervin’s received the Local Food Changemaker award during the IL Dept. of Ag awards ceremony for their role in advocating for the bill. 

Kevin Erikson, manager of the urban ag program at Loyola University, adds that, “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. He notes that good cottage food laws help mitigate inequities by allowing entrepreneurs to start a business from their home, test products, and grow a customer base without the need to purchase a costly commercial kitchen or storefront at the outset. 

Both Ervin and Erikson 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. Members of the Caucus identified cottage food reform as their top priority for 2021 and 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 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. “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.” 

Danielle Robinson sells her home-made baked goods at area farmers markets. She’s excited to to be able to also offer her customers online ordering this January when the Home-to-Market Act goes into effect.

For many home-bakers, like Kathie Cherie of Cake Du Jour, the bill has been a long time coming. “I make wedding cakes,” say Kathie. Previously, I could only sell my cakes at farmers markets. Have you tried hauling a wedding cake to a farmers market to sell? It didn’t make sense. Now I have a legal pathway to sell my wedding cakes, and I’m so thrilled for all the home-bakers coming up behind me who now have the opportunity to start a business.”

Kathie Cherie of Cake Du Jour, a long-time advocate for regulatory change around cottage food, is excited to finally have a legal pathway to sell her wedding cakes.

“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. “The new regulations will help support these existing small businesses and make it easier for Illinois shoppers to get their hands on the local products they love.”

The Home-to-Market Act will go into effect in January 1, 2022For more information about the bill and how to to support this effort, visit www.ilstewards.org/hometomarket