UPDATE 06/24: You can support small farms and food businesses in your community
With your support, Alliance members worked with the General Assembly this Spring to unanimously pass the Home-to-Market Act SB2007.
This exciting new legislation helps farmers and food entrepreneurs grow a business from their home kitchen and gives Illinois shoppers greater access to support their neighbors and enjoy all the unique, local, and artisan foods that Illinois has to offer.
Now the bill is headed to the Governor’s desk.
You can help get that legislation across the finish line.
Home-to-Market Act Overview
What is cottage food?
Cottage foods are foods prepared and packaged in a home-kitchen for sale at farmers markets. These may include jams, jellies, baked goods, pickles, hot sauces, salsas, canned tomatoes and other artisan foods and pre-made foods. Illinois has an estimated 500+ cottage food producers, with growing interest.
What’s the issue:
Restrictive regulations prevent cottage food producers from selling their products outside of seasonal farmers markets. They cannot sell from their home, they cannot sell through fairs and festivals, and they cannot deliver to your door. They have very few options for selling over the winter, and farmers markets are not available in every community. These regulations hamper business growth and cripple start-up food businesses.
What does the Home-to-Market Act Do in a Nutshell?
- Expands sales avenues for cottage food producers to include sales at fairs and festivals, from home, online, and through home delivery, enabling cottage food entrepreneurs to reach new customers and grow their businesses.
- Includes buttercream icing to the list of products that can be made in a home kitchen, freeing up home bakers to make cakes, cupcakes, and other in-demand baked goods.
- Adds further food safety provisions in order to insure public safety while reasonably allowing farmers and food entrepenuers to operate from home kitchens.
- This Act DOES NOT allow for retail sales, such as sales to restaurants, grocery stores, or distributors.
This Act DOES NOT allow for on-site preparation of foods or catering. All products must be prepared and packaged in the home kitchen.
- Home-based food businesses and farms have been hit hard by the pandemic and need support now more than ever. These small businesses have been left out of pandemic relief efforts and are struggling with lack of sales opportunities. Farmers markets are the only place, with few exceptions, that home-based food operations can sell their products. In 2020 many farmers markets delayed opening due to the pandemic. Additionally, not every community has a farmers market, and fewer still have winter markets, leaving cottage food operations with few outlets to sell their products.
- Cottage food businesses are in the perfect position to provide safe, low or no contact delivery or pick-up options that customers are looking for– but the law needs to change so that they can better grow their businesses and meet the needs of their communities.
- More and more individuals and families are looking for ways to safely earn income from their homes due to the pandemic and recent layoffs. Reforming cottage food law will provide more entrepreneurs, especially women, minority, and low-income entrepreneurs, a means to start or grow a home-based food business and bring in additional income during this critical time.
- Illinois has one of the most restrictive laws in the nation when it comes to where cottage food producers can sell their products. Updating the law will bring Illinois up to speed with other states across the U.S.
- Illinois has an estimated 500+ cottage food businesses. This reform effort is an easy, no-cost, hand-up to farms and food businesses across the state.
Who will benefit?
- Women-owned businesses. In a recent survey by Illinois Stewardship Alliance, 77% of cottage food entrepreneurs are owned by women.
- Low-income entrepreneurs. Good cottage food regulations provide a low-cost entry point for starting and growing a food business.
- Small farmers. In a recent survey by Illinois Stewardship Alliance, 33% of cottage food entrepreneurs described themselves. Cottage foods give farmers the ability to add more value to their fruits and vegetables and increase their bottom lines by turning them into the products that consumers crave. They also make Illinois farmers markets and agritourism venues more unique and more marketable.
- The public. This bill provides consumers with more choice and more options to support local farms and businesses in our state and experience unique and delicious products grown and made in Illinois
- This bill will address food sovereignty. People should reasonably be able to make and sell food to feed their communities, and this bill provides that opportunity.
- This bill will provide greater opportunity to minority and women-owned businesses who have traditionally had less resources to start their own businesses.
- This bill will grow the number and income of food businesses in our state, capturing greater tax revenue for our state.
- This bill will keep more food dollars local and support local businesses. In a recent survey by Illinois Stewardship Alliance, an overwhelming majority of cottage food producers prioritize purchasing ingredients from neighboring farms and businesses.
- This bill will build rural economies by growing rural businesses and keeping food dollars in rural economies. In a recent survey by Illinois Stewardship Alliance, over 1/2 of all cottage food producers live in rural areas.
List of Reforms Made in the Home-to-Market Act + Rationale
Expands sales avenues beyond farmers markets to include delivery, pick-up, fairs and festivals, online sales, and other direct-to-consumer sales avenues.
Rationale: The current law limits sales avenues primarily to farmers markets. This hampers growth of many farm and home kitchen operations. Farmers markets are seasonal and are not always convenient for small businesses. In 2020, many farmers markets delayed opening, negatively impacting cottage food businesses. Expanding sales avenues allows farms and small businesses to legally and safely reach new customers who are looking for local products.
Allows buttercream icing to be used under cottage food law.
Rationale: Buttercream icing made without eggs is shelf-stable and is deemed a low risk food. Adding an exception to allow for buttercream icing enables home bakers to legally make high demand items such as cupcakes, wedding cakes, and more.
Adds new food safety provisions for acidified and fermented foods, including a written food safety plan.
Rationale: Acidified and fermented foods are classified as high risk foods. In order to further ascertain that these products are made safely, cottage food producers must submit a written food safety plan and a representative pH test for each category of acidified/fermented products that they make. The food safety plan provides evidence of food safety protocols while the pH test provides evidence that the methodology is safe. The new provision also requires acidified and fermented foods that are not canned with a boiling water bath to be refrigerated during transport and sale, per USDA guidelines.
Updated labeling requirements– more flexibility, but more emphasis on the warning label
Rationale: Cottage food businesses cannot always fit labels on each individual package, especially when packages are small or oddly shaped. Health departments report that the warning labels are not large enough on some labels, especially ones that are small, to give the public proper notice. This bill updates labeling requirements to insure that warning labels are prominent both at point-of-sale and on packaging, while also giving cottage food operators flexibility to work with health departments on small or odd packages.
Adds a simple water testing requirement for cottage food operations not using municipal water supplies
Rationale: This is a food safety provision to prevent water-born food safety outbreaks. It only applies to cottage food operations using well or other un-tested water supplies. Water testing is economical, ranging from $10 -$30 pers test, and widely available through local health departments.
Clarifies annual registration and provides local health departments with authority to create a process for revoking registration.
Rationale: This updated language gives local health departments greater ability to address bad actors and cottage food operations that are not following the law.
Pre-empts home-rule municipalities from regulating cottage food businesses in a manner that is inconsistent with this act,
Rationale: Regulations that vary county to county are confusing for cottage food businesses– especially ones that sell their products in multiple counties. This law provides consistent regulation across the state in terms of the registration process, products that can be made, and sale avenues. At the SAME time, this bill insures that home-rule municipalities still have the ability to regulate home-based cottage food businesses in the same manner they would regulate other home-based businesses. Home-rule ordinances around zoning, signage, parking, etc, can still be applied to cottage food businesses.
The Act was drafted by Illinois Stewardship Alliance’s Local Food Farmer Caucus, Illinois Environmental Council, and the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship. It is endorsed by a growing list of organizations, including the following:
Chicago Food Policy Action Council
Chicago Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights
Elawa Farm Foundation
Illinois Environmental Council
Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship
Northwest Illinois Economic Development
The Conservation Foundation
The Land Connection
Slow Food Springfield
Slow Food Chicago
South East Chicago Commission
SBDC at Build Bronzeville
The South Loop Farmers Market
The Resiliency Institute
Village of Elizabeth
Cottage Food Operator Endorsements
House District 61
R. Salata, The Crafting Bee, Zion, IL
House District 63
Ann Chaney, Grace Farm Studios, Woodstock, IL
House District 65
Raj Chevda, Fox Valley Spice, LLC, South Elgin, IL
House District 74
Holly Conlin, Twisted Roots Farm, Dahinda, IL
House District 80
Elizabeth Meier, Splurge Bake Shop, Crete, IL
House District 81
Lynn Walker, Germ/Walker Enterprises, Inc, Naperville, IL
House District 89
Erin Keyser, Driftless Natural Health, Hanover IL
Amy Dehn, Fieldview Farm, Elizabeth, IL
House District 101
Kelly Lay, D20 Peppers, Le Roy, IL
“The laws around my products are incredibly murky and vary heavily between counties. Being able to have clear direction & expanded sales opportunities would allow me to build my business up to my goal of owning a brick and mortar storefront in my small hometown!
Manon Lalonde, Six Red Chairs Bakery, Seymore, IL
House District 108
Michelle Boester, The Honey Shack and More, Hoyleton, IL
House District 115
Courtney Smith, Flora Bay Farm, Carbondale, IL
“The Home-to-Market Act can make a difference in a small cottage food operation by allowing expanded sales, thereby increasing local revenue, strengthening our regional food system and helps to promote local businesses. This legislation will greatly help expand my own business and make it easier for consumers to buy my products.”
Jill Rendelman, All Season’s Farm, Cobden, IL
“This legislation has resulted in a C change in southern illinois agriculture. it sounds simple, but the home to market act will increase our farms ability to sell locally and keep taxpayer dollars in our community as well as add to the products that we are able to sell to our customers.”
House District 116
Blayne Harris, One Circle Eco-Farm, Du Quoin, IL
House District 117
Elizabeth DeRuntz, LEAF Food Hub, Carterville, IL
“Passage of this bill would help us sell our goods year round and open up our marketing options. We could provide our value added local products to more people in our community.”
Derek Ervin, Glaciers End Farm, Johnston City, IL
“This would greatly advance the reach of our small farm business. It is vital especially in these difficult times to strengthen small businesses in rural areas and in cities alike. We strongly endorse this bill.“
Michael Hatfield, Flyway Family Farm, Makanda, IL
“Please consider adopting this act. This will be huge for small family farms and producers, grow business, and grow our communities.”
Heather Lange, Heather’s Bakeshop & More, Carterville, IL
“Heather’s Bakeshop currently sells at a few local farmers markets. We are pushing for this, and excited to see where it goes!”
House District 118
Tam Pirmann, River to River Farm, Tunnel Hill, IL
“This bill will help our farmers reach more customers in the southern Illinois area and to keep more dollars here in Illinois.”
Phil Mendenhall, Backacher’s Farm, Anna, IL
“The Home to Market Act will especially help the farmers and consumers of local rural communities thrive.“
Margaret Kruse, Bison Bluff Farm, Cobden
“This will help others who I am close with be able to market their goods in numerous other ways for moving their goods. It would mean more sales avenues for them and more money hopefully staying local. It could also have the potential to make it so that I would be able to do more with my own products as well.”