Oklahoma's 'Cottage Food' Restrictions Are Hurting Food Producers and Sellers

Oklahomans who want to take advantage of the state’s cottage food law are finding some surprising obstacles in their way.

|

Oklahomans who want to take advantage of the state's cottage food law are finding some surprising obstacles in their way.

The obstacles came to light when Farm Hippie, a new market in Collinsville, about a half-hour's drive north of Tulsa, sought to be designated as a farmers market.

The designation made sense: Farm Hippie sells a variety of farmed and artisanal goods, including homemade baked goods produced by locals. (Farm Hippie appears to operate at least in part on something of a consignment model.)

But the state denied Farm Hippie's application to operate as a farmers market, designating it instead as a garden-variety retail store. That status change meant foods Farm Hippie sold that were produced legally in local home kitchens—known as cottage foods—were suddenly illegal.

The owners of the market are confused and upset.

"Many of these people, they're making these products to try and have additional income," said Ash Winfield, one of the owners of Farm Hippie, in remarks reported by News on 6, Tulsa's CBS affiliate. "That's really what we want to do is just bring attention to the current legislation, and let's remove some of those current barriers and allow people to sell where they choose to sell."

Bakers who've sold their homemade foods through Farm Hippie are also at a loss. Coze Hamilton, a retiree who sold homemade rum cakes at Farm Hippie, told KJRH that her $4.50 rum cakes don't make her enough profit for her to take on added expenses.

"If… I have to [bake in] a commercial kitchen, I don't think I'll be able to afford to do it," Hamilton says.

Cottage foods are increasingly common. A report released last year by Harvard Law School's Food Law & Policy Clinic details the ins and outs of 50 state cottage food laws around the country. (Though the District of Columbia has a cottage food law in place, New Jersey remains the only state that doesn't allow some type of cottage food sales.)

The Harvard report examines common elements within all 50 state laws, including regulations pertaining to permissible sales venues, types of foods (typically "non-hazardous" in nature) allowed to be sold, licensing requirements, and labeling rules.

While many state cottage food laws are problematic, as I first noted in a 2011 Reason post, Oklahoma's law isn't half bad. But that doesn't mean it can't—or shouldn't—be improved. As the Harvard report notes, for example, Oklahoma caps gross annual cottage food sales at $20,000. That's quite low. In fact, most states have no cap at all.

Given that Oklahoma's sales cap is needlessly low, and the state's crackdown on sales at venues such as Farm Hippie makes little sense, maybe it's time to remember why the state—why any state—adopted a cottage food law in the first place. Simply put, these laws are intended to benefit farmers, home cooks, budding entrepreneurs, and consumers alike. As I detailed in my 2016 book Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, cottage food laws have the potential both to allow greater access to and choices in the marketplace. 

Now consider the purpose of cottage food laws in light of several Oklahoma realities. Last week, The New York Times reported that Oklahoma is one of several states that's studying ways to improve rural residents' access to fresh foods. Some Oklahoma farmers, meanwhile, are hard at work "making local organic food more accessible" to Oklahomans. At the same time, many Oklahoma farmers are struggling.

Oklahoma's cottage food law can and should be one vehicle to help consumers and farmers deal with these issues. If the state wants to realize the full benefits of cottage food sales, though, Oklahoma lawmakers will have to amend the law to make it easier for markets such as Farm Hippie and vendors like Coze Hamilton—and the consumers both serve—to succeed.

NEXT: Today in Supreme Court History: November 16, 1939

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. An interesting piece here about Deval Patrick throwing his big floppy shoes into the democratic party clown car:

    https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/14/deval-patrick-announces-presidential-bid-070847

    It also confirms what I already knew: that Block Yomomma is still the democratic party’s capo di tutti capi, and is still running the show from his heavily defended eight million dollar bunker at 2446 Belmont Road in Kalmorama. And he’s still looking for The One who he thinks can both be his rightful successor and can also win (that means “not you”, demented old Uncle Joe).

  2. Oklahomans who want to take advantage of the state’s cottage food law are finding some surprising obstacles in their way.

    My dog seems to be surprised every single day when I come home at the exact same time I come home every single day. You’d think Oklahomans might be a little smarter than my dog and not be quite so surprised by totally predictable and foreseeable events.

    1. Yes, Government Almighty sucks! Every day, it sucks! If you block it from sucking, in some way or another, it will IMMEDIATELY find a NEW way to suck! (Government Almighty abhors NOT sucking… It is just like a vacuum, sucking up everything around iti!)

      1. You have some shit in your teeth Mary.

  3. Another fine example of politicians writing legislation to emulate, poorly, the markets deformed by previous legislation. Ever noticed how much legislation does nothing else? Some crony bends the ear of a politician, points out some “market failure”, which really means he has found some way to hurt competitors, and presto! voila! legislation to cover that crony’s hide distorts his market in his favor. Many years later, the crony’s pals have retired, some new legislator in some other crony’s back pocket passed legislation to fix the new-now-old market failure.

    All along, if they really wanted to fix the markets, they’d get rid of the legislation which tried to fix previous failures. After all, markets by definition are built around market failures; without failures, there would be no changes to exploit and fix. I mean, how hard is that to grasp? If society were perfectly static, without sickness, retirement, births, deaths, weather, or simple changing desires … well, there is no such place, so there will always be market failures, and that is what makes markets exist.

    1. Even on this comment board, we find people insisting that additional state intervention is the only cure to previous state intervention.

      1. Yes, this is true! Border walls is one of many instances of this…

        The collective hive mandated WAY too many licenses, before we’re allowed to earn an honest living… Too many min wages and other mandates. Put too many of us into poverty. To “help” with this poverty problem that The Collective Hive created, The Collective Hive gave us welfare. Welfare then attracts too many illegal sub-humans, sometimes, so to fix THAT problem, The Collective Hive now wants e-verify and giant border walls and giant border armies… And now also property confiscations for wall-building… So I suppose The Collective Hive will next fire up the military draft to fix THAT problem! (Lack of a large enough wall-and-army forces).

        When will we stop the perpetual cycle of Government Almighty always getting bigger, to fix the LAST batch of problems created by excessive Government Almighty?

        1. “Border walls is”

          Are.

    2. When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.

      1. Exactly, I obey you, Jerry.

        They are the People who does everything . . .

  4. Well, they call themselves Farm “Hippie”. Doomed to fail, given the political bent of Oklahoma governors. Perhaps if they had called themselves Farm Nazi?

  5. Hey at least we can buy cottage food while carrying a rifle on our back.

    1. Then maybe they should change the name from “Hippie” to Trigger Hippy

  6. Any word on why Farm Hippie couldn’t get the farmer’s market designation, but only regular retail?

    1. Baylen Linnekin’s anchor text was misleading — don’t know why he didn’t link from the passage in his article where it would’ve made sense — but I followed links a couple deep to get partial clarification. It seems the sticking point is that the shop rents space the the vendors, but to qualify as a farmer’s market, the vendors themselves would have to be on the premises.

    2. It’s an absolute nothingburger of a story. There are hundreds, if not thousands of wineries, orchards, u-pick-its, co-ops, farm-to-table, general stores, etc. arrangements across the country that fall under the ‘retail’ designation rather than the ‘market’ designation.

      You can’t be a McDonalds and let just anyone unload shit onto your supply chain. At some point either you’re responsible for the goods you peddle or someone on the premises is. I’m not saying these specific rules *must* exist, but to act like “Why do these rules exist, anyway?” is being willfully naive. You’d be hard pressed to explain the fact that Grandma Hamilton’s $4.50 rum cakes don’t make enough money to keep her in business has nothing to do with the market.

  7. “Simply put, these laws are intended to benefit farmers, home cooks, budding entrepreneurs, and consumers alike.”

    Bullshit.
    Those laws are intended to extend the reach of state bureaucrats into the very homes of citizens to continue the campaign of controlling every action taken, or prohibited, by the serfs.

  8. The designation made sense: Farm Hippie sells a variety of farmed and artisanal goods, including homemade baked goods produced by locals.

    Why does it not surprise me at all that a writer at Reason has precisely zero clue what a ‘market’ is?

    Here, let me help; my local farm-to-table restaurant “sells a variety of farmed and artisanal goods, including homemade baked goods produced by locals”. The restaurant itself is not a market because there is only one merchant or vendor.

    Good God I miss real libertarianism.

  9. Alternatively: “Boot-Licking Liberals Shocked and Upset to Learn Government Will Stop Them From Doing What They Want and Earning Income.”

Please to post comments