Soon farmers markets won’t be the only place to find home-based food products in Illinois.
Gov. JB Pritzker signed the Home-to-Market Act (SB2007) into law late Friday, effectively opening the door for small farms and home bakers to sell their products directly to customers through fairs and festivals, home sales, pickup, delivery and shipping.
The new law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2022.
That means Angella Thompson of Thompson Family Farms in Athens can start telling her customers “yes” more often.
“I get so many customers from out-of-town buy my products at a farmers market and fall in love. They ask to buy it online and I have to tell them, ‘No,’” said Thompson, who can be found every Thursday throughout the summer months at the Illinois Products Farmers’ Market on the state fairgrounds.
Thompson grows more than a dozen types of chile peppers, which are incorporated into everything from salsa (habanero) to banana and pumpkin quick breads (lemon chile pepper) to toffee (smoked Carolina Reaper.)
“(The new law) means huge opportunities for sales, especially online sales. That’s the biggest thing for me.
“It’s going to be huge to this industry because it provides opportunities to grow a business in the beginning that increases the chance of success in the long run.”
There are an estimated 500 cottage food businesses in Illinois.
However, Illinois was among the states with the most restrictive rules in the country as to where cottage food producers could sell their goods prior to the Home-to-Market Act becoming law.
The online site Forrager Cottage Food Community — aimed at helping operators maneuver the various regulations governing the cottage food industry — gave Illinois a “restricted” ranking in 2020 based on current state law that limits sales to farmers markets, the bulk of which operate seasonally. Illinois shared this lowest ranking with Oklahoma and Rhode Island.
Come Jan. 1, cottage food operators can sell directly to customers from their homes and community events, as well as accept sales over the phone and internet.
The new law, however, does not open the door for home-based producers to sell to restaurants, grocery stores or distributors or allow on-site preparation of foods or catering.
“Now folks making food in their home kitchens have more opportunities to grow or start a business because of this law,” said Molly Gleason with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, which made the bill one of its legislative priorities.
The Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship, based at The University of Chicago’s law school, was another proponent for the legislation.
“Home bakers and farmers in Illinois will now have the opportunity to support themselves with their home businesses,” director Beth Kregor was quoted in a press release issued by the institute Monday.
“We are glad to see Illinois recognize that cottage foods don’t pose a threat to health and safety and instead represent a real opportunity for entrepreneurs to step into the food industry. This new law will help many in our state improve their lives by sharing their delicious creations with their communities.”
The Institute for Justice, through its nationwide Food Freedom Initiative, works to reform laws that interfere with the ability of people to make, buy, sell, eat, grow or advertise foods.
The institute authored the nation’s first comprehensive study of the cottage food industry in 2017, finding cottage food businesses serve an important path to entrepreneurship for their owners, many of whom are often lower-income women living in rural areas.
Derek and Libby Ervin of Glacier’s End Farm in Johnston City recently planted an orchard in southern Illinois and hope to open a cider operation on site one day.
The couple were recently named the first Illinois Food Changemakers of the Year at the Illinois State Fair. The recognition came, in large part, to the couple’s work promoting the Home-to-Market Act.
“Our farm depends on cottage food sales while we wait for our orchard to mature,” Derek said. “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 percent 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.”
Natalie Morris can be reached at 737-7254 or by email at email@example.com.
August 31, 2021 at 09:22PM