Hello, Next week, the California state legislature will vote on The California Cottage Food Law. A bill that allows for homemade production and sale of "non-hazardous foods" (breads, granolas, and other foods that don't easily spoil). This law won't solve the problem of The Underground Market closure, although we are working with the city to find a solution. It will also not solve the need for more commercial kitchen space in San Francisco. When a food business gets even moderately large, a commercial space is necessary, and we will continue to move forward with our incubator kitchen after passage of this bill.
What it will do is create a first step towards helping small food producers get a leg up in starting their businesses. The deck is stacked against small business in this country; the fees, permits, forms, regulations, and taxes all disproportionally affect small producers. It's amazing to see what you're expected to pay when starting a small food business. This gives artisan food producers a chance at competing by reducing start up costs, and allowing them to get their products to customers. Below is an open letter I've written to our state assembly endorsing the bill. This bill is yet another small step towards the creation of the local food economy we all yearn for, and it needs our support.
Thank you Iso Rabins
Dear Senator Leto
My name is Iso Rabins. I am the founder of forageSF and The Underground Market, a San Francisco business that supports the local food economy through a business incubator marketplace, giving start-up food entrepreneurs a venue to reach the next level of their craft. I am writing to voice my endorsement of California Homemade Food Act, AB 1616 (also known as the Cottage Food Bill), introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto. Over the past several years I’ve been working with food producers through The Underground Market, an incubator I created for start-up food entrepreneurs, and am now in the process of building out a commissary kitchen to help artisan food producers become legal business owners. I am also personally a chef and food producer.
The proposed bill will allow the sale of “non-potentially hazardous” foods produced out of home kitchens. That is, foods such as granola and bread products that rarely, if ever, make people sick. These foods would be labeled as homemade, and would be produced and sold on a neighborhood or community-based scale.
What I have seen in my experience is that the system is broken. The bar for starting a food business has been set too high. The permits, fees, kitchen rent, insurance and other high costs that greets a beginning producer discourages many potential business owners, and in doing so, cripples a local food and job economy that is more important now than ever.
Commercial kitchens have their place, and when creating products on a mid-large scale, they are necessary logistically as much as safety wise. This does not replace the need for incubator kitchens, but people need a chance to get to started without unnecessary overhead. Many of the regulations placed on small food businesses are in many ways geared towards industrial food production, and create undue cost for small food startups.
What this law does, and what similar laws in 31 states around the country have already done successfully, is allow food entrepreneurs a chance to grow. A chance to see what it takes to make a viable business, and to build the confidence to take the next steps to make it a reality. It’s been amazing to see the satisfaction that vendors of The Underground Market have as their business grows. In this time of struggle for our country and economy, we need to help people with that passion to succeed, not hinder them with unnecessary regulations.
I hope to see all four of San Francisco’s legislative representatives in Sacramento co-author this bill and take other steps to ensure it passes. It is a step in the right direction not only for the food community, but also for the entire economy.
This bill will allow thousands of micro-businesses to flourish around the state-not only creating income and jobs for the business owners, but also injecting much needed economic vitality into the state. The dream of small business ownership is very strong in this country, and we need to nurture rather than suppress that dream. We all know that small businesses are the true engines that push us forward, creating not just jobs, but satisfying jobs with respect, and we need to show them support.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and I hope you’ll vote in favor of this bill.