Deb Babcock: Sell your excess produce

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Deb Babcock

Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.

Find more gardening columns here.

So you had a great year in the garden and have more fruits and vegetables than you possibly can eat. What can you do with the excess?

Karen Massey, our local extension agent, has tons of information on canning, pickling and preserving and offers classes so you can make your produce last beyond the growing season. And if you have enough to share with others, you might be able to sell it under the state’s new Cottage Food Act. This bill enacted in March of this year lets home gardeners preserve certain foods in their home kitchen and sell the preserved items directly to consumers.

Food products such as honey, jams, dehydrated produce, seeds, nuts and some baked goods all fall under the new Cottage Food guidelines. It also includes teas, spices, fruit butters and candies. Foods that are not allowed under this law include any eggs, meat, fish or dairy products, canned fruits, vegetables, salsas and oils, cut-up raw fruits, vegetables and juices as well as canned sauces and pickled items. Baked goods that require refrigeration, such as cream pies and eclairs, also are not allowed under this act.

You don’t need a license to sell your creations as long as your sales don’t exceed $5,000 annually, you label your items as specified in the law and you sell only to individuals, not to restaurants or retailers. But you do need to be certified in safe food handling and processing, which the Extension Office offers through its food safety training programs.

You may sell your products from your home, at a roadside stand or the farmers market as well as at craft fairs and other similar venues. With regard to the $5,000 annual limit to qualify under this law, each flavor of jam, type of candy or baked good can be counted as a separate revenue stream. So, if you make chokecherry jam, lavender-infused honey and peach jelly, for instance, you have three revenue streams and can earn as much as $15,000 and still comply with the law.

The label on the Cottage Food products that you sell must contain specific information, including what the product is, your name and contact information, date you made the item, a list of ingredients and a disclaimer statement, a copy of which you can find in the provisions of the bill.

If the local public health agency receives any complaints about someone selling produce under the provisions of this law, they have the right to visit the premises of the producer to inspect the operations and, if needed, embargo or condemn the product.

Check for up-to-date information about the Cottage Food Bill at www.cofarmtomarket.com/value-added-products/cottage-foods or call Karen Massey at the Routt County Extension Office at 970-879-0825.

Deb Babcock is a master gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. Call 970-879-0825 with questions.

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