Since opening Jars of Delicious nearly two years ago, Cheree Hill has expanded from making a couple hundred jars of jam as party favors for her friends and family to approximately 15,000 jars of jam, jelly and fruit butter last year—all made in the convenience of her home kitchen.
Hill is a cottage food operator, which means that she is able to prepare and package certain non-potentially hazardous foods in a private home kitchens, an ability that was made possible after Assembly Bill 1616 (Gatto) went into effect three years ago.
“It allows me to be as big as I want,” said Hill. “When I want to make jam, I can. When I don’t want to make jam, I don’t. I can be as busy or as slow as I want.”
All cottage food operators must meet specified requirements pursuant to the California Health and Safety Code related to preparing foods that are on the approved food list, completing a food processor training course within three months of registering, implementing sanitary operations, creating state and federal compliant labels and operating within established gross annual sales limits.
Hill said that she learned everything when it comes to running her business from her mother-in-law, who passed away in 2014. Instead of grieving their loss, her family decided to have a celebration of life for her, complete with 250 small jars of jam as party favors.
“Less than two weeks later, I had people calling me asking how they could order more,” said Hill. “A few months later I applied through Stanislaus County for cottage food and next thing you know I was selling at the farmers market.”
Hill said she enjoys the many benefits of running a cottage food operation since she gets to drop her kids off at school and then return to work in her home kitchen to make jam, jelly and fruit butter with flavors ranging from strawberry rhubarb to pomegranate to Hawaiian—a customer favorite mixture comprised of coconut, mango and pineapple.
“My business gives me the opportunity to stay local with local produce,” said Hill. “People really respect that fresh, local flavor made by someone local. People want to know where their food is coming from.”
For those who are looking to emulate the same success Hill has with “Jars of Delicious,” but who do not know where to start, the University of California Cooperative Extension will be offering its “Starting a Successful Cottage Food Business Workshop” later this month to teach beginners everything they need to get their homemade products in the marketplace.
“This is great for someone who really wants to have a full understanding of the laws and regulations around the cottage food industry in order to find out if this is an area where they think they can grow a business,” said Terri Spezzano, Stanislaus County Director and Nutrition, Family and Consumer Science Advisor with the UC Cooperative Extension.
“Participants should come prepared with their ideas of what they want to do so they can work it out with us,” continued Spezzano.
Throughout the one-day intensive workshop, participants will learn the fundamentals of the cottage food marketplace, as well as more about cottage food laws and regulations. They will also get a hands-on opportunity to see what it takes to be in the industry by making products that meet cottage food guidelines. There will also be guest speakers from environmental health and the Alliance Worknet, as well as a representative from the cottage food industry who will talk about their personal experience.
The Starting a Successful Cottage Food Business Workshop will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 23 in the Stanislaus County Harvest Hall, 3800 Cornucopia Way in Modesto. The cost to participate is $25, and lunch and snacks will be provided. For more information, including how to register, visit ucanr.edu/cottagefoodfeb2016 or call 525-6800.
For more information on Jars of Delicious, visit facebook.com/jarsofdelicious.