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Licensing vs Black Market Food  RSS feed

 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I live in one of those jurisdictions where homemade food is treated as a cash cow for the regulatory agencies, and every facet of making even the simplest and safest homemade food is treated as if people were making biological weapons in their home kitchens... Licensing and inspections are required even for simple acts like drying herbs. And not just one license! Multiple licenses from multiple jurisdictions that can't seem to communicate with each other. The classic bureaucratic nightmare.

The local community has responded by creating a thriving black market in illicit homemade food. Tamales are easily obtained in the Walmart parking lot. Honey, eggs, milk, cheese, and non-inspected meats are commonly exchanged. Home based non-inspected restaurants are available to those that have been properly vetted by the community. Basically, we have returned to the days of the speak-easy.

John Ivanko: Can you give us any insight into the ins and outs of black market homemade food?
 
Dale Hodgins
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Where I live, they are picky about meat. Baked goods, garden produce and eggs are sold at the road.

I was picking up eggs from a small producer in the city. Neighbours dump their kitchen scraps over the fence. Now, the eggs arrive for free. A guy who picks up free firewood from my jobs, has started bringing eggs.
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Complying with regulations here is either quite expensive or totally impossible. Thus there is a thriving food black market here in my region of Hawaii. I frequently partake in this market, but I use common sense when choosing who to get food from. There are some people that I would be extremely hesitant eating stuff prepared by them in their kitchens, so I don't. Before buying foods, I get to know the person a bit first. Ya know, I do the same thing when buying food from legitimate market vendors too. I've discovered that not all farmers are honest and often misrepresent their produce. We use to have one who used chemical sprays right up to the day of picking....so totally against the rules and good sense. Thus I get to know my farmers and food producers now.

Our food black market operates in some farmer markets, along the roadside, in the parking lots of other businesses, out of their homes, and via home delivery. These are some of the items I have bought or traded for via this black market:
Baked goods (bread, cookies, pies, cakes)
Milk and cheese
Jams, jellies, syrup
Spaghetti sauce
Pesto
Fruit and veggie juice
Dried herbs
Sea salt
Fish and meat
Dried fruits and veggies
Honey
Eggs

A commercial kitchen cost a minimum of a couple thousand to set up here. Depending upon the situation, it could be tens of thousands. And if one lives in an unpermitted house (well over 50% of homes in my area are unpermitted) it is totally impossible to create a commercial kitchen.

Until recently the county officials tended to ignore the commercial kitchen requirement in certain situations as long as one is willing to pay them $75 every 120 days(maybe it is 90, I don't remember) in the form of a "temporary vendor permit". And currently they are "inspecting" all food vendors now issuing pass/fail placards. This has stopped the sale of fresh eggs, since it is impossible to comply with regulations on this island. Egg sales are now underground, though it's a hotly demanded item.

I live in an area the has a lot of poverty, and low or retirement income. Black market businesses makes our economy function here and allows people to survive. I won't argue whether it's right or wrong, but I will say that the system works here. Without it my region would experience extreme difficulty.

Joseph, I can empathize with you. The public has allowed themselves to be regulated to death and be required to pay unreasonable amounts in permit fees, all in the name and/or under the guise of food safety. While I support safe food, I see that our regulators have taken things to extreme and beyond. My opinion, of course.
 
Troy Rhodes
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The maze of food regulations and licensure has gone way past useful.

If we are generous, we would say that it's just unintentional and unavoidable hodge podge growth of government.

If we like the tin foil hat conspiracy angle, we might say that most of the regulations originate from big ag/usda and are intended to keep small producer/high quality food off the market, because they can't compete with that.


While the following book really could have used a good editor, it is still a good and worthwhile read redarding Salatin's experience with the government:

http://www.amazon.com/Everything-Want-To-Do-Illegal/dp/0963810952






 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Speakeasy...for raw milk. Yup, got those here, too.

And we are almost to the point we will have a collective "Well, that was stupid" reset of laws like we did with prohibition. But that is when the real problems started...
 
Dale Hodgins
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I tend to think of Hawaii as a rich person's playground. I recently met a resident, who told me of poverty and the difficulty of getting certain mainland supplies. He described it as Mississippi, with beaches and palm trees.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I tend to think of Hawaii as a rich person's playground. I recently met a resident, who told me of poverty and the difficulty of getting certain mainland supplies. He described it as Mississippi, with beaches and palm trees.


It is definitely a class/caste system with a large amount living in poverty. It is possible to live on very little IF you have land or access to it. As long as you free your mind from consumerism.

 
Jay Grace
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Location: Nauvoo, AL
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If I was financially secure and my kids were grown I'd love to live out in the boonies of Mississippi. Or louisiana, or Alabama.


I actually live in the boonies of Alabama. Just not near the ocean

 
John Ivanko
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Hi Joseph:

Thanks to the Great Recession, 42 states decided to promote the freedom to earn with "cottage food laws." In some cases, depending on the state, it made legal what was previously done illegally (which is somewhat your point). I'm really, I'd have to try pretty hard to harm someone with a chocolate cookie or a loaf of fresh artisanal bread. Yet, selling ANY baked good made in a home kitchen in Wisconsin is currently prohibited. I'm sure people still sell cookies under the radar just like people drive over the speed limit. The issue, of course, is what happens if you're caught.

As we write about in HOMEMADE FOR SALE, we encourage folks to contact their legislators, get involved with democracy on a state-wide level and create the change you seek. In fact, most of the cottage food laws passed are the result of individual citizens doing exactly that. We devote a section of the book and our website, www.homemadeforsale.com, to provide resources for people eager to get in the game and make change. It's true, there are some pretty extreme laws on the books in some states... perhaps left over from a time when potions were passed off as medicine.

Our book seeks to provide the best resources possible to work within your state's laws and specific boundaries. Interestingly, every cottage food law that has been amended since it passed has been expanded and broadened -- providing more opportunity for home cooks to test out their food products.

We're big believers in a return to a localized economy, and a nation of entrepreneurs -- butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. The "free trade" global economy is having a devastating impact on planet Earth. It's not hard to imagine cottage food operators delivering their cookies and baked goods to neighbors on bicycle.

Best,
John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist
HOMEMADE FOR SALE
www.homemadeforsale.com
 
Wyatt Brush
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Location: Meade County, South Dakota
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The real question is: which is better, toxic "safe" food, or clean "hazardous" food? There are corner cutting licensed, and unlicensed producers alike. But the one has been labeled "safe", so most consumers don't think due diligence is necessary. But because a producer is unlicensed, they are assumed to be hazardous, and their products, though potentially superior, are automatically despised. Licensing creates a false sense of security. Government has authority to license a few specific things, but no authority to license matters of Rights. Food production is a Right, because it is inherently necessary for survival.
 
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