Homemade goods legal at farmers market


Ed Harper, of Mahomet, talks to a costumer at his stand in the historic First Street Farmers Market on Thursday, Sep. 1, 2011. Harper is excited to be able to sell homemade goods again after an Illinois law-enforced ban on their sale is lifted.

By Reema Amin

Homemade breads, cookies, jams and jellies will soon make their way back into Champaign-Urbana farmers’ markets.

Previously banned homemade goods will now be legally allowed for sale at farmers markets in Illinois starting Jan. 1, 2012.

In accordance with the previous state law, the prohibition had been enforced in Champaign-Urbana since 2009, at the request of Jim Roberts, director of environmental health for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, or CUPHD.

“The (Illinois) law has been longstanding,” Roberts said. “In order to monitor food preparation, the government needs access to a commercial kitchen. The government does not want to go into your home.”

While some vendors had begun to rent commercial kitchens, others could not find access to such facilities. Ed Harper, resident of Mahomet, Ill., ran into such an issue.

Harper wanted to sell his wife’s baked goods but had trouble accessing a commercial kitchen.

“I thought it was kind of stupid that they decided to enforce that (legislation) because, for cryin’ out loud, the people at the farmer’s markets are the most conscientious out there,” Harper said in regards to food safety. “If you want to stay in it and want repeat business, you’re going to make sure everything is safe.”

There are certain rules that must be followed with homemade food preparation, but Roberts said he is still concerned with the passage of this new law. With homemade goods, Roberts said there is now a “gap in food safety regulation.”

Lisa Bralts, director of Urbana’s Market at the Square, a farmers market held Saturday mornings, said worries can be eased with certain rules attached to the new law. Vendors must be registered with the CUPHD and must also take a course on food safety. Vendors must also present a sign indicating which foods are homemade.

Bralts said many vendors adapted to the enforcement of state law in 2009, but she saw less participation with the market compared to years past. She now expects to see new vendors join the market since they can cook in their own homes, including many retirees.

Once the legislation goes into action, each vendor will be allowed a $25,000 annual profit limit from the goods.

“That’s a pretty generous limit compared to other states,” Bralts said. “Anyone making more than that would probably get their own facility.”

Growth in his business has allowed Dusan Katic of Katic Breads to prepare for the opening of his business’s first facility. Katic was aware of the state’s law and always operated out of a commercial kitchen. While his business is on the rise, Katic encourages newcomers to participate for the right reasons.

“If they’re just doing this as a side hobby to get a little more cash in their pocket, I don’t think that’s passion that a baker should have,” Katic said. “If the craft moves forward, then I’m all for that.”

Now that Harper can operate out of a home kitchen, he is strongly considering taking a course in food safety to be an eligible vendor of homemade baked goods.

“I’m very excited and very glad that they passed this law so we can go back (to selling baked goods at the farmer’s market),” Harper said.