Bonus Episode 206: Cottage Foods in Montana | NINA HEINZINGER, PhD, RS | Public Health Sanitarian | Helena, MT

Cottage Foods Mike's WW Bread

Cottage Food it’s really the idea for to help people start a business!!

A way to build their business. Especially in winter when they are maybe not as business. It’s Friday morning, October 20, 2017 and I am super excited because I reached out to Ed Evanston in 2015 after I was at the AERO expo, which is taking place this weekend in 2017 and looking to the data and his episode was listened to a lot of times and is in the top ten most downloaded shows so I asked him to come back and he said you shoud interview Nina because she does that now.

I do always like to kind of ask about your very first gardening experience. did you grow up in Montana?

We didn’t do a  lot of gardening. My first real gardening experience was when I was getting my masters at UC Davis and I decided we needed to do something with this polot of land and Davis is a great place to grow tomatoes so I fed everyone with those tomatoes that year, but this year I kind of put a bed of

I got involved with Montana masters gardeners. Been doing that the last 2 years. This year I’ve been really involved with our Helena community gardens now.

Today we are here to talk about cottage foods.

General info about cottage food laws about things throughout the United States… we did kind of a comparison against the laws throughout the United For small farmer community it’s really a way they can build their business….

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve been working here with the food and consumer safety section for a year and a half now. Jumped right into cottage foods mostly becaue of my background. I have a 

  • Masters in Food Science
  • PHd in food micro biology. 

I’ve always been interested in food and what grows on food and m

training people about different topics we cover. 

Questions kept coming up about different cottage foods and people kept coming to me and asking

  • what do you know about this food?
  • do we have to worry about this new food?

I took over the program about a year ago

providing advice to sanitarians who review the process and giving advice on what is acceptable and what’s not

What is a cottage food?

  • basically a cottage food is going to be a food that is NOT requiring refrigeration or temperature control.

something you  can leave on your counter for days and not worry about getting sick from.

We have a variety of products that are included.

Do you want to go through some of those?

some ideas

what we are seeing in terms of people and what we are seeing

As of last week we had

  • a 153 different registrations
  • over a 1000 products are registered

popular area

  • breads
  • cakes
  • pasteries
  • pies

A lot of home bakers out there selling their goods in terms of cottage foods!

It will also include besides those items

  • nuts
  • nut mixes
  • snack mixes
  • jams
  • jellies

don’t allow they require further processing to make sure they are safe

  • dry spice and tea mixes

We are seeing individuals making teas

  • popcorn balls
  • cotton candy
  • fudge and other candies that require cook step

Something that can be left on counter and not require refridgeration

  • honey

several registered individuals that are processing honey and adding flavors.

Raw honey you don’t need a cottage food license to sell


listed in our information that

another product that you are considering then you need to work with your local sanitarian to see if we can approve that product.

We are seeing lots of cookies and cakes and baked goods. I wish I could take them.

What about eggs?

Eggs are not covered under cottage food laws they are actually covered through Department of Live Stock. There are regulations that allow you to sell them.

farmer’s markets

food is a complicated subject

certain items are covered under food of consumer safety

Department of livestock

farmer’s markets

  • you can sell eggs
  • rule there
  • in terms of eggs
  • wholes sale eggs full of cracks and stored at 45º or less, don’t need a cottage food license..
  • cottage foods allow you to take those things you sell at the farmer’s market you want to sell at other venues like craft fairs

Out of your home

  • as long as your selling it directly to the consumer
  • don’t necessarily
  • dropping it off at their home or meeting people
  • expands your ability
  • with the cottage food

your getting licesnsed/registered one time registration for your own home kitchen

allows you to bake foods at your home

purchase the foods from you

allows you to step into business without making the investment to prepare at

  • that’s what we’ve found
  • started to do some education
  • over the summer at the farmer’s markets that the cottage food law exists
  • what they could do with their products…

sanitarians locally in the counties

this is a way they could go beyond that limited.

It’s $40 one time registration fee.

You can register as many products as you want.

I think the longest list is about 100 products that they are at home and selling

cakes and things like that for friends neighbors

word gets out


and due as a business out of their home

wedding cakes

some limitations

move into things that require refrigeration

some buttercream frostings do qualify as a cottage food it just depends on the formulation

there are recipes that have enough sugar and not so good things in them for

It went into effect in October 2015!

October 1st the first registration was October 9th, approved the first registration. People were enthusiastic being able to sell their products that were made at home. Talked about in the previous legislature. That’s what we see across the US. Have gone into effect in the last 10 years. Made in a home kitchen.

some require the kitchens to be inspected. Which is good we don’t have the manpower here in terms of that. We’re middle of the road on

states allow to sell from home or other venues

limited to only sell form farmers markets or home only

some states don’t require registration

we don’t require safety training

individuals to get food safety training

many states have a limit on the amount of sales you can do

we do not

they have a Dollar limit of $5000, $10,000 and $20,000


needs to be a direct sale from producer to consumer

if you’re making it you’re selling it to the individual.

sticky point

want to have someone else say it

want the consumer to be able to ask questions about product


we’re along with most states on that.

sometimes that’s a struggle

guidelines on those

pretty straightforward

customer can come back and contact you if they want more

really good increasing your business

vary in terms of what they allow

most include baked goods and candies

some don’t allow jams or fruit butters

dried fruit

some states do some states do

terms of products

don’t allow that other states allow

most popluar is vinegars

pickled foods as well

usually they require more controls in how they produce to make sure they’re safe and they don’t lead to food

that’s something you need a retail license for then a cottage food

more safe guards

ph of the solution

being able to  avoid things in those foods…

think abut it the food on our list

foods that cause food bourne illness

food and consumer safety

food bourne outbreaks

we know

if someone makes it and leaves it on their counter

might spoil

not going bad because a food bourne

fruit pies

but not custard pies

custard need to be refridgerated


people don’t realize it fruit tends to have a fairly low ph

acid conditions kill off the bacteria

jams and jellie

fruits are

have acid in them

acid acts as a natural microorganism killer

keeps the micro organisms from growing


kills off

jams and jellies can last a very long time if they are canned correctly

things you find growing will be mold

bacteria that we worry about making you sick

mold can make you sick too

we have info on our website

the food and consumer safety

cottage food and your state name it will give you a link

in our state

the local health

environmental health

local people will take your registration

environmental health office

they will have the registration

form that you fill out

info about where you are located

turn in the items


trade secrets


sanitarian keeps those in a confidential file or destroy them or return them

look over the items and how they are produced to make sure they are going to be a safe item

most items it’s pretty quick to approve them

strawberry jam or jelly

complicated recipe

evaluating those


100 items may take longer to review them

10 different

it has to list the ingredients

there’s a lot of people out there with allergies or intolerance

buy at the store

it lists what’s in that item.

people need to know what’s in that item

you’re revealing how you make it

what goes in there

ways to say

spices and flavorings if they are in a small

weight they in the recipe

there’s a variety of different tools and you


on your label you do’t have to include nutritional info

  • name of the product
  • the ingredients
  • your name and contact
  • who’s producing it
  • how much is in the package

if we register together

living in the same household

be made at the registered home

can’t go over to your buddies house

make it there

your own place

can have more then one owner of the operation

many are joint operations

mother and daughter

one of you needs to live at the place that is the home kitchen

Mike and I could get registered

give our operation a lovely name

you would be aware

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

I grew up in California, we did a little bit of gardening at home. My mom grew flowers, we didn’t do a lot of vegetable gardening. My first

when I was a student

I planted tomatoes

Davis is great for

so many tomatoes I fed

those couple of summers

ever since then I’ve done a little bit of gardening

put a bunch of raised beds

in my children’s old play area!

last couple of years got involved with Montana Master Gardeners.


Helena community!

Pet treats?

Might be department of livestock or dept of ag

not sure

If you want to register the business name there is a business name

cottage food people

use their own name as their business.

don’t need to register as a separate business name


WE do not go out and inspect unless there is some sort of food bourne illness tied back to food

we don’t

there is not a fine

see if there is a way to happen

the material can become contaminated

cook the product

break open the eggs you need to wash your hands

if there is salmonella

raw eggs added to


here’s what it says for that question

if you are a licensed


farmer’s market

are non potentionally

you can give samples at a farmer’s market


vegetables are potentially hazardous.

little bit different

vegetables you are usually selling at the market haven’t been washed.

want to wash them before

regulated through department of ag

in terms of our our farmer’s market addressing samples of vegetables

local farmer’s market manager.

all they’ve gotten is a quick field wash

not like a thorough washing to remove

if someone starts doing more intensive processing

taking the lettuce

triple washing it

bags and such

value added product and they have to get liscensing for that. 

liscensing water is ok

get’s more complicated when you have further handling of foods

What about selling online? If they want to sell on Facebook or Craigslist? 

It’s fine to advertise it for marketing purposes in those places, but they can not put it in the mail and send it off to some place.

It has to be a face to face sale!

They can:

  • set up a meeting
  • tell people they are going to be at such and such place at this time
  • face to face transaction with the buyer of their product.

They can’t put it in the box and send it through the mail. That’s different.

other laws

actual food license

Most of cottage food people are not interested in making stuff to mail to other individuals. They’re making stuff they want to get to the person in a fairly timely manor. 

Many do advertise online to let people know where they are gonna be and when

Or to connect with people

I have all these great goods

connect with me I can make the cake that you want or five dozen cookies for your party

We actually encourage people. It’s good to get the word out. They can let people know they have a cottage food registration. Some individuals actually put their registration up on line. 

That’s fine too so that they can see they are registered on their Facebook page..

They have it listed right on their facebook page

What about gluten free products?

they would have to take precautions to avoid contaminating their products with gluten

They need to separate products with gluten with products that do not.

Some operators produce items.

gluten free

separate from any items that might contain gluten. Keep all those items in a different part of kitchen where there are no flour products so as to not expose them to gluten

We have people who have registered that have gluten

Chances are if they are making gluten free products it’s because they have someone in their family that is allergic to gluten in their house and needs to eat gluten free so they are already doing it anyway.

thats what we see is often, they often have some one in there own family

having gluten issues so they already have a gluten free kitchen start baking items and sharing them with friends and family and they have a group of people interested in those products.

cottage food license

several items that are gluten free:

  • zucchini bread
  • strawberry
  • sandwich bread
  • banana bread
  • vegan rolls
  • pumpkin banana bread

several different products that are gluten free that they are providing to customers

There are some federal regulations we can always direct people to if they have any questions.

of gluten free

to information

Usually you don’t need anything if they are doing something that is not on the list. IF they are doing a jam or jelly not from fruits that we currently allow or a combination.

If you look at our approved list it has a whole list of fruits are allowed. Sometimes people propose something not on the list. We may ask them to get tested for ph and sugar content.

Like pumpkin right is one of those?

Yes pumpkin is one not on the list

people have made an apple pumpkin product

ph is below 4.6

food safety

above 4.6 several organisms that cause food borne illness can grow. 

below 4.6 those organisms don’t usually grow in products so that’s why we have that regulation there.

Usually when we talk about testing it’s in a product that isn’t one of our standard product, but someone is proposing it and really wants to do it. We will send it off to a food processing lab. That can cost between $25-75.

They send the final product right?

Yes, they send the final product with a recipe to the lab and they test it for ph, water activity. so they will test for those items is that food gonna be a concern. 

  • how much water is averrable to microorganisms is that food going to be a concern
  • fine and don’t need to be worried about food borne illness resulting on that food.

We are just trying to protect people. Our concern is having a product out there that can make someone sick so we err on the side of caution to make sure so that we don’t end up with a large food borne outbreak from a product.

Lots of times when you’re making things for friends and family, that’s not a very large group of people but once someone starts selling something out to larger population of individuals.

  • well could this make people sick
  • maybe making more vulnerable becoming ill

That’s why we picked the products we have for this list of approved products

We pretty much know if someone bakes a loaf of whole wheat or zucchini bread it won’t make someone sick. 


value added products that small time producers at home and getting out there and selling

Theyrre doing really well in the

  • number of products they are selling
  • being able to carry out a fairly large business out of their home,
  • on their own time
  • do something they love and make some money off of it

Costs of goods

That people appreciate. I know people always love Mike’s cookies and breads etc. They’re healthy for you, he always uses healthy flour and sugar and puts walnuts them. I often think his cookies are more healthy then a cliff bar or something. I always think how much does it cost, you’d have to sell it for like $10!

that’s what you need to sit down and figure out

  • what does it cost per cookie?
  • now you know the weight
  • the whole container that you bought

how much did I pay for it

how much is each cookie costing me

fair price

time and everything

you know we find you can product a loaf of bread at home for under a dollar and sell it for $3-4 and if it’s good bread

people are often willing

cookie costing you 25¢ to make and sell for a $1.50

especially you can sell 10 or 15 you start to make some money

cost and expense…

they can buy all the ingredients

Sorry folks I somehow lost the end of the interview here… but it’s good timing.


How do we connect with you?


Public Health Sanitarian

Office (406) 444-0067  Fax: (406) 444-5055




Cogswell Building – Room C-214

PO Box 202951 

Helena MT  59620-2951

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I’d be remiss not to mention my garden journal, I loved it so much I made one for 2017 I’m going to fill in from my pictures!


2018 Garden Journal and Data Keeper


2017 Garden Journal and Data Keeper

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About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.

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