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‘Proudly made at home’

November 8, 2012

Thanks to the Homemade Food Act which baker-cum-activist Mark Stambler co-wrote, he will once again be able to run his bakery from his own kitchen and backyard wood-fired oven. Stambler will facilitate local workshops on Nov. 10 to help other entrepreneurs understand and use the law. Photo by Stephen Zeigler

A new state law eases the way for culinary entrepreneurs to legally create and operate food-related businesses in their kitchens, producing homemade edibles for sale to businesses and to the public.
Two local workshops will be offered this Saturday to provide information about the law and how it benefits citizens interested in starting their own cottage industries to produce baked goods, preserves, dried herbs and fruits, teas and roasted coffee, granola and popcorn, honey, empanadas and more.
The first workshop of the day will be held 10-11:30 a.m. at Metabolic Studio IOU Garden, at Main and Willow streets in Lone Pine. The Bishop workshop will be from 2:30-4 p.m. at Jill Kinmont Booth School, 166 Grandview St. Metabolic Studio’s Millie Macen Moore will be on hand to translate the talks into Spanish.
Assembly Bill 1616: California Homemade Food Act, or Cottage Food Law as it is also known, was written to help food purveyors with a simpler, more streamlined regulatory structure. “Grandmas, abuelitas, nanas and memaws especially love the new California Cottage Food Law. Giant food manufacturing corporations do not,” states news blog www.californiality.com.
Once the law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2013, citizens must understand it in order to use it. Although Inyo County Health Department and Eastern Sierra Certified Farmers Market have been following its progress, many people in the community may not “understand the changes in the law,” said workshop coordinator Jane McDonald. “It is a very exciting opportunity for people” who may want to kick start their own businesses but who don’t have capital to invest in certified kitchens, who have been hampered by zoning compliance and other regulations.
Enter workshop facilitator and Los Angeles-based baker-cum-activist Mark Stambler, who has a personal stake in the new law. In 2011, when Los Angeles County Health Department learned he was selling his bread to neighboring businesses, it doused the flames of Stambler’s backyard wood-fired oven. So, he wrote an assembly bill. But more about that later.
A 30-year veteran boulanger, Stambler said he hand-grinds his flour from wheat and bakes breads in the wood-fired oven he built in his backyard, producing crusty loaves from time-honed recipes. The vested cottage entrepreneur will facilitate the Saturday, Nov. 10 workshops. Stambler plans to cover the current status of the Cottage Food Law, its impact on home-based industry, permits and zoning, dealing with the health department, food preparation and storage – basically what people must do (and not do) “to take advantage of this law,” he explained.
Now “thousands of home-based food producers” will be able to “use their talents, their love of cooking and baking and their kitchen to earn extra income for their family.”
After the workshops, “in Lone Pine, I’ll be baking bread on Sunday morning (Nov. 11). They have a wood-fired community oven.” Anyone may join Stambler for dough mixing at 10:30 a.m. at 117 Washington St. The oven will be lit around noon and bread will be baked “in the late afternoon at the IOU Garden,” said McDonald.
When the Homemade Food Act becomes law, it will legalize the production of non-potentially hazardous food items and help entrepreneurs get county certification and permits needed to sell from their homes to the public, at farmer’s markets, festivals and events and to restaurants and stores.
The law “has the potential to make substantial, positive change in the state’s food environment, broadening the focus to include a much wider array of community-sourced food,” explained Stambler, increasing “self-sufficiency and decreasing our reliance” on outside food sources, explained McDonald.
The law also states, “Small businesses have played an important role in helping slow economies recover and prosper as an engine of job creation. During the 1990s, small businesses created the majority of new jobs and now account for 65 percent of United States employment.”
“We see this (law) as a step forward not the end goal,” explained Stambler. “People who make foods at home are usually interested in healthy foods with healthy ingredients” so there’s a great sense of accountability for quality product, he added. “I’m going to put it in huge letters on my label … ‘Proudly Made at Home.’ I think homemade products will be flying off the shelves.”
Stambler said he became “one of the catalysts” for the bill’s creation when he asked Sustainable Economies Law Center, in Oakland, for help. The Law Center had never written a bill either but the “group of progressive lawyers,” took up the challenge. Writing a bill is “an eye-opening experience,” said Stambler. A few days later, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) called Stambler, saying “‘I heard you had problems with the health department. You’re a constituent of mine. How can I help?’” recalled Stambler. From the summer of 2011 on, he, Gatto and SELC wrote a bill designed simplify and streamline home-based food industry regulations. Gatto introduced it to the legislature and Governor Jerry Brown signed the Homemade Food Act into law on Sept. 21 – the culmination of a 14-month journey.
For more information, contact Jane McDonald at (510) 468-7113 or janemcd1@mac.com.

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