Minnesota Cottage Foods
Jane Astramecki v. Minnesota Department of Agriculture
Challenging Minnesota’s Restrictions on Selling Home-Baked Goods
IJ Client Jane Astramecki
Everyone loves a batch of fresh-baked cookies or a cake right out of the oven. Yet Minnesota had slammed the oven door on bakers trying to make a home-based business out of satisfying Minnesotans’ sweet tooth. In 2015, however, the Institute for Justice helped free home bakers and home canners from the state’s arbitrary restrictions on their right to earn an honest living.
Until recently, Minnesota only permitted home bakers and canners to sell their delicious goods at farmers’ markets and community events, and even then, they could only sell up to $5,000 annually—an average of only $96 per week. There was no legitimate health reason for these restrictions. The law only applied to foods the state itself labeled as “not potentially hazardous,” like cookies, cakes, and jams that required no refrigeration in order to be safe. In addition, it made no sense for the state to claim that a cookie could be perfectly safe when sold at a farmers’ market, but unsafe when sold somewhere else.
These arbitrary restrictions harmed entrepreneurs like Jane Astramecki and Mara Heck. Jane, a home baker and graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, sells her goods at farmers’ markets in Eagan and Farmington. She continually receives requests from market customers who would like her to bake for special family occasions or work events. But because of Minnesota’s cottage food restrictions, she had to tell them “No.”
Mara found herself in a similarly impossible position. A 31-year-old with a day job, she has a passion for baking that has earned her ribbons at the State Fair for five years running. She has dreamed about parlaying her passion into her own, fulltime business, but Minnesota’s cottage food restrictions had ensured that baking remained little more than a hobby for her.
So Jane and Mara fought back. In November 2013, they teamed up with the Institute for Justice to challenge Minnesota’s senseless cottage food restrictions as unconstitutional. In June 2014, the case suffered a minor setback when a state trial court dismissed the lawsuit.
Jane and Mara were vindicated, however, when the state court of appeals reinstated their lawsuit in May 2015. In reversing the lower court’s ruling, the court wrote that it was “particularly concerned with the lack of evidence in the record at this stage of the proceedings that shows how the venue and sales-cap restrictions are genuine or relevant to” the state’s public safety concerns.
A month later, the state legislature amended the arbitrary restrictions to largely free home bakers and canners like Jane and Mara to pursue their craft. The new law now allows home bakers and canners to sell directly to Minnesota customers, including from their homes and online. The law also raised the sales cap to $18,000, nearly quadrupling the amount home bakers and canners can sell annually. Those who sell more than $5,000 in a year will have to complete a few-hour “safe food handling training course” once every three years and pay a $50 registration fee. The new law went into effect on July 1, 2015.
This case is part of IJ’s National Food Freedom Initiative. You can view our Oregon Raw Milk case, our Florida Veggies case, our Texas Craft Beer case, and our Florida Skim Milk case.