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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why, oh why?

So many things have happened since we last talked (read, wrote, you know what I mean).  The Georgia Department of Agriculture finally passed the Cottage Food Law....YAY!!!!!!!  Here's a link to the regulations....
Cottage Foods
Click here for the  Georgia Cottage Food facebook page .

Such a big step for Georgia bakers.  This will seriously help out so many people who may not have been able to legally start their own businesses, which in turn will create revenue for the state.  So many positives across the board.  I absolutely love to read about the bakers who have already passed their kitchen inspections and are on their way.  For me, well I've come to another brick wall.  I live in Gwinnett Co, one of the largest counties in the state (second largest behind Fulton for population), and at this point in time the Water & Sewerage Dept will not allow a home-based food business in a residential area.  Why?  In order to have a food business, they require you to have a 1500 gallon (YES, you read that right) grease trap on site.  That grease trap would have to be flushed regularly, meaning big trucks, nasty hoses, etc.  So basically they won't even give me the time of day because I don't have this. 

I spent most of the day yesterday doing research, making phone calls, waiting on return calls (which btw never happened), and hoping for some positive news.  I spoke with "the guy with all the answers" at the Water & Sewerage Dept.  He hated to be the barer of bad news, but he basically said there was nothing I could do. 

Now, let me run this by you.... their main reason for this was because any grease put down a drain can start to cause buildup and thus back up the sewage into neighborhoods.  Several years ago, there was a big problem with the water and Gwinnett was able to come up with a solution for theirs.  This has created even more strict regulations from the top down at the water dept.  Apparently some of the other big counties (Dekalb & Fulton) have some pretty bad problems and will eventually have to change their regulations as well.  So....with all of the "underground bakers" across the county making cakes to supplement income that may or may not already put any grease down the drain, will it make any difference at all if the water dept does allow this Cottage Food Law?  And there are limitations already on what you can even produce under the Cottage Food Law.  We're talking things like cakes, fruit pies, cookies, pastries.  You can't make anything that is considered perishable and needs refrigeration.  No cream cheese frostings, cheesecakes, cream pies, etc.  So how much "grease" would you really put down the drain?  For me, any leftover frosting gets scraped in the trash.  And I use disposable pastry bags because I really dislike washing them.  We're talking MINIMAL amounts of grease, if any.  No more than your average meal cooked at home for your family.

AND....the state of Georgia allows certain items to be produced and sold at state operated farmers' markets.  Hence the reason I chose to participate in the Snellville Farmers' Market this summer.  Which btw was a lot of fun!  As long as you individually package your items and label them with ingredients, allergen information, and contact information, you were able to sell their approved list of items WITHOUT having a business license OR contacting the water dept for approval.  So if a baker is allowed to participate in farmers' markets without pre-approval from the water dept, why won't they allow a variance for the Cottage Food Law? 

Sara Rylander spoke up and made a change for the future of small business bakers across the state.  Now it's time to help my fellow Gwinnett bakers get their businesses going.  Spread the word, share your stories, talk to the media, etc.  We can do this!