This story is from 13 Ways to Launch the Food Business of Your Dreams. Where women entrepreneurs share their experiences and the best advice on turning a passion for food into a career.
Danielle Mickelson sold around 2,000 quarts of pickles, 650 loaves of bread, and 225 pies last year. All made in her kitchen in Rolla, North Dakota, a small town about 10 miles from the Canadian border. Though she runs a farmers market with her husband, Mickelson is able to earn additional income from her cooking thanks to cottage food laws. Laws that allow people to sell food products cooked in their own homes rather than in commercial kitchens. Every state has its own cottage laws, and while the exact legislation varies, it typically covers the sale of nonperishable baked goods and snacks only—things like nut mixes, granolas, and pickles. But in 2017 the North Dakota legislature passed the Food Freedom Act (HB-1433). Modeled after a Wyoming bill passed two years earlier, this new law extended the list of approved foods to include cooked dishes made with vegetables and poultry (no red meat), perishable baked goods, and more.
For Mickelson the new law was life-changing. “My family and friends weren’t the only ones who liked my products; I had regular customers and increasing demand,” she recalls. “And that’s when the exponential growth started.” She began making pies and soups. With her homegrown vegetables to sell alongside her freshly baked bread. The success of these new products made Mickelson look into buying a commercial kitchen and encouraged her to join the local job development authority to help others in the community take advantage of the same opportunities.
Danielle Mickelson successfully championed cottage laws in North Dakota.
HB-1433 was a huge win for anyone with cooking skills but with limited or no access to traditional avenues of entrepreneurship. Especially women and immigrants, along with Black, Indigenous, and rural communities. These groups have always been responsible for feeding their communities, and the new law enabled them to do so in a legal and profitable way. It also allowed them to expand their offerings and share their food with a broader swath of customers.
Feeling inspired? Check your state’s cottage laws before selling your homemade eats.