Are you a baker ready to sell your home-baked goods? Are you a farmer looking for value-added opportunities for crops you’ve grown or livestock you've raised? Are you an entrepreneur aiming to use local agricultural products to make value-added foods?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then the new Food Business Central online course can equip you with knowledge and strategies to launch a successful farm-raised or home-based food business in Ohio.
Navigating food regulations, establishing a new business, and applying best practices for food safety can be challenges for food entrepreneurs. This course is designed to serve as a centralized hub to connect you to information and resources regarding all types of food products you might want to make and sell.
We're part of the teaching team that created the course, which also includes Emily Marrison, OSU Family & Consumer Sciences Educator, Nicole Arnold, OSU Food Safety State Specialist,and Garth Ruff, OSU Field Specialist in Beef Cattle and Livestock Marketing. Our goal is to help food business entrepreneurs start off organized, safe, compliant, and strategic. The self-paced course asks key questions with considerations to explore and actions to take on your journey to start a food business. The cost of the course is $25, and registration is at go.osu.edu/foodbusinesscentral .
The Food Business Central online course was partly funded through North Central Extension Risk Management Education, whose goal is to help farmers and ranchers effectively manage risk in their operations. This assistance comes from the United States Department of Agriculture through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Did you know Buckeyes can make and sell homemade Buckeyes? That’s because those peanut butter and chocolate candies we call Buckeyes are a “cottage food” in Ohio. And our Cottage Food Law allows home-producers to make cottage foods with little agency oversight and without obtaining a food license. There are several laws that do apply to making Buckeyes and other cottage foods, though. We explain them in our newly updated law bulletin on Ohio’s Cottage Food Law.
Why do we have a Cottage Food Law?
Food science teaches us that some foods pose a lower food safety risk than other foods. Likewise, some foods have a higher chance of causing a foodborne illness if not handled properly. Our Cottage Food Law recognizes this difference and allows home-producers to make and sell those food products that have a low food safety risk and don’t require special handling. At the same time, the Cottage Food Law prohibits home-producers from making higher risk “potentially hazardous” foods.
Which foods are cottage foods?
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) has the responsibility of determining which foods are cottage foods. If a food is on the cottage food list, the Cottage Food Law applies. The full list is in our Ohio Cottage Food Law Bulletin and in Ohio Administrative Code Section 901:3-20-04. It includes items like baked goods, candies, jams and jellies, granola, and many dry mixes, herbs and mixes. But note that there are exceptions in many of the categories. For example, freezer jam and sugar free jam are exceptions in the jam category, and those types of jams are not cottage foods. For this reason, it’s important to identify whether a specific food product is on the cottage foods list. ODA also maintains a helpful list of foods that are not cottage foods, and we explain those in the bulletin. Many producers will be disappointed to know that salsa is on that list.
What laws apply to cottage foods?
Even though a home-producer need not obtain a food license to make and sell a cottage food, there are four laws that do apply to a cottage food product. These laws address:
- Labeling requirements
- Packaging restrictions
- Sales restrictions
- ODA product sampling authority
Read about these legal provisions and more in our Ohio Cottage Foods Law bulletin, available in the Food Law Library on farmoffice.osu.edu. Also check out our recent webinar that addresses product development and laws for cottage foods and other home-produced foods in the Starting a Food Business webinar series.
Yes, you read it right: our roundup of agricultural law questions includes a question on popcorn--not one we often hear. Below is our answer to it and several other legal questions we’ve recently received in the Farm Office.
A farm lease landlord didn’t notify a tenant of the intent to terminate a verbal farm lease before the new September 1 deadline. What are the consequences if the landlord now tries to enter into a new lease agreement with another tenant operator?
Ohio’s new “statutory termination law” requires a landlord to provide written notice of termination of a verbal farmland lease by September 1 of the year the lease is effective. The law is designed to prevent a tenant from losing land late in the leasing cycle, after the tenant has made commitments and investment in the land. The new law now establishes September 1 as the deadline for a valid termination, unless a lease provides otherwise. If a landowner terminates after September 1, the consequences are that a tenant could either try to force continuation of the lease for another lease period or seek damages for the late termination. Those damages could include reimbursement for work already completed, such as fall tillage, nutrient applications, and cover crops; reimbursement for input costs such as seed and fertilizer that tenant cannot use or return; and lost profits from the tenant's loss of the crop. Find our law bulletin on the new statutory termination date for farm leases on the Farm Office website.
A farmer plans to build a barn and grain bins close to the property line of a neighbor. Does the neighbor have a legal right to stop the farmer from building so close to the boundary?
No, probably not. Because the neighbor lives in a rural area, Ohio’s “agricultural exemption” from local zoning regulations applies to the situation. The agricultural exemption law states that except in limited circumstances, agricultural land uses and structures used for agriculture, like barns, are not subject to township or county zoning regulations and building permit requirements. If this township has building setback requirements in its zoning resolution, for instance, the farmer is not subject to the regulations and can build the barn closer to the property line than the setback provisions require and farmer is not required to obtain a zoning or building permit for the barn. One exception is that if the farmer’s land is less than five acres and is one of at least 15 lots that are next to or across from one another, the agricultural exemption would not apply to the farmer's land. Find the agricultural exemption from zoning in Ohio Revised Code 519.21.
In replacing a line fence, a landowner entered a neighbor’s property and cleared 10 feet from the fence of all brush and trees, even though the neighbor warned the landowner not to do so. Did the landowner have a right to cut and remove the neighbor’s trees and vegetation?
No. Ohio law in Ohio Revised Code 971.08 does allow a person to enter up to 10 feet of an adjacent neighbor’s property for the purpose of building or maintaining a line fence, but it is only a right of entry for the purpose of working on the fence. It allows a person to access the neighbor's property without fear of legal action for trespass. But the law does not allow a person to remove trees or vegetation within the 15 foot area. In fact, the law specifically states that a person will be liable for any damages caused by the entry onto the neighbor’s property, including damages to crops. Additionally, since the neighbor stated that the trees should not be removed and the landowner removed them anyway, the landowner could be subject to another Ohio law for “reckless destruction” of trees and vegetation. That law could make the landowner liable for three times the value of the trees that were removed against the neighbor’s wishes. Find the reckless destruction of vegetation law in Ohio Revised Code 901.51.
Would a milk contamination provision in an insurance policy address milk that could be contaminated as a result of the East Palestine train derailment?
Probably not. Milk contamination coverage provisions in a dairy's insurance policies typically only apply to two situations: unintentional milk contamination by the dairy operator and intentional contamination by a party other than the dairy operator. Contamination resulting from an unintentional pollution incident by a party other than the dairy operator would not fit into either of these situations. But insurance policies vary, so confirming a farm’s actual policy provisions is important when determining insurance coverage.
A grower of popcorn wants to process, bag, and ship popcorn. Does the grower need any type of food license?
No. Popcorn falls under Ohio’s “cottage food law.” Popcorn is on the list of “cottage foods” identified by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) as having lower food safety risk than "potentially hazardous foods." A producer can process and sell a cottage food without obtaining a food license from the ODA or the local health department. However, the producer may only sell the food within Ohio and must properly label the food. Labeling requirements include:
- Name of the food product
- Name and address of the business of the cottage food production operation
- Ingredients of the food product, in descending order of predominance by weight
- Net weight and volume of the food product
- The following statement in ten-point type: "This product is home produced."
Read our law bulletin on Ohio’s Cottage Food Law on the Farm Office website.
The world loves a good baker. If you’re one of those good bakers and you want to sell your baked goods, do you need a license? Maybe. Our newly revised law bulletin, “The Home Bakery Registration Law in Ohio,” explains when a license or “registration” is necessary for selling home baked goods in Ohio.
Whether you need to register for a Home Bakery license depends on the type of baked good you’ll produce. Certain foods are at lower risk of a food safety concern when produced at home, which we refer to as “non-potentially hazardous” foods. Those foods might fall under the Ohio Cottage Food Law, which does not require a license or registration for those who want to produce and sell foods that are on the cottage foods list. When a home baked good does pose higher food safety risks, however, the home bakery law applies to that food and additional practices are necessary to reduce food safety. The producer who wants to sell that type of home baked good must register as a “Home Bakery" with the Ohio Department of Agriculture to help ensure that food safety practices are in place.
Which home-baked foods fall into which category? This chart illustrates the differences between non-potentially hazardous “cottage" foods and potentially hazardous “home bakery” foods. If a food falls into the “potentially hazardous” category, the producer needs to apply for a Home Bakery license.
What’s required for the Home Bakery registration? Our law bulletin explains the registration and inspection process and labeling requirements. Read more about those parts of the Home Bakery Registration Law in our bulletin, available on the Farm Office Food Law Library at https://farmoffice.osu.edu/our-library/food-law.
Direct food marketing in Ohio is hot. The latest USDA survey identified 7,107 Ohio farms with direct food sales--third highest in the nation. That might be why our program receives more legal inquiries about food sales than any other area of law. And that is also why we’re hosting a three-part webinar series on “Starting a Food Business,” providing an introduction to what a producer needs to know about selling home-based and farm-raised foods directly to consumers and retailers.
The free webinar series will be from 7—9 p.m. on January 24, February 28, and March 28 in 2023, with these different topics each night:
- January 24: Start-Up Basics. What do you want to sell? We’ll review initial considerations for selling your food product. We’ll cover food safety, licensing, legal, and economic considerations for starting up a food business.
- February 28: Selling Home-Based Foods. Learn about food product development, Ohio’s Cottage Food and Home Bakery laws, and requirements for selling canned foods.
- March 28: Selling Meat and Poultry. A look at the economics, processing options, and labeling and licensing requirements for selling meat and poultry.
Our teaching team for the webinar series includes:
- Nicole Arnold, Asst. Professor and Food Safety Field Specialist for OSU Extension. Nicole supports food handlers, consumers, and educators with food safety education and risk communication efforts.
- Peggy Kirk Hall, Assoc. Professor and Agricultural Law Field Specialist for OSU Extension. Peggy directs OSU Extension’s Agricultural & Resource Law Program and regularly teaches and writes on food laws.
- Emily Marrison, OSU Extension Educator in Family and Consumer Sciences. Emily’s food science background provides expertise and insight on food safety, product development, and selling home-based foods.
- Garth Ruff, Beef Cattle Field Specialist for OSU Extension. Garth has a background in animal science and specializes in livestock production and marketing, farm management, and meat science.
The webinar series is free, but registration is necessary. Find details and the registration link at go.osu.edu/foodbusiness.