- - Sunday, December 1, 2013

The American dream of owning a small business often crumbles because of half-baked government rules and regulations. In Minnesota, the state’s leaders have decreed that goods cooked at home can be sold at county fairs and farmer’s markets, but they can’t be offered in grocery stores or over the Internet.

These antiquated protectionist measures stand in the way of amateur chefs who want to use their kitchen and cooking skills to supplement their incomes. As with most states, Minnesota has a “cottage food” statute that allows “not potentially hazardous” baked goods, including bread, cakes, cookies, fruit pies and rolls to be made at home. When it comes to selling these homemade goods, however, the state imposes severe limits. It’s not acceptable to earn more than $100 a week selling pies, nor may a bread maker sell in prohibited locations without facing a misdemeanor criminal conviction that’s punishable by up to 90 days in jail or fines of $7,500 per violation.

The Institute for Justice recently filed a lawsuit challenging this extreme law on behalf of Jane Astramecki and Mara Heck, a pair of talented homemakers who just want to share their tasty products with their community while providing for their families.

Mrs. Astramecki sustained an injury that makes it difficult for her to work outside the home. She started her home-baking business to earn money for her family while raising six children. Her goods are so popular at the local farmer’s market that she receives requests from customers who would like her to bake for special family occasions and work events. Likewise, Mrs. Heck has earned ribbons and accolades at the State Fair for four years running. Her desire to convert her talents into a full-time business is being spoiled by Minnesota’s food police.


These bureaucrats take their role seriously, standing ready to collect dough for the slightest violations. When the owner of You Betcha Cupcake dared to feature photos of her confections in Rochester magazine, the state demanded that she “discontinue baking and selling cupcakes from an unapproved home kitchen.”

Efforts to amend the state law to increase the sales cap to $50,000 and allow home bakers to sell from home have gone nowhere in the state legislature. The affected women are left with no choice but to go to court to defend their right to earn a living. “If you have a recipe and an oven, you should be able to start a business,” says Katelynn McBride, the lead attorney on the case.

Mrs. Astramecki and Mrs. Heck are part of a growing movement of entrepreneurs who are tired of the government slamming the oven door on economic opportunity and dictating food choices. These potential entrepreneurs deserve the chance to taste sweet success without government getting in the way.