For the past two summers I have made homemade pies, gourmet baked goods, and granola in my home to sell at the Farmer’s Market in Jackson. I am a professional baker, have worked in the restaurant business for over 20 years. I chose to do this to provide the public with high quality baked goods using seasonal, and, when possible, local, fruits. I also chose to do this as a simple business that allowed me to stay home with my 5-year old daughter. In the past I have been allowed to do this as long as I posted a large sign at my booth stating to the public that my “Baked goods were produced in a non-commercial kitchen” and that I stuck to producing “non hazardous foods” that were baked, prepackaged (no samples), and had no meat, fresh dairy, or anything perishable.
I have recently been informed by the Teton County Environmental Health Department “Per the Wyoming Dept. of Agriculture Interpretation, only traditionally recognized not-for-profit charitable or religious organizations would be allowed to prepare non-potentially hazardous baked goods in a home kitchen.”
I have spent the past few weeks looking into a commercial kitchen, and have found a few for about $20 per hour. Hmmm… last summer I would gross about $400 each Saturday. $40 went to the Farmer’s Market non-profit of the day, about $200 to food costs, taxes, etc, and the $160 profit was just about perfect for the 10 hours I put into baking and buying ingredients, the 4 hours at the market, and gas to drive over from Victor. Obviously, this commercial kitchen regulation is meant to put the small producer out of business.
I decided to go to Public Health and confirm the rumor. There were no health officers there at the time, but the receptionist informed me that it’s impossible to know WHAT goes on in my home. “Perhaps I have cat hair on my kitchen counter,” she said. Holding my tongue, I left and since then have become progressively angrier. I’m not just angry because I know my kitchen is cleaner than ANY restaurant I ever have worked in, or that I have to find another random part time job to live in the Tetons. I’m angry because this is another example of government bureaucracies guaranteeing that small food producers struggle in this country while the public loses its ability to make their own decisions on what to eat.
Perhaps you are aware consumers can no longer buy non-pasteurized almonds from a small farmer in California or raw milk from their neighbor’s cow. We’re all terrified of spinach and, what was it this week? Tomatoes? The reality is that it is the INDUSTRIALIZED AGRICULTURE, DISTRIBUTION, AND PROCESSED FOOD SYSTEM in this country that is making us sick, not the neighbor’s brownies. The problem is THE CONSUMER can no longer make an informed decision to buy my fresh pie made with Teton Valley raspberries; their health department has made it for them.
Imagine if the local Health Department, County Commissioners, and Farmer’s Market boards got together and made it their mission to support small scale farmers and food producers so that their community could become less dependent on the global food market. Perhaps the Health Department could take a few hours to inspect some home kitchens, or require home bakers to attend classes on food processing and packaging. The Health Department could make decisions on their own that are best for the community and are not based on archaic science and fear.
I encourage Teton County Public Health to reconsider their decision to prohibit non-potentially hazardous foods prepared in a non-commercial setting at the Jackson Farmer’s Market so the Market can continue to thrive like other markets around the country (virtually all Farmer’s Markets allow baked goods from a non-commercial kitchen). For example, Teton County Idaho’s regulations on non-hazardous foods state simply this: “A food license is not required in Idaho when… An establishment offers only prepackaged FOODS that are not POTENTIALLY HAZARDOUS… These criteria apply equally to temporary, mobile, fixed location or simply register and pay taxes. There is no paranoia about “non-hazardous foods.” But more importantly, I encourage consumers to have their voices heard and tell their policy makers that WE want to choose what we eat.
You may send a comment to:
Mike Dart and Sarah Budge
Teton County Environmental Health
PO Box 937, Jackson, WY 83001
Or voice or mail a comment to:
Mike Gierau, County Commissioner Liaison
James R. Little, MD, County Health Officer.
Chip Marvin, Jackson Hole Farmer’s Market