CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An Ohio County woman says “farmers’ market season” will be extended through the year for the benefit of her local home-based baking business under a new state law.
Governor Jim Justice has signed SB 285, a bill dealing with points of sale for homemade food items or “cottage foods.”
In general, it allows for sales of such food beyond farmers’ markets and community events.
Before the change, “We were only able to sell at farmers’ markets, but now it opens us up to selling at the holiday season and not having to actively find markets that are open so we can sell our breads and cookies and things like that,” said Brianna Blend from Ohio County.
She and her husband run The Blended Homestead, a cottage food business in Wheeling which grows produce and raises chickens and pigs for customers in the Ohio Valley along with supplying baked goods.
The cottage food law specifically deals with those baked goods.
“We can make cookies and breads for delivery,” Blend said.
Meat and poultry do not fall under the new law.
“Both my husband and I have full-time jobs. I teach and he works full-time also and we have animals so it’s hard for us to commit full time to a bakery and pay an extra rent for a place to do all this,” she explained.
The new law which the Institute for Justice pushed with support from the state Department of Agriculture could also apply to makers of honey or those who sell herbs.
It’s one of two new laws putting an emphasis on state food products that will take effect in June.
Governor Justice has also signed HB 2396, the West Virginia Fresh Food Act.
With it, all state-funded institutions will be required to purchase a minimum of five percent of their fresh produce, meat and poultry from in-state producers if such products are available from in-state producers.
State institutions include schools, colleges, correctional facilities, government agencies and state parks.
This year was third attempt at the Fresh Food Act, according to Crescent Gallagher, communications director for the state Department of Agriculture.
It’s up to the state Department of Agriculture to develop rules for the requirement and enforce the five percent threshold beginning on July 1, 2019.
The two bills had overwhelming support in the state Senate and state House of Delegates during the 2019 Regular Legislative Session.
“Both, I believe, will open up new market opportunities for small producers and this will allow these producers to start new agribusinesses and eventually scale up into larger operations,” Gallagher said.
The focus is on the West Virginia farmer, not out-of-state farmers.
“We believe there’s a $7 billion gap in what we produce and what we eat in West Virginia,” Gallagher said.
“(State Agriculture) Commissioner (Kent) Leonhardt has always been focused on closing that gap and I think both bills are a step in the right direction of doing so.”