The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued proposed additions to the list of allowed foods under the CA Homemade Food Act yesterday. These are proposed additions to the list, so the changes to the list will not go into effect for another 30 days and are subject to change based on public comment.Read more
The following organizations and businesses voiced their support for AB 1616, the California Homemade Food Act. Thank you.
Click here for links to news media stories and notable blog posts about the California Homemade Food Act.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO
Anne Hamersky Photography
Aunt Ems Urban Inn + Farm
Berkeley Food Policy Council
Buried River Ranch
California Food and Justice Coalition
California State Grange
Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture
Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy
Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF)
East Bay Urban Agriculture Alliance
Ecology Center of San Francisco
Episcopal Diocese of California
Feel the Earth
Friends of Alemany Farm
From the Ground Up
Future Action Reclamation Mob
Garden for the Environment
Green Earth Gardens
Hayes Valley Farm
How to Homestead
Institute of Domestic Technology
Itty Bitty Farm in the City
Little City Gardens
Los Angeles Bread Bakers
Mission Community Market
Mission Vertical Farming
Oakland Food Policy Council
People Organized to Win Employment Rights
Produce to the People
Roots of Change
Saint Vincent de Paul Society
San Diego Hunger Coalition
San Francisco Bee-Cause
San Francisco Food Security Task Force
San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance
San Francisco Landscapes
San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance
San Francisco Permaculture Guild
Slow Food Santa Cruz
Sustainable Economies Law Center
Tenderloin People’s Garden
The Free Farm
The Garden Community
Whole Foods Market Northern California
In 2012 the Sustainable Economies Law Center worked closely with the Los Angeles Bread Bakers, the California State Grange and the Office of Assemblymember Mike Gatto to pass the California Homemade Food Act, which now allows certain kinds of small food enterprises to operate out of home kitchens, called "Cottage Food Operations" in the new law. Dozens of other organizations and businesses and countless individuals also supported the bill by writing letters, making phone calls and showing up at their legislators' offices and committee meetings to express their support. The bill would not have passed without the efforts of all these groups and individuals!
Legal Eats - A Legal Guide for Food Justice Enterprises (updated March, 2016)
This is a 77 page guide that covers many legal topics related to starting a small to medium scale food enterprise including restaurants, farms, grocery stores, and more! This guide primarily covers California law. It does not cover inter-state food sales. Click here to download the pdf onto your computer.
Food and Agricultural Regulations for Urban, Suburban, and Small Scale Agriculture:
General Guide to Selling/Donating Produce in California (including new laws as of 2016): Click here for a 3-page pdf.
Guide to Selling Produce in San Jose (for farmers and retailers): Click here for info and free pdf download.
Legal Bite on Organic Certification is a two page overview of the rules that apply to Certified Organic California farmers.
Legal Bite on Accessible Gardens is an overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act as it applies to gardens, with tips on making gardens more accessible.
Legal Bite on Selling Eggs in California is an overview for small-scale producers and sellers of eggs in California. Requirements covered in this resource apply to egg producers with 3,000 laying hens or fewer and those selling eggs within the state of California only.
FAQ on the Neighborhood Food Act provides an overview of the law's provisions, who the law applies to, and how you can take advantage of the new law to increase urban food production where you live. You might also want to check out this video recording of our Food and Farm Attorney, Neil Thapar, speaking about the law (see video at 21:00) at the 2014 Urban Agriculture Law Conference at University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law.
Homemade Food Enterprises:
See our California Homemade Food Act page for lots of detailed information on the law that we helped shepherd through the legislature in 2012.
Be sure to check out the Frequently Asked Questions page if you have a specific question that is not answered in our general summary of the law.
Check out our Food News Blog for updates on the latest legislative developments around homemade food sales.
Finance for Food and Agriculture Enterprises:
See our Grassroots Finance Guide for California Farmers which details the laws food and farm enterprises must navigate when raising "community capital" (ie raising investment money from ordinary people, not banks or other financial institutions). Released in September, 2017
See also generally our Grassroots Finance Program page for more finance ideas and other resources.
We've created a series of resources on employment laws for small-scale food and farm enterprises. Click here to learn more.
Employment Law Projects: From 2011-2013, our staff and volunteers worked with Hmong farmers in and around Fresno, CA and Chinese farmers in Morgan Hill, CA to address common employment law barriers encountered when the farmers engage in cooperative farming practices and involve family and friends in the labor of their farms. These employment law issues are key legal barriers in the creation of sustainable localized economies, and they impact communities far beyond Fresno and Morgan Hill. For more information on this project, see our webpage on Employment Law Projects.
General Information for Small Businesses:
See our CommunityEnterpriseLaw.org. This contains articles about employment, land use, corporate, and finance laws. Note that this is a work-in-progress and more content is continually added.
Workshops: With our partners at the Community Economic Justice Clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center and students at Berkeley Law School we put on workshops about legal topics related to food enterprises and worker cooperatives. Check out our events page for information about upcoming workshops. Click here to see all 14 videos from a previous Legal Eats workshop in West Oakland.
Legal Advice: The Sustainable Economies Law Center offers donation-based legal advice sessions for small-scale food enterprises and other community-based enterprises through our Resilient Communities Legal Cafe. Check out the schedule, which rotates around various East Bay Area locations, and then either schedule an appointment or just show up. Some Legal Cafes are also accompanied by facilitated discussions about various legal topics. Check the schedule for more information. As a small nonprofit organization, unfortunately, we do not have the resources at this time to provide legal advice over the phone or through email to food entrepreneurs who contact us outside the Legal Cafe. Please check out the resources listed above for your legal information needs, and if you still have questions or are unsure about anything, come to our Legal Cafe or contact an attorney who is familiar with the law in your area.
We envision networks of many local food systems comprised of community controlled, ecologically sound, and socially just enterprises.
About Our Food Program
Our food system is not well served by today’s predominant food business models, which incentivize growth, shareholder profit maximization, absentee ownership, and exploitation of resources. The ownership and governance structures of an enterprise largely determine the motivations that drive it. And the large, centralized food producers that dominate food systems today are usually owned and governed by white men and driven by financial bottom lines to the detriment of more important ends: equitable control over the food system, providing healthy food and fair economic opportunity to people working within the food system, and redressing injustice.
Systemic oppression within our food system has most negatively impacted rural communities, communities of color, and low-income communities, so our focus is on supporting these historically and currently marginalized communities to take back control over the economic engines of our food system. The cornerstone of our work is the belief that enterprises should be owned and controlled by the workers and communities who depend on them, and this is true for the food economy as much as any other sector. We believe that the right to define how local food systems are organized belong to the people who participate throughout the food chain, from the farm to the compost pile.
Sustainable Economies Law Center’s Food Program provides education, research, advice and advocacy to advance food systems built around this vision.
For information specifically about our Farmland Program, click here.
Food Policy Advocacy
Resources for Food Enterprises
We provide free legal guides on various topics for small and medium scale food and farm enterprises. Click here!
For all the latest updates about our Food Program, read our Food News blog. Click here!
"If we are going to move from the current centralized food system to a local, diversified new food economy, sharing has to be part of the solution. Corporate control of our food system vests decision-making power with a very small group of people whose profit-maximizing goals often deplete resources from communities rather than strengthen them..."Read more
Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1616, the California Homemade Food Act, into law on September 21, 2012, and it went into effect on January 1, 2013. Now it is legal to produce some types of food for sale in a home kitchen. Next year, the California Neighborhood Food Act will likely become law, enabling citizens to legally sell produce grown on residential lots. The two laws will work together synergistically, such that tiny food artisans may source from tiny growers.Read more
Food biz proprietors and other local experts offer their top tips for new food entrepreneurs.Read more
Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) introduces SELC's The California Homemade Food Act (AB 1616) to create a pathway for the legal sale of safe homemade food products -- helping micro food businesses throughout the state prosper, and ultimately foster the healthy/local food movement.Read more