Aero Workshop teaches home business rules in Joliet

On Tuesday, Feb. 6, a workshop was held by Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) Montana, entitled, “2018 Growing Food Businesses: Opportunities Under Montana’s Food Law. For would-be or current home businesses and small farmers and ranchers it was a chance to understand the new Cottage food industry law that allows people to cook or grow and sell things from home without unnecessary regulation applying to larger producers.

The agenda lists its stated purpose as to “empower food and agriculture entrepreneurs to pursue opportunities to build successful businesses by providing information on Montana’s food laws, catalyzing entrepreneurial momentum and building bridges between stakeholders.”

Tom Tschida of Bridger said, “My mom and I attended that AERO class last week. We are always interested in learning about possible opportunities for making and selling our own products- especially on a small, family farm scale.

The class laid out all the levels and structure of what a farm/ranch can (and can't) make and sell on their own.  We not only learned about the cottage food program, but also how it relates to other food laws in the state, i.e. retail and wholesale licensing.  AERO and the instructors did a great job!”

Tschida said they took a somewhat similar class a couple years ago when the law was new, “but this one really helped fill it all out for me.”

The Red Lodge Farmers Market is a resource. Tschida said, “The folks at the farmers market, and especially the food hub, are very easy to work with.  For the market there is usually an informational meeting in the spring, and the application is just one simple page.  I cant say enough good things about Margie and Chris with the food hub- they volunteer their time to run it, and have lots of knowledge about the local food scene.”

Enrollment is not difficult. Tschida said, “If you were referring to the cottage food enrollment process, its pretty simple too. It’s a few pages of application, but not too bad.  They want to see your whole process described, to make sure you're keeping everything properly cleaned, etc.  Then you have a meeting with the county sanitarian to go over the application.”

The Tschidas already have a few cottage food registrations of their own already, including for some different kinds of dried apples. Tom said, “I also have a registration for my sorghum syrup.  Right now we sell mostly at the Red Lodge Farmer's Market, and through the Rocky Fork Food Hub online.”

The workshop gave guidance for operating and registering products. It provided an opportunity for and encouraged networking, since connections between food production and food markets are a huge challenge in rural areas.

Tschida said, “To me, the cottage food program seems to be intended as kind of a stepping stone between farmer's market sales and wholesale licensing.  I believe it also clarified some earlier confusing/conflicting rules, but I'm definitely not an expert on that part.”

Alice Roberts, of Columbus, registered but was unable to attend due to the weather. Nevertheless, she wanted to express her support for local cottage industries, “It’s a lifestyle. A holistic lifestyle. We can teach it doesn’t have to be hectic. It can be as rooted as you were raised and take care of your family. You’ll live a good life.”

Roberts runs her holistic health business in Park City and Columbus while raising vegetables for sale in their greenhouse. Her husband Mike raises chickens. She said, ”With this new Cottage Law it is so important that the law gets out there. It’s completely different than catering (regs). It’s so important for the mom and dad to make ends meet, turns out to be something they never dreamed. It's absolutely phenomenal!” See: http://aeromt.org/workshops/workshop-resources/

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Upcoming Events

  • Tuesday, March 19, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Now Group meets at the Bridger United Methodist Church, 222 W. Broadway (west entrance of church) Tuesday at 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 21, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Meets every Thursday, 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation, 122 S. Hauser. It is open to all. 425- 1755.
  • Thursday, March 21, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Clarks Fork Group meets at St. Joseph’s Catholic Hall, north end of Montana Avenue, Thursday at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, March 22, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Rock Creek Group meets Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8 a.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. at Calvary Church, 9 N Villard, Red Lodge.
  • Monday, March 25, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Joliet Group meets at the Community Center Monday at 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, March 26, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Now Group meets at the Bridger United Methodist Church, 222 W. Broadway (west entrance of church) Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The Carbon County News

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