In 2021, the first-ever national research study on the evaluation of in-cabin food operators was completed, to provide insight into the in-cabin food operator (CFO), individuals who operate a home food products under their state’s cottage food law. The findings, summarized in the infographic created by Rachael Miller, principal investigator and graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, help to better understand this movement.
If you’re a home baker or enjoy canning jam or jelly for sale to the public under these laws, the research offers insight into this growing artisan cooking movement, either as CFO already in business, or as someone planning to start their dream food business from home. It reveals some of the challenges, realities and opportunities offered by the rapid expansion of artisanal food laws.
Under contract with Renewing the Countryside, the online survey was made available to current and potential CFOs through artisanal food-related nonprofits, media channels of artisanal food and participants of the Virtual National Home Food Entrepreneur Conference 2021, recorded sessions that can still be listened to. Supervision of the research study was provided by Libby Smith, director of the Master of Science in Applied Psychology program at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
A total of 902 people agreed to participate in the survey, but not all of them answered all the questions. Participants were asked about their artisanal food operation, commercial kitchen activities, business dreams and demographics. Descriptive statistics were performed on all variables to provide detailed information on this sample population. Demographic information includes all participants, while non-demographic questions are divided into two groups: future CFOs and current CFOs.
It didn’t surprise us that almost a third of all CFOs cared for children at home while running their business, perhaps reflecting the reality of the challenges of finding daycare for their children for positions full time during the covid-19 pandemic. Running a food business from home offers flexibility rarely found in an off-farm job.
For aspiring CFOs, it’s worth noting that about a quarter of them wanted to sell food products other than cookies, breads and cakes, perhaps wanting to fill neglected product niches in their community or to avoid competing on price with an already crowded market for cupcakes.
For CFOs currently in business, many have found that what they sell the most is not what they could generate the most profit from. Owners have carefully evaluated their menu offerings with a higher priority on pricing their products so that they ultimately make a profit.
CFOs run a business, not a hobby. CFOs can reap the full benefits of operating a business, as opposed to a hobby, by deducting legally permitted expenses and, if operating at a loss, reflecting that operating loss on their statement. income to reduce their taxable income. According to the study, deducting business miles for making deliveries with their personal vehicle and rent paid for a home office seems justified, given the number of current CFOs who do both.
John D. Ivanko, with his wife Lisa Kivirist, co-wrote rural revival, House for sale, the award-winning ECOpreneuring and farm manager parallel to the operation Serendipity Inn B&B and Farm, powered entirely by the sun. Both have been speakers at the Mother Earth News Fairs. As a writer and photographerIvanko contributes to Mother Earth News, more recently, Living with Renewable Energy Systems: Wind and Solar and 9 Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living. They live on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin with their son Liam, a 10.8 kW solar plant and millions of ladybugs.
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