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Utica home baker explores options since passing of House Bill 263

August 17, 2018 | 4:04 am

Updated September 10, 2018 | 10:50 pm

Photo courtesy of Jamie Alexander

One year ago, Chelsea Stratton was asked to make little blue truck cookies based on the popular book “The Little Blue Truck,” for her nephew’s first birthday party. She began planning the design, recipe and the decorating tools she would need and then went where most creative people go first — Pinterest.

One year later, Stratton, the owner of Farmhouse Cookies, is again making cookies for her nephew’s birthday party. This time it’s a “Monster’s Inc.” theme.

The past year has been an interesting one for Stratton and her cookie-making business she runs out of her home in Utica, Kentucky. After posting pictures of the cookies on her personal Instagram account, she was contacted by several friends about making cookies for different functions.

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She enjoyed making the cookies and wanted to make them for friends, but at that time, bakers, who are known in government terms as “home-based processors,” were unable to sell items made in-home.

With that in mind, Stratton chose to make cookies for friends’ events but worried about the legality of it. She donated Nutcracker-themed cookies to Owensboro Dance Theatre’s Sweet Shoppe each night it was open and, by word-of-mouth, she became known for her cookies.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Alexander

All the while, she was aware of a bill that was being proposed that would change the way in-home baking was regulated.

On April 2, 2018, House Bill 263 was signed by Gov. Matt Bevin. On July 14, 2018, the law took effect allowing anyone to be a “home-based processor,” not just farmers.

This bill meant that “home-based processors” could use their own kitchens and avoid renting a commercial space. For Stratton, who was considering a commercial space to continue making cookies as a side business, the bill would allow her to bake and earn money from her home.

The new law allows sales directly to a consumer within the state, but wholesale is prohibited.

Only non-potentially hazardous foods (meaning foods that are shelf-stable and do not require refrigeration) can be sold, and all products require a label including information specifically required from House Bill 263.

“Many home bakers have gone to an LLC and have a full-blown business, but I do it for fun,” said Stratton, adding, “but I only have one weekend open in the next two months.”

Because of the support friends and family had given Stratton during the eight months before the bill became law, Stratton had a list of customers waiting to place cookie orders.

During that time, Stratton began “playing with the recipe a whole lot.” She watched videos and contacted several of the bakers whose designs she liked. She also went to Nashville, Tennessee, and took an in-home class from a home baker.

She also began talking to her aunt-by-marriage, Representative Suzanne Miles about the legalities for Farmhouse Cookies to confirm she was within the law.

Stratton has now moved her personal pictures of her cookies to a business page for Farmhouse Cookies on Instagram and requires at least a two-week notice for orders.

“That way, if I have to order a special cutter or stencil I have time,” she said. But she asks that customers who come with a picture of what they want — usually off Pinterest — let her make it her own.

Stratton often contacts the original cookie designer and has found that most home bakers are fine with sharing their ideas and designs “as long as you tag the designer when posting.”

Stratton, who is due with a daughter in November and has three other children, doesn’t spend time when the kids are home baking. She does it while they are at school though they have been known to find the cookies while they are drying. In fact, her youngest son recently took a bite out of seven individual cookies in her last order.

When discussing the future of her business and what she sees a business plan, Stratton laughs.

“This all started because I watched a Facebook video and thought, ‘Hey, this doesn’t look too hard’ so I gave it a try.”

August 17, 2018 | 4:04 am

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