Learning more about cottage goods as small business

Published 10:00 am Sunday, October 16, 2022

By Wayne Andrews

As more consumers “eat local,” U.S. local food sales, including cottage-food sales, have soared from $5 billion annually in 2008 to a projected $20 billion. “Cottage food,” meaning food made in a home kitchen for sale in Mississippi are foods that do not require time or temperature control for safety. Essentially, food that does not require refrigeration after the package has been opened. Examples include baked goods such as breads, biscuits, cookies, pastries, and tortillas. Mississippi cottage food producers also may sell candy, chocolate-covered pretzels, nuts, and fruit, dried fruit, dried pasta, dried spices, dry baking mixes, granola, cereal, trail mixes, dry rubs, fruit pies, nut mixes, popcorn, vinegar, mustard, most types of jams, jellies, and preserves, and many types of pickles and pickled foods.

This intersection of local foods, food traditions based on the agricultural history of Mississippi, and the locally made trend interested Cynthia Nguyen. Nguyen a student from Flowood who is studying to become a dietician at the University of Mississippi thought wanted to learn more about how items that once were add-ons by farmers at local markets have become a starting point for small local businesses.  Reaching out into the community she looked for an organization that assisted farmers and small businesses.  She found answers at the Lafayette County Multi-Purpose Arena which also is home to the Mississippi State extension service.  The Extension Service offers training, education, and information to farmers, gardeners, and supports programs from 4-H to Mississippi Volunteer Homemakers. 

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Nguyen recognized that local resource providers such as the Extension Service, Chamber, and Community Markets might benefit from an asset map of local cottage goods makers. The cottage good makers might benefit from access to these community resources.  One of the limitations Nguyen learned was that cottage food makers are not able to sell online. She wondered if these cottage good makers had access to resources if they could become small local businesses.  She looked at products such as Justevia Teas, SeauxS Sauces, and Oxcicles as examples of products that had found paths to retail channels. The impact of these products created that are not only locally made but sold regionally.  She wondered if other products could be transformed from a side business to new businesses in the community.

Nguyen offered to launch an asset mapping project. She developed an online survey to collect information about locals who make cottage goods. She wanted to see the range of products that are being made from jams and pickled items to baked goods and spices. Working with community partners she wants to create an online guide to locally made goods, survey the needs of these makers that might assist them in scaling up, and document the variety of products being made locally.  She has been visiting farmer’s markets, touring local shops, and scouring social media to find cottage products.

The Lafayette County Arena has been assisting her in this project by hosting the survey online, distributing information, and emailing resources. If you or someone you know makes and sells products from your home you can receive an online copy of the survey by emailing lafayettearena@gmail.com or by calling 662-236-6429

Wayne Andrews is chairman of the YAC.