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Doug Taylor, chef with Batali restaurant group, co-founder of several local farmer’s markets
Diane Greene, Boulder City grower of herbs, edible flowers and mini greens
Janet Knight, Las Vegas grower of vegetables, lettuces and tree fruits
BY JOAN WHITELY -- A wide array of “cottage foods” crafted by locals can now be sold at Nevada farmers’ markets, thanks to a change in state law that took effect this summer.
Jams, breads, candies, vinegars, dried fruits, herb blends, trail mixes, granola and popcorn balls are all legal cottage foods now. The term refers to foods made on a small scale in private homes, rather than in a commercial kitchen.
Nevada recently removed its ban on these cottage foods items, although the state still forbids individuals to sell homemade honey, dairy products, foods that require refrigeration, foods containing meat, or foods that have been canned or pickled. Special risks of contamination make sale of those hand-crafted foods illegal.
Until the recent law change, only parties with a commercial food production license could sell the cottage foods.
The change also permits individuals to sell direct to consumers at swap meets or garage sales. A cottage food producer cannot sell, however, by the Internet or to stores for resale. Sellers must first go through a registration process with the Southern Nevada Health District. Sellers also must create product labels that comply with state law.
Boulder City grower Diane Greene, for example, has been selling fresh herbs, edible flowers, and micro greens for several years at local markets, and by special order to restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip. She said she strategically chose to grow edible blooms because “they can’t bring it in from California any fresher.”
Greene, who describes herself humorously as the local “garnish queen,” says now she can turn her surplus fresh herbs into packaged “blends” to sell as a rub when cooking meats or preparing other dishes. She may also use dried herbs to create infused, or flavored, vinegars.
Grower Janet Knight raises vegetables, lettuces and some tree fruits year-round at her home in northern Las Vegas. She, also, has been selling for several years at local outdoor markets and delivering weekly produce baskets to individual customers. The new law gives her the option of turning some of her left-over fruits into jams and preserves.
Prior to the legalized sale of cottage foods, Knight and Greene said their only way to use surplus produce was to compost it, to enrich their garden soils.
Proponents of the change in Nevada law hope that the expansion of permitted activities will allow new sellers to come to the farmers markets, and perhaps allow some small sellers to expand their businesses to a commercial scale.
Pastry chef Doug Taylor, who has helped found several local farmers markets, said that when he first arrived in Las Vegas no markets existed. Peers in other restaurants “used to look at me like I had three heads” when he asked where to purchase from local growers.
“It creates a whole new environment … of people working together in a community,” Taylor says of the growing farmers market scene. He estimates that every day of the week there is now a farmers market going on somewhere in the Las Vegas Valley.