Complemented by bold wall paintings, live music and Christmas lights overhead, Berkeley’s first Cottage Food Market on Saturday night attracted numerous residents, who enjoyed various homemade foods in a simple but trendy setting.
Organized by Berkeley alumna Alex Stone and held at the Firehouse Art Collective, a cozy studio space that has hosted various art shows in the past, the event was like a farmer’s market for cottage, or homemade, foods.
“The Cottage Food Market is exactly the type of artsy community event we like to see grow and thrive in this particular space,” said Co-Executive Director of the Firehouse Art Collective Julia Lazar. “It (brought) the neighborhood together with food, art, music and speakers.”
With the recent legalization of so-called “cottage food operations” under the California Homemade Food Act, private vendors are now allowed to sell “non-potentially hazardous foods” prepared from their own home kitchens. Such foods include dried fruits, jams and baked goods without filling and other items that do not require refrigeration.
The law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, gives home cooks the chance to distribute their foods without having to cook or bake in commercial kitchens.
More than 100 Berkeley residents came to peruse the booths, which included vendors from Richmond to Livermore ready to sell their wares, to promote their businesses and to network with other shop owners. Local singer Tommy P. provided live music, and alumna Christina Oatfield, food policy director at the Sustainable Economies Law Center, gave a speech about her experience advocating for the law.
“The market was a good experience,” said vendor and UC Berkeley junior Mike Assayag, who distributed his food at Saturday’s event. “I got a lot of positive feedback, which has made me feel comfortable moving forward.”
Other vendors, such as Mike Carrillo, owner of Chickie’s Cookies and Treats in Richmond, felt similarly.
“I loved the experience,” Carrillo said. “It was very fun, really interactive.”
Carrillo, who dished out goods like jalapeno cookies and salted caramel brownies, began planning out his business last year when the cottage food law was initially proposed.
“This law made it possible for someone like me, who had been out of work for a while and low on money, to follow my dream,” Carrillo said.
Another Cottage Food Market is planned for May, according to Gwen von Klan, operations manager at the Berkeley Student Food Collective.
“I would like to see more of these events all over the Bay Area and other parts of Alameda County,” said Sara Moravej, owner of treat shop Teveh, Sweet Life. “This is a great way to bring more money and businesses into our towns and support the local food producers.”