Monthly Archives - April 2021

Cottage Food Laws in Arkansas | 2021 Edition

In a previous post, I gave a general overview of Arkansas’ Cottage Food law, including all the amendments we had seen up to that time in 2020.

As a reminder, when we talk about “Cottage Foods,” what we’re talking about are food items produced in a person’s home”  Or, more accurately, food items produced in a person’s home for the purpose of selling.

I explained how Arkansas’ Cottage Food law backstory perhaps first begins with the state’s landmark “Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act” of 1953, where, for the first time, the Health Department was granted authority to license and inspect all food establishments.  That presumably included home-based food establishments.

It wasn’t until 2011 that Arkansas passed its initial Cottage Food law exempting home-based producers from permit requirements.  In was a major loosening of a lot of the red tape placed on an entrepreneur’s home kitchen, though not a total removal of the red tape.  Essentially, the law maintained strict guidelines on the list of allowed items, the labeling of those items, and the locations those items are allowed to be sold at.

Later in 2017, the law was eventually amended to add chocolate-covered fruit and berries to the list of allowed items, as well as online farmers markets to the list of allowed locations to sell at.  It was amended again in 2019 to add “pop-up shops” to that list of allowed locations.

Then in 2020, though we didn’t see any new amendments to the law, we did see an interesting development with the rise of COVID-19 during a time of state-mandated social distancing.  That was a more flexible tone and a universal expectation for businesses to get creative in how their products exchange hands so as to not perpetuate the declared public health crisis.

I promised I would put out an update if there were any more changes to the law, and, sure enough, during the 2021 legislative session, Act 306 was passed, perhaps as a more formal solution for Cottage Food sellers in the wake of COVID-19.  The act included an “emergency clause” allowing the amendment to go into immediate effect upon its passage “for the preservation of the public peace, health, and safety.”  I take that to be a response to the difficult position home producers have been put it when factoring both (1) the strict requirements they’re already subject to, plus (2) whatever public health expectations are added on top of that.

The 2021 amendment finally added "the internet" to the list of allowed locations cottage foods can be sold.  Whereas online sales were earlier opened to farmers markets back in 2017, home businesses operating on their own were still limited to a short list of direct, in-person locations.  Now, online sales are open to everyone.  The exact wording of the new amendment specifies a cottage food production operation may offer it’s products directly to the consumer now:

“Through the internet if the sale from the cottage food production operation is directly to an end consumer located in: (A)  This state; or (B)  Another state if the cottage food production operation complies with all federal regulations regarding food safety.”

If I can just say, that’s great news!  If you remember, it’s something I even had on my wish list in my 2020 post.  The way I see it, this amendment is long overdue, not just because the public health crisis of 2020, but because of the rise of the digital age, oh, several decades ago!  In many ways, cottage food sellers have been required to keep their businesses stuck in 20th century times, while everyone else has been given a 21-year head start to claim their stakes in 21st century e-commerce world.

Granted, I still think word-of-mouth marketing and in-person interaction with a customer is always the best business plan, but there’s no question the convenience factor of online ordering is something today’s customers want, including those loyal, first-name basis customers.

To try and break down the law as it’s written and as best as I understand it—(and to plug in a disclaimer, I’m not an expert.  If you want the official word, you’ll need to make your own phone calls to Arkansas’ Department of Health)—

The law states cottage foods may now be offered to customers “through the internet if the sale…is directly to an end consumer…”

The first thing I’d point out about that wording is just how wide the door is open now to cottage food sellers online.  There isn't a crippling list of limits mentioned in connection with the phrase “internet.”  That must mean, all legitimate online platforms are open game.  Whether that’s your own website, or social media page, or some online marketplace site with a landing page dedicated to your business, etc.

The important qualifier that is mentioned is the fact your online sales must still be made “directly to an end consumer.”  Before this amendment, I would have interpreted a “direct" sale to mean an “in-person” transaction and exchange of products, especially since the list of allowed locations a individual cottage food seller could sell were all “in-person” locations.  However, because the nature of the internet isn’t in-person but digital, “direct” sales must simply mean no third-party brokers.

Therefore, whatever online platform you choose, just remember your cottage food sales need to happen directly.  Even if you’re selling through someone else’s website, the funds and products being transferred need to happen straight from the customer to a business, and a business to the customer.  It can’t be exchanged through a third party.

The law goes on to specify where a customer can be located to order your cottage foods online.  That list first includes “[The state of Arkansas].”No qualifiers are placed on that.  Any online order placed in the state is allowed.

The list also includes “[Any other state] if in [compliance] with all federal regulations regarding food safety.”  That opens the door to out-of-state orders, though the obvious qualifier is if you’re in compliance with federal rules.

Ordinarily, every individual state governs it’s own cottage food laws.  However, once you cross the state line, your online orders enter federal jurisdiction and are subject to federal rules.

How do you know if you’re in compliance with federal rules?  For those answers you would need to check with the United States Food and Drug Administration (or “FDA”).  Specifically, you might check the FDA’s “Food Code,” most recently updated in 2017 at the time I’m recording this.  Just keep in mind, because cottage food requirements are generally left to individual states to determine, you’re not going to find explicit federal provisions addressing cottage foods, at least, not to my knowledge.

I did notice that the Food Code excludes private home kitchens from its list of “Food Establishments” subject to licenses, training, permits, and inspection.  However, when talking about private home kitchens, the Food Code only refers to them in relation to their use of in-person sales, such as at a church bake sale.  So, there’s no clear category for a cottage food operation that engages in internet sales, let alone internet sales across state lines, or what is referred to as “interstate commerce.”  You can do your own reading to see if you find anything different.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for in the FDA’s Food Code, you can try looking into “Title 21 on Food and Drugs” in the Code of Federal Regulations (or “CFR”).  I’ll just admit to you, when it comes to federal rules, I’m not going to be much good in helping you narrow down your research to find the most relevant factors to consider.  Perhaps someone reading this who has more experience than me can comment on what we need to know.

The only other thing I would mention when talking about internet sales, whether that’s within your state or across state lines, is the implication that (#1) payments are being transferred electronically, and (#2) goods are being transferred physically.

In terms of receiving payments, most e-commerce platforms are going to use some kind of online “payment gateway.”  That could be Paypal, Stripe, Square, Braintree, or some other Credit Card  payment solution.  Just remember, when processing cards online, there usually is a transaction fee to go along with it.  You’re paying for the service and the convenience of receiving payments online.  It’s all making things easier for your customers—and, in many ways, it can make things a lot easier for your small business too.

In terms of getting the goods into your customers hands, there are also different options to choose from.  If we’re talking about online sales made to customers within Arkansas, I think it’s understood your options would be three-fold—those being, “pickup,” “delivery,” or “shipping.”  Again, I’m making some assumptions here based on how internet sales are usually handled.

I imagine reasonable pickup locations would include that short-list of allowed locations already outlined in the law, namely (1) your home, (2) a farmer’s market, (3) a county fair, (4) a special event, or (5) a pop-up shop.  I talk about those in my other post.  It makes sense to me, if you’re already set up in those spots for in-persons sales why you can’t turn those spots into a pickup location if an order comes in online.

I believe delivery is another reasonable way to fulfill online orders, whether that’s “at-home delivery,” or delivery at established “points-of-distribution” such as a commuter lot or a church parking lot.  I don’t see why that wouldn’t be allowed under an internet sale approach.

Shipping is probably the most obvious way online orders are fulfilled, especially for out-of-town and out-of-state customers.  Since you’re shipping food, you’ll just need to check on what your mail services’ packaging requirements are for sending food through the mail.  I know the  United States Postal Service has a page on its website with a section all about food shipments.

I think the important rule-of-thumb to comply with in a shipping company’s rules, your state’s cottage food laws, or any federal rules (if you’re shipping across state lines) is the avoidance of your items being deemed hazardous.  That’s something you should think about before your cottage foods leave your door, but it’s also something you need to think about while your cottage foods are in transit.   Ask yourself the question, in whatever packaging or shipping methods you use, will your items remain safe for the customer?  That's the important question.

To wrap this up, I think the 2021 amendment is a wonderful addition to the law.  Amy and I have already started making updates to our website to allow for online payments on our cottage food items.  If you want to see how we do it, you can visit us at www.thekinnardhomestead.com/products.

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When to Start your Garden Factoring the Last Frost Date

"To plant, or not to plant?"

That is the question on a lot of gardener's minds every spring as temperatures warm up and as their "gardening bug" starts to itch.  It's that time now here in Arkansas as I write this post.  Amy and I already have a window full of tomato plant seedlings which we started indoors earlier in the year.  They've grown to the needed size and are about ready to be moved outside.

When talking about early spring and transplanting your seedlings into the ground, or sowing and planting what you picked up at the plant nursery directly into the ground, an important question to always ask is, "When do you get started?"

The biggest determining factor a gardener must think about when deciding on the right time to start their outdoor garden—assuming we’re talking about a warm-weather garden—is the last frost date.

Of course, there are many hardy, cold-weather plants that actually enjoy the cold that you would want to put in the ground before the last frost date.  If we’re talking vegetable gardening, examples of cold-hardy plants would include:

  • Beets
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Turnips

There are others in addition to those—you can always look up a complete list online.  Just keep in mind, though these particular plants enjoy cooler weather, some are less hardy than others and may still need some ground cover protection on really cold days.  Many of these plants do well not only in the early spring, but, when cooler temps return after the hot summer months, they do quite well in your fall garden too.

In terms of warm-weather gardening, the kinds of plants you’d want to grow include:

  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Okra
  • Peppers
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • And So forth…

Again, you can look up a complete list online. As the name implies, though, warm-weather plants prefer warm weather.  Therefore, you don’t want to get started on them while cold weather is still around, especially not cold weather that can drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

When I say “you don’t want to get started on them,” I just mean you don’t want to expose them yet to any cold ground or air temperatures.  Other than those plants that do best being sown directly into the ground, you can always start your transplantable seeds indoors.  Depending on the germination and maturity times common for a plant—most seed packets will list those timeframes on their labels—you can start your warm-weather plants the appropriate number of weeks before the last frost date indoors.  Just place them in a window or under a grow light.  Some like to use a heating mat to give them a little extra boost.

Even so, the question still remains, “When do you get started outside?"  The answer to that is “After the last frost date.”  Of course, that answer raises it’s own question—“When is the last frost date?”

You may have heard a few “old wives’ tales” from one of the old-timers in your family that you’ve learned to rely on.  That could be the 6-week countdown after February 2 if the groundhog sees his shadow.  That would put winter’s end March 16.  Or, there’s the adage, “Thunder in February means frost in May on the same day.” (I’ve heard that one applied to April as well).  Or, “Fog in February means frosts in May.”  Or, “The threat of frost exists until the first full moon of June”

There’s also the old Czech legend of the “Three Frozen Kings.”  According to the story, there were three Czech kings who each went fishing out on the sea.  One went out on May 12th and froze when temperatures suddenly dropped.  The second King went out the next day on May 13, but he also froze with a sudden drop in temperature.  The day after that, on May 14th, the third King went out to fish, and like the two kings before him, he froze too.  However, on May 15th, a saint named Zofie came along with a kettle of hot water.  He found the three frozen kings adrift, and proceeded to thaw them each out.  I suppose the moral of the legend is not to braze the freezing temps before May 15th.

Others like to use easy-to-remember holidays or other familiar dates to go off of, whether that’s Good Friday, Easter, Tax Day, or Memorial Day.  You may have your own trusty date you like to use, and you’re certainly welcome to it.  Amy and I like to use Tax Day on April 15th as a good window to start planting for us.

The fact of the matter is that the last frost date is never the same every year.  The best estimation a person can make will be based on the historical averages for their particular area.  For a range of general dates, you can always look up a map of last frost dates based on your “Plant Hardiness Zone” put out by the USDA.  According to the map, if you’re in Zones 3 or 4, your last frost date may range anytime throughout the month of May.  If you’re in Zones 5 through 7, the range bumps up to April.  If you’re Zone 8, it may be late February to late March.  If you’re in Zones 9 or 10, you’re good to go as early as January or February.

Just check your location.   If you don’t use the USDA Hardiness Zone map, the “National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration” (“NOAA”) has similar maps you can use.

If you want to narrow your estimation down to a single date on the calendar, you can always look up the historical data for your specific state or zip code.  Instead of being given an average date range, you’ll be given a single average date.

Just keep in mind how averages work.  Averages are calculated by dividing the sum of both early and late dates.  Therefore, there’s a 50% chance your last frost date will occur before or after the average date listed.  All that to say, if you’re going to pick a time to plant, you might pick a time a couple weeks after the average last frost date for your area.

Well, hopefully that points you in the right direction to determine when to start your own warm-weather garden.  We’re a few days away from getting started on ours.

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Scouting and the Search for Biblical Masculinity

Back in 1908, there was a British cavalry officer by the name of Lieutenant General Robert Baden-Powell who had an idea.  Actually, the idea was born a few years earlier during Powell's service during the Second Boer War in South Africa where he wrote in 1899 a very non-conventional field manual for British Soldiers called "Aids to Scouting" which was filled with inspiring stories, general scouting methods, and even games meant to encourage the development of light reconnaissance skills within the British Army.

As a piece of trivia, during his military campaigns in South Africa, Powell had to get creative at a time when his troops were seriously outnumbered.  At one point, calling on the help of 12-to-15 year old boys apart of a volunteer group of young men in training known as the Mafeking Cadet Corp.  These were cadets dressed in khaki uniforms and wide-brimmed hats and were deployed to support troops by delivering messages or supplies, helping in the hospitals, etc.  This freed the actual soldiers to focus on combat.  Powell's scouting book was produced out of his experiences working with the boys of the Mafeking Cadet Corp.

The book became a popular field manual not only for the British Army.  It soon caught the attention of young boys in general throughout Britain.  In response to this, Powell wrote a nonmilitary edition with added lessons on good morals and citizenship, in addition to those common scouting skills the military cadets learned.  To test out his new field curriculum, on July 25, 1907, he and a few other instructors took a group of 22 boys on a camping expedition to Brownsea Island in Dorsetshire off the coast of England.  There they spent a fortnight (2 weeks), teaching the boys about camping, observation, deduction, woodcraft, boating, lifesaving, patriotism, and chivalry.  By all accounts, this was the first Boy Scout meeting to be held.

The following year, in January 1908, Powell's new field guide was published under the name "Scouting for Boys" and troops began springing up all across the British Commonwealth.  A central Boy Scout Office was set up to register the new scouts, to organize it's leadership, to design a uniform, and so forth.  By the end of the same year, there were 60,000 eager boy scouts ready for adventure, which each troop soon undertook with it's own expeditions.

In 1909, the first national Boy Scout meeting was held in London which 10,000 scouts attended, including a group of uniformed girls who called themselves the "Girl Scouts."  Apparently, they wanted to be apart of the action too.  For reasons we'll come back to, Powell decided to keep the new organization exclusive to boys, though he also agreed to launch a separate program dedicated to the girls which received the name the "Girl Guides."  So, dating back to it's original founding, there has been some shared interest in scouting between boys and girls, as well as some discussion on whether to combine or keep to separate the two groups.  Again, I want to come back to this in a bit.

Around the same time, an American version of the Boy Scouts came to be, when a Chicago publisher by the name of William Boyce was one time lost in the fog and helped by a unknown scout who helped get him through it.  Boyce was so inspired by the experience, he launched several outdoor youth organizations which developed into the Boy Scouts of America ("BSA").  Popularly of the movement spread in America just as it had in Britain, including among the girls.   So, in 1912, the Girl Scouts of America was also established.

There are so many principles we could point to that makes scouting "scouting," especially as it was first presented by Mr. Baden-Powell.  There's a lot of good stuff to think about.  But, one aspect in particular I think is worth mentioning, especially for our modern times, is the emphasis the program was originally designed to give to the training of boys in their transition to becoming men.  For example, in the Preface to the first edition of the Boys Scouts of America Handbook in 1911, the editorial board explains:

"The BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA is a corporation formed by a group of men who are anxious that the boys of America should come under the influence of [the] movement and be built up in all that goes to make character and good citizenship…
     In these pages and throughout our organization we have made it obligatory upon our scouts that they cultivate courage, loyalty, patriotism, brotherliness, self-control, courtesy, kindness to animals, usefulness, cheerfulness, cleanliness, thrift, purity and honor.
     No one can doubt that with such training added to his native gifts, the American boy will in the near future, as a man, be an efficient leader in the paths of civilization and peace….
     We send out our 'Official Handbook,' therefore, with the earnest wish that many boys may find in it new methods for the proper use of their leisure time and fresh inspiration in their efforts to make their hours of recreation contribute to strong, noble manhood in the days to come."

Or, as it's explained in Baden's Powell's original manual,

"The object of [it's] institution is to complete the sequence of the training from boyhood to manhood, through the progressive grades of Wolf Cub, Scout, and Rover (which, apparently, were the original scouting ranks)"

No wonder the decision was originally made to keep the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts as separate organizations.  Foundationally, the Boy Scouts were built with the objective of training boys to be men.   That, obviously looks different than the objective of training girls to be women.  At least, it used to be obvious.   How did the manual say it, "No one can doubt that with such gifts the American boy will in the near future, as a man, be an efficient leader."

Unfortunately, though that leadership training and gifting traditionally associated with manhood was once something “no one can doubt,” things have changed over the last 100 years. Today, there seems to be some confusion as to the basic definition and distinction between manhood or womanhood.

The biblical complementarian belief that men and women are created equal in value and worth before God, but created differently by design in their roles and responsibilities has been lost in the larger culture.  A modern feminist, egalitarian uniformity, insisting on the virtual equality of men and women (including in their roles and responsibilities), has now become mainstream.  Some even believe gender itself is a social construct that has no place in public discourse.  Other than the biological blue and pink differences between boys and girls (which themselves should be open to transitioning from one to the other if so desired), all of us are just a colorful non-binary spectrum of people.   We are what we want to be.  In my opinion it’s all the result of a increasingly secular society, that no longer answers to God or the authority of Scripture to tell us what we are, or should be.

Unfortunately, the Boy Scouts program itself has since abandoned its foundational understanding of the important differences between men and women, despite their continued promise to honorably fulfill their duty before God in their Scout Oath.  In a 2017 statement by Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbauh (Sir-bah), it seems the organizations real loyalty is now to the shifting opinion of a very confused society.

“We and others have recently been challenged by a very complex topic on the issue of gender identity. For more than 100 years, BSA…ultimately deferred to information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for, and participation in, [the program]…
“After weeks of [conversation], we realized that referring to birth certificates as the reference point is no longer sufficient…Starting today, we will accept registration in our scouting programs based on the gender identity provided on an individual’s application.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter how God made you, or his intended design for the biological sexes—if you want to tag along with the guys, the door is open to you.  If you want to state on the application you are a guy, even if you’re a girl, no big deal.  Distinguishing between manhood and womanhood is no longer important to us.

Regardless of the direction the BSA and the broader culture has gone, acknowledging the God-given differences between men and women is still important.  Why?  Because God’s good plan for the sexes hasn’t changed.  What is God’s good plan for the sexes?  We’re told a big part of God’s plan for the sexes to is reflect aspects of his nature and character. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

I take that to mean there are certain attributes hardwired into man that makes him a man, and in a woman that makes her a woman, that, when taken complementarily, makes them in God’s image.  I won’t take time to go through all those qualities, but biblically they are there.  And, biblically they haven’t changed.  How do we know that?  Because the nature of God hasn’t changed.  “He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Another part of God’s plan for the sexes, particularly in the context of marriage, is to reflect not only aspects of God’s nature and character but of the complementing nature of the Gospel itself.  Ephesians 5:31, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Before that the text speaks of a man and woman’s different but complementary roles in the home.

A man’s primary leadership in the home, and a wife’s instrumental support of her husband, creates a kind of living portrait of how God graciously leads the church, and how the church joyously thrives as an integral part of God’s work in the world.

Obviously, the home is where biblical masculinity and biblical femininity are meant to shine brightest.  But, certainly, it can still be reflected in public life too, whether that’s in the church, or at the sports arena, or even on scouting trail.

The BSA may have lost its way in the search of what it means to be a man, but that doesn’t mean everyone on the trail has.  In fact, if you’re looking for a Christian scouting organization that still holds to a complementarian view, and which came about as a result of the BSA’s wrongly calibrating their compass on such matters, I can point you to Trail Life USA.

According to it’s website,

“Trail Life USA is a Church-Based, Christ-Centered, Boy-Focused mentoring and discipleship journey that speaks to the heart of a boy. Established on timeless values derived from the Bible and set in the context of outdoor adventure, boys from Kindergarten through 12th grade are engaged in a Troop setting by male mentors where they are challenged to grow in character, understand their purpose, serve their community, and develop practical leadership skills to carry out the mission for which they were created.”

I’ve got two of my boys in a local Trail Life Troop here in Arkansas.  Actually, three of my boys are currently participating—one, due to his special needs, is participating in more of an honorary capacity right now, though I was excited to learn Trail Life does have a special track for Special Needs students.  I’ll probably be looking into that eventually.  Soon, though, I’ll have my fourth son enrolled when he turns 5.  As one of the dads, I’m also actively involved.  So, it’s turned into something for all the guys in our family.

I like what I read in an article at Backpacker.com, reporting on Trail Life’s inception.  One member of the organization was quoted saying, “The Boy Scout may own the trademark of ‘scouting,’ but they don’t own the idea.”  The article goes on, “Here, ‘Trailmen’ replace ‘Boy Scouts;’ instead of a second-grader earning the Wolf badge…he’s a Hawk in Trail Life. The oaths have strong overlap…as do many of the skills, including a focus on survival, first aid, and being a good citizen…‘At our core’ [Trail Life CEO, Mark Hancock explains], ‘we are unapologetically Christian…It is absolutely in our foundation—irretrievable, irreplaceable, irremovable.”

So far, I have been more than impressed with the teaching and instruction we’ve received in Trail Life.  Not only are the outdoors skills and fraternal relationships something that I think fosters manliness, but the focus on character building and biblical truth is something that fosters godliness.  That happens to be core distinctive of Trail Life.  The program is “focused on turning boys into godly men.  Our firm conviction is that this can only be done by allowing a boy the opportunity to interact, work with, and be mentored by and with other Christian men.”

I could say more about Trail Life USA, and scouting in general.  Suffice it to say, I believe a crucial part of the entire pursuit is a discovery of the person God wants you to be.  For boys, I believe that must necessarily include their becoming God honoring men, which is why we’re apart of the program we’re apart of.  To learn more, I’d point you to www.traillifeusa.com where you’ll find more information on their distinctives and values, as well as their various advancement tracks for the boy.  You can also find a directory of the different troops and what local options are close to you.

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