Product Previews, Reviews, and How-to's

Food Preservation: Canning for Beginners

"Food Preservation: Canning for Beginners" is part of a series of skill-building community classes offered in partnership with 'Community Thrive 365' in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The series is intended to teach attendees practical do-it-yourself skills that promote health, financial savings, and general self-reliance. The class is divided into thee parts.

In part one, Amy shares about her personal experience learning to preserve food. She discusses the value of knowing such a useful skill and the common methods of doing it. She also shares a brief history of the canning method in particular.

In part two, she talks about the tools, equipment, and science of canning.

In part three, she demonstrates how to can two simple and staple items in a family's food pantry, namely beans and chicken.

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The Food Freedom Act in Arkansas | 2021 Edition

In a couple of prior posts, I tackled the topic of “Cottage Foods.”  In them I gave particular attention to the actual wording of Arkansas’ Cottage Food law, along with its various amendments, to try and summarize what is and isn’t allowed for a non-licensed and non-inspected home-based cottage food operation to do it’s thing.

If you’re interested in going back and reviewing those posts, I’ll encourage you to do that.  Even though some of the information is now obsolete, understanding the history of the law and how things have gradually developed over time can be helpful.

To give my disclaimer, I’m no expert or final authority on this topic.  If you want the official word on any of this information, you can contact Arkansas’ Department of Health, or UofA’s Division of Agriculture.  I’m just a guy with a small homestead business who has partnered with his wife who loves working in the kitchen to make available to our customers some of her awesome culinary creations.   To ensure we aren’t breaking any laws in the process, I’ve sought to understand the law to the best of my ability as a layman.


A New Amendment:  "The Food Freedom Act"

In this post I want to update you on one more amendment that changes the law, and I should tell you it changes it quite extensively.  Actually, we had already seen some changes earlier this year (2021).  Back in March, we were given Act 306 that created new allowances for Cottage Food sellers.  Again, I already commented on that in a previous episode if you want to go back and hear it.  But then, the very next month during the same legislative session, we saw Act 1040 that has been named “the Food Freedom Act.”

Even though it’s technically just another amendment to the existing law, Arkansas’ Food Freedom Act changes things up so much that it’s being described as an all-out “replacement” to Arkansas’ Cottage Food law as it previously existed.  Honestly, when you take a look at the changes that have been made, I think the word “replacement” describes it pretty well, since the law reads completely different than it used to.

So, if it helps, you can go ahead and take everything you’ve been taught about cottage food laws in Arkansas up to this point and just toss it to the side.

Actually, that may not be completely fair to say.  You don’t need to throw away everything you know.  For example, we’re still categorically talking about “cottage foods.”  By definition, those are foods produced in a persons’ home and made available to a consumer but aren’t subject to licensing and inspection.  That’s in contrast to a formal “food service establishment” such as restaurants, food stores, food warehouses, food manufacturing centers, etc. that are subject to licensing and inspection.

Fundamentally, we’re still talking about exemption from licensing and inspection. Assuming they follow the prescribed rules, home based kitchens (or “cottage food operations”) are exempt.  For what it’s worth, they aren’t the only group that’s exempt because, while it’s probably a topic for another day, group homes and daycare centers serving 10 or less people; church potlucks and other group functions; farmers’ markets and roadside stands; maple syrup, sorghum, and honey producers; festival and special event vendors; and so forth—assuming they follow the right rules, all of those groups are exempt as well.

As it relates specifically to the rules a home-based kitchen is required to follow, under the prior “Cottage Food Law,” you may remember, I liked to organize things into three easy-to-understand parts, those parts being (1) the list of allowed items, (2) the labeling of those items, and (3) the locations they could be sold at.  So, “the list, the labeling, and the locations.”  I thought that was a pretty simple way to summarize it.

As I read through the new “Food Freedom Act,”  I’ll be honest and say the information isn’t as neatly organized or easy to put in a pretty little package.    That’s not to say I’m not happy with a lot of the content that’s in here.  Just that, when it comes to explaining the content, I think a little more effort is needed to make it understandable.

So, to try and wrap my mind around it all, what I’ve done is taken the liberty to develop another alliteration.  If we have to retire my old summary of the “list,” the “labeling,” and the “locations” that we had with the Cottage Food Law, we can summarize the new Food Freedom Act in terms of (1) its “design,” (2) it’s “definitions,” (3) it’s “dealing and distributing,” and (4) it’s “disclosures.”   That’s in addition to several “exemptions” and “preemptions” that also apply.

I’ll give those categories to you again:

  • #1 – The intended “Design, or Purpose of the law.
  • #2 – The relevant “Definitions.”
  • #3 – The rules of “Dealing and Distributing.”
  • #4 – The required “Disclosures” to the customer, and
  • #5 – Several exemptions and preemptions that apply.

I admit that’s not as nice and neat of a package as what we had before, but I’m willing to work with it because of so many of the improvements that have been baked into the cake, no pun intended.

Actually, if you separate the “definitions” and the “exemptions and preemptions” parts of the law and simply treat those as references or addendums to the rest of it, I think we could condense our summary down to just three parts to the law: (1) it’s intended design, (2) it’s rules of dealing and distributing, and (3) it’s required disclosures.

So, I’ve decided that’s how I want to explain it.

THE INTENDED DESIGN

To begin with the intended “design,” or purpose of the law, there is, I think, a primary motive or principle in which the entire legislation is built on and that can be seen in the cited title and official act description to the law, that title being the “Food Freedom Act” and being described as, “[An Act] to exempt certain producers of homemade food or drink products from licensure, certification, and inspection…”

Clearly the asserted word in the title is “freedom” and the key word in the description is “exempt.”  We’ve already established—and it’s a point I do try to emphasize in my other episodes—that the fundamental intent of the cottage food law as it was originally created is “exemption.”  That is to say, the intent has been to loosen much of the regulatory red tape hindering home based kitchens.  It hasn’t been to add more red tape.  There’s a lot of history there but. believe me, before we had the cottage food law, home based kitchens were subject to the same rules as any other food production operation.

And while the law loosened a lot of the red tape, many home food producers felt it could be loosened a lot more than it was, hence a lot of the amendments we’ve seen.  But now, with the Food Freedom Act, we’ve been given the greatest amount of wiggle room so far—so much so that “freedom” is now the apparent word of choice to describe it.

This is, after all, America.  And while we can appreciate the state’s desire to regulate and to protect us from killing ourselves and our customers with potentially hazardous foods, we don’t need a food police that micromanages us so much that we can only produce a very short list of allowed qualifying items, treating us much like children who are told they can only cook with child-friendly recipes or child-safety rated equipment.

Granted, we’re still prohibited from producing and selling potentially hazardous foods, but rather than restricting us to a “big brother” controlled list of what items the state deems safe for us to work with, the intent now is to educate us on what potentially hazardous foods are by definition—and, get this, it’s not just foods anymore but now drinks as well—for us to be able determine in our own judgement what qualifies as non-potentially hazardous and thus safe to make and sell.

So, rather than giving us a restricted list of approved items, the law now defines a list of established criteria of what potentially hazardous technically means.   I won’t go into all the details.  I do go into it in a previous episode.  Just to say, in the spirit of freedom, it’s now up to the home producer (and, I’d say it’s up to the consumer as well) to educate themselves on the technicalities of  what makes something “hazardous” or what makes something “safe,” and to proceed accordingly.  The point is personal responsibility.  You’ve got to do your homework.

To further emphasize the point, the law states,

“The purpose…is to allow for a producer’ production and sale of homemade food or drink products for an informed end consumer and to encourage the expansion of agricultural sales at farmers markets, ranches, farms, and producer’s homes or offices”

Notice the words “allow,” “informed,” “encourage,” “expansion;” later the law uses the words “facilitating,” “enhancing,” “providing.”  All of those words meant to steer your thinking away from thoughts such as “restricting,” “limiting,” “prohibiting.”  Right?  Again, freedom is the idea.

So, that’s the first part to mention.  The intended “design” and spirit of the law is freedom—it’s to further loosen (if not begin slashing entire pieces of) red tape still knotted around your home kitchen.

THE RULES OF
DEALING AND DISTRIBUTING

The second part to the Food Freedom Act I want to point out is what I’m calling the “dealing and distributing” aspect of the law which has to do with the actual transaction of a homemade food or drink product between the producer and consumer.

Under the former Cottage Food Law, transactions were originally limited to “direct in-person sales” only at a short list of permitted locations including the site the product was made, that being your home, or a farmer’s market, a county fair, or a special event.  That eventually expanded to pop-up shops and online platforms, and, during the social distancing COVID-era, a kind of presumed state allowance for points of distribution such as commuter lots or church parking lots.  In all those cases, the qualifier was still for sales to made “directly to an end consumer.”  “Directly” no longer meaning “in-person” necessarily, but presumably without the involvement of a third-party.

Now under the Food Freedom Act, all those same points of sale are still implied with even a few new places to go with them.  For example, the law talks about being allowed to set up an actual “retail space” on the ranch, farm, home, or premises where the food was produced.  I assume that could be as simple or fancy as you want to make it.  I know some folks who have converted entire rooms, additions, or outbuildings into little dedicated farm stores for their customers.  That’s allowed.

Also now allowed is the ability to sell “at a retail location of a third-party vendor of the homemade food or drink product.”  Now, I’ll be honest with you, though I’m totally excited about that one, I’m personally a little confused by it.  Because, the law also still explicitly states “a transaction [shall] be directly between the seller and the informed end consumer.”

That raises the question again.  What does a “direct sale” mean?  Well, as I’ve said earlier, it used to mean “in person”  only and then it seemed to imply “no third parties.”  Hence the rules that were applied to pop-up shops at unaffiliated established businesses where you could sell at a brick-and-mortar business, but not through the brick-and-mortar business.  That is to say, you were set up with your own little table on their premises while you were doing the selling.

But now, being allowed to sell “at a retail location” the law clarifies that can be done “by an agent of the producer, or a third-party vendor, including a retail shop or grocery store.”  That suggests you don’t have to be there at all.  And yet, the law also still states transactions must be made “directly between the seller and the informed end consumer.”  To me that’s a little confusing.

It only gets more confusing when you try to figure out what is meant not just by “direct sales” but what is meant by “end consumer.”  Because repeatedly the law talks about selling to “informed end consumers” and, by definition, an “end consumer” is a person who is “the last person to purchase [your] product” and “does not resell [your] product.”  Alright.  If that’s the case, how is the third-party vendor selling your products?  Are they buying your products wholesale and reselling retail?  I suppose if this is an exception to the rule they are.  Otherwise, I imagine this would be some sort of commission-based arrangement whereby sales are still your own, kept separate from the store sales, and cashed-out after the fact.  I will mention how the law says that if the storefront also sells food and drink item that are subject to license requirements, your homemade items must be kept visibly separate from the others in its own display and storage.  But, there again, it doesn’t say “sold separately” but simply “kept separately.”  So, I’d love more clarity on that.

I did notice in its summary on the Food Freedom Act, UofA’s Division of Agriculture does claim the law allows for homemade food and drink products to be sold to retail stores in order to be resold.   Though, if you look up the guidelines put out by the Arkansas Department of health, all it reiterates is that homemade products can be sold “to the informed consumer…by a third-party vendor.”  If you’re paying close attention to how that’s worded, you’ll notice that conveniently leaves off the word “end” in the phrase “informed end consumer.”  It also doesn’t say whether that means re-selling or simply selling on behalf of.  So, seriously, if anybody can give a clear answer and explanation on that, I know I’d appreciate it.

It does seem the entire ability to sell homemade products through a third-party vendor, including retail shops and grocery stores, regardless of how that arrangement is supposed to work, is understood to be an exception and exemption to the larger rule which states that formal food service establishments, which grocery stores obviously are, along with all the food and drinks they sell, are subject to licensing and inspection.  Hence why homemade products would need to be kept separately.

The point is, selling through third-party vendors is now allowed under the Food Freedom Act, as confusing as it is to me how that arrangement—how the transactions and bookkeeping—are meant to work.  Hopefully someone out there can help me better understand whatever it is I’m missing.

Well, in addition to the addition of selling through a retail space at your home or a third-party vendor, the law also mentions being able to make transactions over the phone and online.  The phone one is new, though we’ve already mentioned how online sales are also still allowed under the law.  That, of course, implies the use of payment gateways and shipping options to complete a transaction.  I talk about both of those things in an earlier episode if you want to go back and listen to that.  Just to say, when dealing with a phone or online order, though payments are typically made electronically, your goods are being transferred physically.  That’s going to take some form of delivery.  Under the new law, that delivery can be arranged either by yourself, your agent, your third-party-vendor, or a third-party carrier of your choice.  Most mail service carriers have rules pertaining to the shipment of foods, so you just need to read up on that.

If delivering locally or in the state, your options and rules should be straight forward.   However, if delivering outside the state, you no longer have to think about just Arkansas laws and your mail carrier’s rules, but as soon as you cross state lines, you have to now think about that state’s laws and any federal laws that govern interstate commerce.  Again, that’s something you need to read up on.

THE REQUIRED DISCLOSURES

The third and final part of the law I want to give attention to relates to the kind of information you are required to disclose to your customer and, furthermore, the kind of information your customer is expected to be aware of before deciding to buy your products.  This is another development in the language I think I can appreciate because that’s one of the things I remember wishing for in my original episode on all of this—namely, for the freedom to educate and equip both consumers and producers so they can make their own informed decisions on what to buy, sell, and ultimately eat.

The law qualifies the need for your end consumer to be an “informed” end consumer.  I take that to mean your customer holds some responsibility to educate themselves about your product before buying it.  If after you’ve disclosed everything they need to know about what you’ve made they decide they’d like to buy and try that, it’s totally their prerogative to do so.  The food police no longer needs to tell them they can’t.

Granted, before a consumer can educate themselves on everything they need to know, the producer must first thoroughly disclose all the information they need to know.  What information is that?

Well, according to the law, “the following information shall be provided to the informed end consumer.”  Five pieces of information are required:

  1. The date the product was made.
  2. Your name, address, and phone number, or an identification number provided by the Department of Agriculture if you’d rather your personal information be kept private.
  3. The common or usual name of the product.
  4. The ingredients of the product in descending order of predominance
  5. The following statement: “This product was produced in a private residence that is exempt from state licensing and inspection. This product may contain allergens.”

If you’re dealing with a product where the pH level would be in question, a sixth piece of information you’d want to provide, assuming you’re not working with some kind of department approved or laboratory certified recipe, is a unique batch number to be marked on your product, and then records maintained for your own safekeeping of your batch numbers and the dates you made them, along with your pH testing results and recipe information.  Again, that’s only if it’s a product where pH levels are of concern.

Some of that other information was already required under the Cottage Food Law, while some of it is new and expanded.  But before getting too bent out of shape about the hassle of having to explain all of that, remember, this is actually what we want.  We want informed consumers.  Why do we want informed consumers?  We want informed consumers so they can make their own decisions without the state stepping in to make those decisions for them.

The big thing we need the customer to know is that what they are buying “is not regulated, inspected, certified, or subject to state packaging or labeling requirements” and “has not been processed in a facility that is subject to state licensing, permitting, inspection, or regulation.”  What they’re buying is homemade.  Let there be no false impressions.  That doesn’t mean your products shouldn’t be as professional and as high caliber as you can make them, or that your goal is to make it look obvious your product was slapped together in a home kitchen.  Show a little pride and make your products look as good as the professionals.  Just be sure you’re disclosing the fact that you’re not a professional.  The way you do that is to provide information already mentioned.

How are you going to provide that information?  The law gives several methods:

  1. First, if your product is packaged or offered from a bulk container, a label with all that information needs to be placed on the package or the container and, if it is from a bulk container, a written print-off with the same information should be provided to the customer upon purchase.
  2. Second, if your product isn’t packaged or offered from a bulk container, then a placard or sign with the needed information should be visibly displayed at your point of sale.
  3. Third, if your product is offered online, the information needs to be included on the website page the product is sold on.

Disclosing to the consumer everything they need to know about your product in an easily accessible manner, and allowing them to decide if they want to buy or not, is all for the sake of promoting food freedom in Arkansas.

CONCLUSION

It may all seem like a more confusing set of requirements and criteria to have to worry with and wrap your mind around compared to the simplicity of the prior Cottage Food law, but I’m hopeful there can always be some clarifying future amendments to clean up the choppiness.

The great thing about Arkansas’ Food Freedom Act is that more freedom is being put into the hands of the home producer and consumer.  Obviously with greater freedom comes greater responsibility.  I think that translates to more steps on your part to educate yourself, to educate your customers, and to apply the needed steps to be a home-based food business that, though not licensed and inspected, is still professional and above par.

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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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Ham Radio and Emergency Preparedness

I can remember when I was a kid visiting my Great Uncle Joe in Greenwood, Arkansas, who had as a hobby Amateur Radio, also known as "Ham Radio."  I remember strolling past his makeshift closet-turned-radio shack next to his bedroom and hearing all the funny sounds of frequency tuning and voice modulations that sounded to me a lot like the communications I'd seen the movies with airplane pilots.  Or, since I was into Star Wars, it reminded me of  the radio chatter between the X-Wings and Y-Wings during the big Death Star battle.  Those who've seen the movie know what I'm talking about.  It was always intriguing to me.

Uncle Joe would always invite me to sit with him at his desk next to his old Kenwood HF radio (TS-440S for those enthusiasts out there).  Next to that he had his Morse Code equipment, and a map on the wall with thumbtacks identifying all the different states and countries he'd communicated with and would mail his QSL postcards to.  His callsign was “NR5H,” operator class “Amateur Extra.”  If you look up that callsign, I think it’s since been reissued to somebody else, but at the time that was my Uncle Joe.

He always had several friends he'd touch base with every night.  I'm not even sure where they were located, but I know he really enjoyed connecting with them.  Evidently it was something he'd held on to ever since his World War II days as a radio operator.  And, as a kid, it's something that captured my interest too.

Eventually, as a teenager, I decided to study to take the Technician class exam to get my own Ham Radio license.  One summer I went up to Greenwood and spent a couple of weeks with my Uncle Joe, along with my ARRL license manual, for him to tutor me and help me understand the basics.  After that, I passed my exam and got involved with the local Ham club in my hometown.  Whereas my Uncle was into the long range HF bands, all the locals (as far as I was concerned) made use of the shorter range VHF bands, with the repeater towers positioned around the state to bounce off of.

Here I was 17 or 18 years old, hanging out with a bunch of old timers and retirees who would meet up every week at the local Hardy's in Heber Springs for breakfast and coffee to talk radio.  I was by far the youngest guy in the room, but I loved it and soaked up as much as I could learn.

After High School and for the next 20 years after that, the hobby took somewhat of a backseat as I focused on other things—life and career.  But, I was sure to keep my license renewed with plans to one day get back into it.

One of the occasions I’d always pull out my radio for was severe weather.  Being in Arkansas we are in the tornado country, and one of the big benefits of ham radio is the emergency preparedness factor.  Whether that’s storm chasers reporting on real-time conditions of tornadic activity, or, in the aftermath, when phone lines and cell towers go down, it’s the Ham Radio Operators who are able to supply emergency communications to those who need it.  So, that’s one reason I keep my radio nearby.

But also for just emergency communications in general.  As you know, cell service doesn’t extend everywhere.  In fact, I recently went on a backpacking campout with two of my sons and their Trail Life scouting troop.  It was in the Ouachita National Forest, a few hours away from the church where the troop is based.  We parked our vans at the start of a trail off the highway, several miles outside the nearest town, and hiked our 3 miles to our campsite.

There was absolutely no cell service in the spot we were at, with all the high and low terrain.  Before the trip, I went ahead and programmed into my radio the frequencies for the different area repeaters as a just-in-case precaution.  As it turns out, it’s a good thing I did because we experienced our own emergency situation on the trail.

After our first night at camp, one of our boys stepped into a hole hidden beneath the leaves and twisted his leg up pretty seriously, leaving him in no condition to walk.  His troop leaders and fellow student trail men immediately jumped into action and made a stretcher out of a tarp and couple long branches.  The 3-mile hike we made the day before wasn’t level terrain by any means, and at one point required the crossing of a running stream, so they all had their work cut out for them to carry him back out.

In the meantime, while the guys started their hike back to the highway carrying the boy on the stretcher, knowing that process would itself take close to an hour, it was important we try to call for help to meet the guys as they resurfaced from the trail, but, of course, there was no cell service.  So, I pulled out my trusty ham radio, and with another fellow Ham (W4BBU) who had brought his radio, we set out to climb a nearby ridge to try and get line-of-sight signal with one the repeaters.

It took us several attempts and searching for the right spot.  But, finally finding a decent clearing and a fallen tree that we were able to climb to get the best elevation, we made contact with a ham radio operator in nearby Hot Springs Village—147.015 MHz, station W5HSV.  Shout out to K0TXT, Jim, of Hot Springs Village for answering our call for help.  He was able to call dispatch and have first responders meet our guys on the trail before they had even finishing the 3-mile hike back.  They were then able to transfer the boy in the proper vehicle and get him safely to the hospital.  The radio system worked precisely as it needed to.

Then, believe it or not, not a few hours later, another fluke accident happened with another one of the scouts.  This time, while exploring the stream, another boy lost his footing on a slick rock and fell, breaking his arm.  It was totally coincidental and a freak misstep.  Usually, our guys are quite careful and follow proper safety practices.  But, for whatever reason on this trip, we ended up with a second injury in the same day.

Once again, our leaders and trail men jumped into action.  They made a temporary splint and sling out of a few sticks, a piece of hard plastic from the frame of a pack, and some cloth material.  And it’s another hike back to the highway for yet another group, and another hike up the ridge for me and Bill, our other ham.  We make contact again with the local repeater we connected with before.  The radio operator out of Hot Springs Village this time, instead of calling dispatch, served as a third-party communicator and called our Troop Master who was still at the hospital with injured boy #1 to let him know about injured boy #2.  Transportation arrangements were then made for boy #2, and he also was safely taken to the hospital.

Folks, these kinds of things can’t be anticipated, but, with a little forethought, they can be planned for by practicing old fashioned emergency preparedness.  “Be prepared” is the old scout motto.  Actually, the motto for our Christian Trail Life troop is “Walk Worthy,” but certainly walking worthy includes walking in wisdom and good judgment.  And, part of good judgement is planning ahead and even preparing for the possibility of crisis situations.

The examples I’ve given are obviously just a few examples.  There are so many different situations in life that can result in a far better outcome than they would otherwise for those who encounter them when they aren’t totally caught off guard.  In terms of emergency communication, something as simple as a ham radio can make all the difference in coordinating the help that you need.  Of course, in a non-emergency situation, you have to be licensed to use one, but in a true emergency, you don’t need a license.  According to the FCC Rules, Title 47, Part 97, Paragraph 403—

 “No provision of these rules prevents the use by an amateur station of any means of radiocommunication at its disposal to provide essential communication needs in connection with the immediate safety of human life and immediate protection of property when normal communication systems are not available.”

So, there you have it.  Anyone can use a ham radio in an emergency.  Granted, it’s kind of important you know how to use the radio and how to actually make contact with another person.  Often, ham radios have to be programmed in order to connect with area repeaters.  So, my advice is, if you’re going to get the radio, you might as well go ahead and get the license to go with it.

Long story short, ham radio can make all the difference, whether on the trail, or for advance warning of a tornado, or in the aftermath cleanup of a tornado, or a hundred and one other applications.

That’s my plug for ham radio.  It’s a wonderful hobby, and a wonderful preparedness tool to have in your arsenal.

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Healing Burns and Wounds with Guest Joy Durand

Amy:   Thank you all for joining me today as I get to introduce to you my favorite herbalist, mother of 8, small business owner, piano teacher, university flute instructor, and older sister, Joy Durand. I've been bubbling over with barely contained excitement at the opportunity to have her on our podcast so she can share with you herself the amazing journey she's been on when it comes to treating her family's health needs using all-natural treatments.  She's my go-to, what I like to call, “walking encyclopedia” when it comes to herbal remedies.

Welcome to the show, Joy!

Joy:  Thanks for having me.

Amy: There are so many different nuggets of wisdom and insight I know you could give us about tinctures and different herbal remedies, but in this episode, I want to focus on the events and the journey that led you to having the miracle Healing Salve in your store and why it's one of the main items you keep inside your family's medical kit.

Joy:    Well, that's a really long story, but I'll try to give you the short version.

So, I guess it all started with Mom getting cancer and then she started researching a lot of natural remedies and such.  And we just kind of jumped on board and kind of went down that road with her as we started having kids.  The more that I read, the more interested I became in a lot of herbal remedies, so I started experimenting and making tinctures and syrups and just trying to see what would help our family the best…what would work what didn't work… was a lot of experimentation and not in a bad way. You know, if they were really sick, we would go to the doctor. But this was, you know, minor things like colds or little bruises.  You know, just the normal things that kind of come with the Healing Salve though we came across that when I was reading some new books that I had gotten a long time ago—Be your Own Doctor by Rachel Weaver.  I've collected all four of her books now, and they have been so invaluable to me and our family.  I'm just so thankful for the blessing that they've been. Just the information that she's provided, and she's been very generous to share. And in her books, she talks about having a first aid kit, or, you know, just being ready being prepared having a medicine cabinet and such. And in 2014 we moved into a camper as a family just because we wanted to travel around the U.S. and see different places.  You know give the kids a first-hand education of history and just the land that we live in—national parks and such.   And before we moved into the camper, I knew that I wasn't going to have my big full kitchen like I do in the house with all my resources, and so I wanted to be prepared for how we were going to be living. So, I made all my tincture syrups and such and got them all prepared and ready for my first aid kit to be in the camper. And as part of that kit, I had some Burn and Wound Salve that Rachel Weaver recommended for burns and wounds. It was then that that we started using it little by little… just minor things like sunburns, you know after hiking at the national parks or such, you know things like that. But I had never really used it on anything serious until about the middle of 2015. At that point we had an accident, a very severe burn on my 5-year-old daughter and that was when we got to see how the Burn and Wound Ointment worked, and it was truly amazing and just a blessing from the Lord.

Amy: Can you tell us what happened when your daughter was burned?  Paint the picture for us what did what did that look like. What happened?  What were the thoughts that went through your head?

Joy:    Well, what happened when the accident happened; basically, she was burned by some boiling water, scalding water. I had just poured two tall thermal, you know stainless steel thermal mugs, with some boiling water because we were going to have tea, and the countertops in a camper are very small, so they were sitting there on the countertops. And at the time we had 7 kids.

The youngest baby was about maybe 5 months old or so, and my 5-year-old daughter was holding him and just, you know, playing around with him bouncing him on her hip there in the little living room.  He reached out to grab one of those mugs, and she spun around trying to protect him from it but in in doing that they got knocked off the counter and they spilled on her.  And this literally all just happened like in one minute, because I had just poured it just in that short amount of time. That's when the accident happened, and it burned the majority of her upper right arm and the majority of her upper right leg pretty much all over.

You know she was screaming quite hard; it was very scary to hear, and it was just horrible.  That's how, I can just tell you it was horrible.  It's not like when your kids just fall and bump their self or fall off their bike or whatever, you know, when they cry like that.  It was worse than that, and so we put her in the bathtub and tried to cool off the burn as much as possible to get that heat out of the burn. We took her pajamas off, and when we did that, the skin just was coming off in layers, just falling right off her arm like a big sheet and off her leg. And there was one spot on her arm that was like a pit. Almost, I think, more like a third degree burn really, because it had gone through several layers of the skin.  I knew that we were looking at something very serious.  I did remember during all that time, you know all that time, it was a very short amount of time—just a few minutes, but I remembered enough to know that I needed to cool the burn.

So that was the first step. And in that amount of time, then I was able to sort of think a little bit about what do we do. Do we go to the hospital? Do we you know try to do something here?  I didn't know at that point because you're just trying to sort things out.  So, I went ahead and grabbed my book off the shelf because I did have my book with me the Be Your Own Doctor book, and I looked really quickly through the burn section.  And you know, there's instructions in there, very good detailed instructions in there, you know here's kind of some guidelines about how to decide whether to seek medical help depending on the percentage of the body burned and just different guidelines that you can look at to kind of assess the situation and that really helped me be able to know what to do.  So, I kind of assessed that maybe like almost 20 of her body had been burned, you know maybe less than that, but it was severe but not so severe that we needed to rush her to the hospital right then and there. I did have a small container, an 8 ounce container of the Burn and Wound Ointment, so we went ahead and got her out of the bathtub—probably about 15 minutes she was in there, and she just got so cold—so we went ahead and got her out, gently patted her dry, and slathered that Burn and Wound Salve on her.  And at that point, she did stop crying, because the salve really it helps the pain go away within 30 seconds.  I mean it really decreases it to the point where you have comfort and you're soothed even though I'm sure there's still pain there. I can't imagine.  I've never been burned that badly, but it was soothing enough that she stopped crying.

During that time my husband had gone and run to the store for bandages and got some non-stick bandages, and we wrapped her up, and she went to bed for the night.  Of course, I didn't go to sleep very well because I was worried about her and wanted to keep checking on her and making sure she was okay. I also, you know during that time, we wanted to be careful and make sure that she didn't get an infection or get dehydrated or have any of the signs of shock or anything like that, because those, especially infection, is a number one complication of burns.  So, we were ready and alert to just go to the hospital whenever we needed to, but we wanted to try this gentle way of healing.  And I can tell you, it was a huge blessing both for us and for our daughter, because she was able to heal in a much more painless way, I believe, than if we had had to do the hospital procedures.

Amy: Can you tell us how did you actually go about treating the burns after you saw and you were able to ascertain the severity of it how much of it had been, you know, covering her arm and leg?  What did you end up using in order to keep the infection at bay?

Joy:    We went ahead and called a store in the Amish community in Pennsylvania, and we ordered a half gallon of salve and burdock leaves—some dried burdock leaves, and talked with them about this treatment protocol that we had learned about in the Be Your Own Doctor books. They had been through it several times through just different accidents that had happened in their community, so they already had more of an awareness of what to look for and how things should be progressing as she healed. They were a huge help!  We got those supplies from them—we got them overnighted, and we started using them.  We would change the dressing twice a day every 12 hours.  When we would do that, we would lay gauze pads— clean sterile gauze pads—on the wound or the burn, and then we would gently pat them and then gently lift them up.  And this was to clean away any dead skin.  Sort of similar to what they do in the hospital with the scrubbing with the antimicrobial soap.  Instead, we were just doing it gently and not scrubbing.  We wanted to get that decay off of there without having to be rough on the skin, on the wound, and so we would do that.  And then we'd spray it with Colloidal Silver to cleanse it. We wanted to do that instead of the peroxide, because peroxide stings so badly, and we just wanted to do something that would cleanse it without being damaging at the same time.  And so, we're just very careful with this gentle situation on her skin.

And then after that, we would again lay some gauze on there, another clean sterile piece of gauze, gently pat it, lift it off, make sure that it's getting any residue left behind just to get anything off of there; and then we would reapply more salve— a very thick layer about an eighth inch, maybe even a quarter inch because I like to be very liberal with it. But we would slather that all on, and then we would wrap that with some re-hydrated burdock leaves which also help in covering the wound instead of covering it with gauze that would, you know, pull maybe be a little bit more harsh on the wound.  These leaves are very gentle, and they hold the salve there to the skin.  And then when you take them off at the next dressing, then it brings that dead skin away off of the burn.  And so we would lay that on there and then we'd use some chuck pads cut up and wrap that around it to have some kind of an encasement, and then, you know, wrap that with gauze to tie it all up into a neat little package.  So, we would do that twice a day.  And when we would go through that process, I washed my hands probably five times between each step, because I wanted to make sure anything that I touched was clean and sterile, and that I wasn't transferring any type of bacteria between the tools, the scissors, the stirring knife, or, you know, anything that I was touching.  I didn't want to take any chances on any kind of infection getting into her body.

Amy: How long would you say it took for the burn to heal and was there a lot of scarring when you were using the Healing Salve, Burn and Wound Salve?  How effective was it?

Joy:   Well, she healed very rapidly in less than two weeks. It was very quick, and the scarring really, you know, you can't tell that she had a burn.  You know initially when she was burned, the skin looked brown.  I guess, you know, it wasn't black like what a fire would do, you know, charring the skin; but it was brown, a dark brown. And then as she healed, those new layers of skin just grew on top and became smooth as if it had never happened. They became smooth—for a while you could kind of see a border line of just color kind of variants between where the edge of the burns were—but they were still pretty much the same color as her skin. And now I can hardly even tell!  And the only place that I can tell there was a burn is the place where she had about that quarter size third degree burn that was a deep hole.  And now it's not a hole, it's not a pit at all.  It filled in from the bottom up with new skin growth, new tissue, and it grew all the way up to the top layer of her skin.  And so that area is completely smooth.  The only thing that you can tell is it's white; it doesn't have the color pigment of the rest of her skin so it just looks like pure white skin.

Amy: So, it pretty much proved how effective it is as a burn salve.  But as the years went by, how would you describe your experience using it then for other purposes?

Joy:    Well, I think we might be prone to accidents in our family. I don't know…I'm not sure, but a few years ago our son, who is probably about 9 at the time, we had just gone swimming, and we were racing back to the house down the road.  We had been in a neighbor's house.  And so we were racing back down the road, and, you know, our road we live on a hill so it kind of goes downhill.  He was going as fast as he could, and he fell.  And when he fell, he hit the asphalt with his knee right above the kneecap.  His whole body just hit in that one place. All that force in that one place, and it made a huge wound—I would say about maybe two inches wide open and then two inches across maybe three quarter to an inch deep maybe, because it was so deep, I felt like I was looking down in it like not being able to tell what I was looking at down there, because it did not look like the top layers of skin.  So it was yucky. It was very ugly.  You know, we first immediate reaction was, “Oh, we have to go get stitches!” because I thought, I don't know what we can do about this.  We've got to go stitch it up and close it up.

So he was sitting on the edge of the bathtub cleaning it out.  You know, I've taught the kids, you know, you need to clean your wounds, and, you know, make sure there's no rocks or anything in there because they've fallen off their bikes and stuff a bunch of times.  And so, we were just looking at it trying to make sure there was no foreign objects in there.  And really the bleeding was surprisingly minimal from what I remember.  So anyway, we were doing that, and I had immediately gone and said to my husband, “We have to go get stitches,” and then I started trying to think what do I have here that could work in the time being.  You know, what could we use?  And then I remembered the Burn and Wound Ointment. I don't think it immediately came to my mind, because I was so used to the burn experience and that idea of just using it for burns, but it is useful for so many things.  Since then I've used it on diaper rashes with great success, and I know people use it on chapped lips and sunburns and all— it's just a great first aid ointment—bruises, just all kinds of things.  So anyway, we got the Burn and Wound Ointment out, and we packed his wound with that.  This time we did not use burdock leaves, we just used non-stick gauze pads and then wrapped gauze around, but we did change his wound twice a day.  We did the dressing twice a day, every 12 hours, and we just followed the same method.  We just made sure everything was very clean, my hands were clean, all the time between touching anything, you know, sterile, and you know the tools, just everything was kept very clean.  And then we used the same Colloidal Silver to clean the wound out.  We would use a clean piece of gauze to gently pat on there and lift it off. So, it was really the same type of principle. And what happened with him is it took a longer amount of time to heal. I believe because the wound was so deep and possibly maybe, because we didn't use leaves. I don't really know for sure if that had anything to do with it because the burdock leaves really do help heal along with those properties that the leaves have as well.

It took about a month and a half to heal, but it was so much fun seeing how the wound would get smaller and smaller every few days.  It was like, it was just amazing! It would close itself up little by little.  I wish I had a time-lapse video; it would be so neat to watch something like that.  It just little by little closed itself up as if he had stitches, and it brought itself together into this incision.  It looks like he just had this incision, so he has a scar, he has a line of a scar, but he does not have those scars that you get from stitches —you know all those little holes that you get on both sides of an incision because of where the stitches were—he doesn't have any of that.  It's just a nice clean scar.  He's done well with it.  It's been really good!   And since then, we've used it on bad finger cuts and bruises just anything that we need it for first aid.

Amy: So, we've mentioned burns, we've mentioned severe wounds, we've mentioned sunburns. Also, I think even from our own personal experience that dreaded hill the same one that your son tripped on my son, my youngest, had an experience with that.  And boy, he had a goose egg on his forehead. And I'll never forget bringing him in and sitting him on your counter, and here comes Aunt Joy with her medicine kit.  And you whip out that, you know your Healing Salve, and some big ol’ bandage, and well you lathered it up and covered it with a bandage.  And less than 24 hours later you couldn't even tell that there was anything there.  There was hardly a bump; the bruising, the dark color that had started forming when he had first fallen, it was a faint greenish yellow as if it the bruise itself was over a week old.  It truly is what people call it like the, you know, “liquid gold” or “the miracle salve” is what I've heard some customers of yours calling it. And they're absolutely right!

But speaking of all the different names that we call this, just to clarify, I know at the beginning we call it Healing Salve and then you've been telling the story and calling it Burn and Wound Ointment.  How did this all come about?  Are we talking about different things, or is it all one in the same?

Joy:    Well, they are the same stuff, and I'll tell you, I want to tell you too a little bit about this salve. The salve the foundation of it is honey, and it's an important ingredient in it because honey is antibacterial, and it's very nutritive.  It speeds up healing so one of the things that it does is that because it absorbs water, it takes water out of the surrounding bacteria and that bacteria dries up.  So, the bacteria can't live, can't grow, it can't multiply so easily in that kind of environment.  And then the glucose in honey converts to hydrogen peroxide, which is just amazing to me.  So, we have this cleansing quality in the honey that's, you know, we first have the wound kept from infection, and then we have the wound being cleaned by the honey, and then the honey also has tons of vitamins and minerals and things that help the new skin to be growing.  So, we have all that going on.  And then in addition to that, we have all these other herbs that are in the in the Healing Salve that help with so many different things.  You know the comfy root it helps that cell regeneration it just it puts it on high speed and promotes it to happen very rapidly.  So, we have that and then there's other herbs in there that help to shrink the inflamed tissue and to strengthen the new cell growth. Then, like for example, the lobelia in there. Lobelia is great for pain relief and for just relieving sore muscles and different things like that. The addition of lanolin into the Healing Salve is what keeps the salve from just melting and running off your skin.  So, that's really important too. And then we have the other oils like the wheat germ oil, olive oil, all these other things are to help prevent the scarring which the honey also does too.  And so, it's so neat how a wound can or even a burn, a third degree burn even, can start this new tissue growth from the bottom of the wound inside and build itself up all the way to the top again.  And because of this, that's how we have found that this has been such a great salve to use, and we've used it for so long now, I guess maybe 8 I don't know 8 years maybe almost now.

But what we did is last year since we've loved it so much and just seen such amazing results, we wanted to make this available to those around us to our people locally, friends, businesses and get them to where they could have access to it and use it and have good results with it as well.  And so, I contacted the manufacturer, and this is made by the Amish community, and they've been so kind. They have allowed us to resell their product, and they are re-labeling it for us with our business name and just the name Healing Salve so they are one in the same product.  I would be happy if anybody got it from either place because it's just so wonderful, and everybody should have it in their medicine cabinet.

It's just, it's truly a blessing to be able to have something that works, and you know, it saves you money in the long run really, because, you know… To give you an example, that whole two-week treatment that we used for the burn, the severe burn on our daughter, it only cost us $500.  That included all the bandages, and at that point, my husband was going to stores that sold surplus bandages or you know bandages in bulk medical supply stores where he could get it cheaper. And so all of that put together was only about $500. You know, it's it makes a difference when you can treat something on your own, and of course, we're always ready to seek help when needed.  And that's the blessing too, that we can do that when needed.  But I just want that to be available to people, and that's how we came across it and where it comes from.

Amy: Joy, thank you so much for taking time today to share with us such great information. I seriously cannot wait to have you back with us again!

For all our readers out there, I hope this episode was a help to you in some way.  If you'd like more information about Joy Durand and the Healing Salve visit her website at www.dogwoodmeadowsherbs.com or www.thekinnardhomestead.com.  Until then, God bless you.

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How to Make Soap: A Beginner’s Guide

No two soaps are created equal.  That’s because each ingredient added to an all-natural soap does a specific job.  But how do you find the exact soap you or your family needs without breaking the bank!?!  Unless you have the ear of a soap maker who owes you a favor or two, your best bet is to learn how to make soap yourself.

Yes, working with lye can be dangerous and learning all the rules and purchasing all the different supplies…yeah, it can be intimidating, but when it all boils down to it – it’s WORTH the effort.  Working with lye is no more dangerous than mowing your lawn in the south during snake season.  I know for all you Southerners out there, you know what I’m talking about.

You’re not going to be out there in flipflops when you’ve got Copper Heads nearby and Moccisons.  Oh no, you’re going to wear the proper shoes.  And in this case when dealing with lye, you wear safety glasses, long sleeves, and rubber gloves.

To overcome your phobia, you first need to better understand what it is you actually fear. Now the reason lye is dangerous is because it can cause severe burns if it comes into contact with your skin. No, it’s not an acid.  It quite simply is a chemical reaction. You see, lye absorbs fats/oils upon contact.  So when a drop of lye touches your skin cells, it immediately sucks up all the natural hydration in the skin leaving a “burn.” This process in soapmaking is called saponification.  It’s the chemical reaction of the lye absorbing the fats/oils to create a substance that cleans by altering the pH.  Hense where you get the word “soap.”  It’s simply because the lye and fats have gone through that chemical reaction – saponification. Not enough lye leaves a soap that dissolves rapidly and is mushy from excess fats/oils not being saponified. And let’s not even get into the kind of “soap scum rings” that’s go leave in your bathtub. Eww! GROSS! Too much lye will leave your skin so clean it feels dry or cracked.  So there’s a balance there.

The same way you would treat a boiling pot of water is how you should really treat a container of lye. You don’t want to be around pets or small children who can knock into you while working. You moms out there with toddlers or little ones, you know what I’m talking about….How you’re going to take a step back and your child, like a phantom, likes to sneak up right behind you so when you go to take a step back, you’re like “Ah!” and you either drop it or it spills.  That’s what I mean, common sense.  Leave the kids and pets in another room just to make sure you don’t have an accident in that regard.  But that’s it in a nutshell. That explains the danger of it all. … As and my children like to quote G.I. Joe from the 1980s cartoons, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle…G.I. JOE!!"

Now that you’ve made up your mind to brave through your fears, how much is it going to cost you up-front to start making soap?

To make one of the simplest types of cold-processed soap you will need:

Ingredients:

  • Distilled water - $0.89 (1-gallon @ grocery store)
  • 100% Lye – $3.49 (16oz @ local hardware store)
  • Coconut oil - $20 (1-gallon @ com)
  • Essential oils – optional and prices vary

Tools:

  • Silicone spatula - $1 (Dollar Tree)
  • 2-Cup plastic measuring pitcher - $1 (Dollar Tree)
  • 1-gallon mixing bowl - FREE (recycle an ice cream bucket)
  • Small bowl – FREE (recycle a sour cream or whip cream container)
  • Rubber dishwashing gloves - $1 (Dollar Tree)
  • Digital Scale - $15 (price varies, but a decent one can be found around this Needs to be able to show 0.00 oz.)
  • Stick Blender - $15 (price varies, but you could snag one around holiday sales for $5-10)
  • Thermometer - $20 (price varies, but I would recommend splurging on a digital infrared thermometer)
  • Soap Mold – FREE (use an old USPS medium flat rate box or any shape container you want that can be lined with parchment People like to use Pringles cans or PVC pipes to make round soaps.)

*Very important to remember that whatever you use for making soap CANNOT be used for any other purpose.

Probably just looking through the list of needed supplies, you can cross off a bunch of things because you already have them inside your pantry or kitchen cabinets.  The amounts and prices I’ve listed are enough to make 2.5 batches of soap.  Using the following recipe we’re going to formulate, these ingredients are enough to make a total of 35 5-oz bars of soap. A bar of all-natural soap costs around $5-7 at the store or craft market.

So if you bought that same amount of soap at the store, you would spend $175-245 just for bars of soap. Altogether, your ingredients and tools cost you less than $100.

Now to put all the pieces together and start building your soap formula…

Step 1.

Do the math calculations to determine the volume and oils needed for your batch of soap.

Square or rectangular = Width x Length x Height x 0.4 Cylinder = 3.14 (π) x Radius x Radius x Height x 0.4

*Using an old USPS Medium Flat Rate Box as a mold with dimensions of 11 x 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.4, I’m going to change the 5.5” height down to 2” because I don’t want my soap to be that tall.  So the final equation is 11 x 8.5 x 2 x 0.4 = 74.8.

Step 2.

Take this number and plug it into an online calculator to get the correct amount of each

oil.  I typically use www.brambleberry.com’s lye calculator, but have also tried out others out there that have a better list of usable ingredients.  For instance, Brambleberry doesn’t have lard listed as one of the fats/oils.  It’s kind of a bummer since I like to make old-fashioned lard soap since we have our own pigs. You know, you use everything you can. However, the Brambleberry site is one of the simplest to use, so for this example I’m going to use the Brambleberry site. Once you are on the site, you’re going to look for the “lye calculator.”

Scroll toward the bottom of the page and answer the questions:

Type: solid…It’s going to be a solid soap not liquid.

Please Select Ounces or Grams…: percentage

Weight of Oils: 74.8 oz (We know this is the volume of the mold, but we have yet to figure out what is the actual amount of the coconut oil.  The 74.8 gives us a starting point.)

Superfatting Level: none (It doesn’t matter at this point; I’ll show you how to calculate your own later and I’ll explain what in the world superfatting is. Haha!)

After clicking “next” you get to decide on the percentage value for each of the oils you would be using.  Because we are doing the most basic recipe, it’s not going to have a breakdown of all the different kinds of oils to use.   Instead, just enter 100 coconut oil then click “next” at the bottom of the page.

SIDE NOTE: Typically, you would want to break a recipe down into percentages like 33% olive oil, 33% coconut oil, 15% shea butter, 15% sunflower oil, 4% castor oil.  All of that to add up to 100 percent.  A typical bar of soap is going to contain certain elements that do certain things. You can do more research on your own about the benefits of each different type of fats/oils and the best percentage used for in soaps to get the results you want. That’s something that you need to do on your own if you are serious about getting into making your own soaps.  I just want to be able to show you how to know or give you the resources or tools so you can take that next step to make your own soaps yourself.

You will see that it gives you a “Total Batch Yield” of 117.11oz which, good grief, is almost double the volume of your mold.  Click at the bottom “resize batch” and guestimate what you think the oil amount will be.  Keep resizing the batch until you get the total batch yield down to 74.8. In this case, the final oil weight would be 48oz which gives you a total batch yield of 75.65oz.

Now, scroll up to the section that says what your oil amounts are and write down those numbers next to each ingredient.

Coconut oil – 48 oz

Now look at the amount of liquid and lye and write those numbers down as well.

Lye – 8.54 oz

Liquid – 19.11 oz

Step 3.

There is where the math comes in…Double check the lye amount using a Saponification

Chart and multiplying the amount of oil ounces by its amount of lye needed. Now I’ve attached a pdf of my favorite NaOH chart that I’ve had the most success using down below so you can see all the values needed to calculate the lye for a bar of soap. (FYI: in case you search the internet for a chart, keep in mind KOH charts are used to make liquid soaps and have different values.)

Now the reason doing your own calculations is so important is because…For example the first time I made a recipe of soap that I had found, I plugged in all the information on the Brambleberry website.  I followed it to a “t.” The problem was my soap didn’t turn out, and I was so aggravated. I was like, “Good grief!  I just wasted all that time and money..aaahhh..Why didn’t this work?!?!”  It drove me bananas! Well, through my research I stumbled across a book and in it she had the full list of saponification chart and was explaining how everything works, blah, blah, blah…But as I was looking at that chart, I matched it up to what the recipe was that Brambleberry had told me, and I did the multiplications on there.  I multiplied the saponification chart from the book that was listed with my oils, and it was different.  Now I did that for the entire recipe. I went through and redid the calculations, and when I made the recipe again, it worked.   I didn’t have a failure.  It turned out perfect. That lesson taught me that online lye calculators are not always right, and there are so many different variations for saponification chart floating around out there on the internet that it’s insane.  So that’s why I’ve listed my favorite one that I’ve had the most success with. I have not had any failed attempts when I’ve done my calculations, my soaps turn out correctly.  Again, some people are like, “Oh well, it doesn’t matter.  It’s only off by a tenth or a hundredth,” but that all adds up in my mind.  So I want to stick with the one that I’ve had success with and that’s what this is that I’ve posted below.  But on this chart, she uses 0.190 for coconut oil. That means that for every ounce of coconut oil, you’re going to use 0.190 oz lye. So you multiply that out.

0.190 Coconut oil

0.190 x 48 = 9.12 – That’s telling us we’re using 9.12oz lye.  You can already you can see that it differs from the online calculator gave a different total

Step 4.

Superfatting…This is the term used when you allow a certain percentage of fats/oils to not be absorbed by the lye during saponification.  They are going to remain in fat molecule form. This is another big way in which making your own soap can be customized.  You can control the moisturizing affect of the final product simply by adjusting the superfatting level.  This will also affect the amount of bubbles/suds your soap will produce. Too much and the soap becomes slimy and the bubbles are inhibited.  Not enough, and the soap leaves the skin feeling dry because it cleans off the natural oils in the skin and doesn’t replace them with any. So superfatting is crucial

Take the final amount of lye needed (9.12) and multiply it by the percentage you choose. (Majority of recipes are superfatted at 5%. You would want to increase it to 15% for this high coconut oil soap.

9.12 x 0.15 = 1.368

Now subtract that amount from the total lye. (9.12-1.368 = 7.752) Round to the nearest hundredth and you end up with 7.75 oz.  THIS is the needed amount of lye for your batch of soap.

With the accurate lye amount, adjust your liquid measurement to match.  The liquid/lye ratio is 2:1.  So for this recipe you will need 15.5 oz.

FINAL RECIPE:

7.75 oz – lye

15.5 oz – distilled water 48 oz – coconut oil Total Weight = 71.25 oz

*Because of the change in lye and water amounts, the total weight went below the 74.94oz we were working toward earlier.  You can either leave it at this weight, or you can go back and readjust your oil amounts. Just remember to re-do the math on each step if you change just one oil amount since it will change the amount of lye and water needed.

Yay! You just formulated your first batch of soap!!!!

Step 5. – Mixing the lye solution

Now to actually make your soap. Ha! Maybe take a short break to let your brain cool off after all the calculating…

Set out your supplies in a well-ventilated area.

Put on your safety gear and cover your work area with a trash bag or newspapers to protect the surface you are working on.

Using a digital scale, place your 2-cup measuring pitcher on the scale, set to measure in ounces, and press “tare” to zero out the weight of the pitcher.

Measure out the needed amount of COLD distilled water and set aside.

Place your empty small bowl on the scale and press “tare.” Measure out the needed amount of lye being very careful not to spill the granules.

If you are in a well-ventilated area, slowly pour a little lye at a time into the water, mixing with your spatula.

NEVER POUR WATER INTO THE LYE – MUST BE LYE INTO WATER UNLESS YOU WANT A VOLCANIC ERRUPTION INSIDE YOUR KITCHEN!!!

(Go outside if you need better ventilation as this part is the worst part when it comes to chemical smells.)  You will know the lye is completely dissolved when it turns clear and there are no more little white pieces floating around.  At this point, leave the spatula inside the pitcher and place inside the refrigerator while you begin prepping your oils.

Step 6. – Measuring the Oils

Place your empty gallon ice cream container on the scale and measure out your coconut oil.  Place inside microwave and heat in slow bursts (15-20 seconds) stirring between each round until the oil is transparent.

Place the container back on the scale and press “tare” to zero out weight. Slowly measure out the olive oil.  Do the same for measuring the castor oil.  Gently stir the oils to get a consistent heat.

Step 7. – Combining Oils and Lye

Use your digital thermometer to get a temperature reading for the oils and then the lye mixture inside the refrigerator. Combine the lye into the oils when both are between the temp of 120-140F with a difference of 10 degrees allowed between each.

Using your stick blender, “burp” the blender first to remove any air pockets before turning on. Slowly blend the mixture in 15-second bursts letting the blender rest.  If the temperature is correct, the soap will reach a light trace in a few minutes. (Trace is when you can dribble some of the mixture on the top of the batter, and it holds its shape.)

If you are adding any essential oils, now would be the time you add those.

Step 8. – Pouring into Mold

Once you’ve reached the medium trace, you need to act quickly to get the soap poured into your mold.  It will begin to firm up quickly as it cools.  Scrape the sides of the container clean then shake/tap the mold to smooth the batter into the corners and evenly across the top.

Cover with a layer of plastic wrap to protect the tops of the soap while it hardens.

A little tip here…If using a silicone mold that doesn’t have a wooden form, place it on a cookie tray so that you can lift the tray to tap down the batter.  If you try lifting the silicone mold on its own, it will just be a huge mess.

Step 9. – Gel Phase

Non-milk soaps need to go through a gel phase to create a consistent color and texture throughout the soap.  This can be achieved by placing your mold on a heating pad set to low and covered with thick towels for an hour.  Or you can wrap several thick towels/blankets around and set aside.  Check on your soap after it’s been sitting for an hour to ensure it doesn’t overheat.

Soap that gets too hot can bubble up like a volcano.  Better to have it be a little too cool than to be too hot.

Step 10. – Unmolding and Curing

Your soap will be ready to unmold after 24-48 hours.  At this time, you would cut into the desired bar sizes after unmolding.  Bars should be kept on a shelf to cure for 4-6 weeks to allow the excess liquid to evaporate and harden. Soaps are safe to use after unmolding since the entire saponification process has finished. Contrary to a lot of soapers out there who say that it’s not safe to use the soap until after the 4-6 weeks cure because the pH is still too high, there is no scientific proof to back up this claim. The curing process is there to harden the bars which will in turn make them last longer during use.  You can use the freshly unmolded soap in your shower, but it will dissolve faster.

In closing, just want to remind you that this recipe was one of the simplest and least expensive ones you can make by using only one 3 ingredients. This type of soap is not favored for washing with because it lacks the other oils that are more hydrating. However, it is still a great plain soap that does amazing at cleaning skin.  If you lower the superfatting level down to 0%, you then have an amazing plant-based laundry soap that can be shaved and added to other ingredients for a dry laundry powder or melted down to make a liquid detergent that is all-natural and very effective at removing dirt and stains.

Now that you know how to formulate a soap recipe and do the calculations, look through your kitchen cabinets or pantry and see what oils you have on hand in addition to coconut oil.

Some of the best are olive oil, sunflower oil, avocado oil, lard, tallow, sesame oil, hemp seed oil, and castor oil. But whatever recipe you find online or in a book, ALWAYS remember to do the calculations yourself and not just follow what someone else has written down.

I hope this episode is a help to any of you out there looking for ways to help save money for yourself and your family by becoming more self-sufficient in the area of soap making.

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Cottage Food Laws in Arkansas | 2020 Edition

One of the things we had to learn about when we first got started homesteading were all the different rules and regulations pertaining to the things we can or cannot legally do, or the things we can or cannot legally sell, being a home-based business.

When we first started out, Amy and I had so many plans, so many ideas, and so many options in terms of things we had the ability to produce, and were confident we’d be successful in marketing and selling, only to have a wet blanket thrown on a lot of our ambitions when we finally saw all the red tape that our state laws apply in this area.

It was a big snap back to reality when we realized there are several rules to follow when it comes to selling eggs, meat, produce, and baked goods.  Sometime, I may comment on what some of Arkansas’ rules are for things like eggs, meat, and produce.  In this post, though, I simply want to address the law regarding what are generally known as “Cottage Foods.”  Simply defined, Cottage Foods are “food items produced in a person’s home.

We live in Arkansas, so if you live in a different state you need to look up what the laws are where you live.  While Arkansas isn’t the most restrictive state when it comes to Cottage Foods, I know it’s not the most accommodating either, so do your own research and keep a pulse on your own state legislature.

To be clear, I’m not a lawyer or a state official.  If you want the “final word” on anything on this subject, please contact the experts.  If you need specific questions answered, you can call the Arkansas Department of Health, or even the UofA Division of Agriculture.

I can share with you the basics of what I understand about Arkansas’ Cottage Food laws, as I’ve tried to familiarize myself with them.  I titled this with the description “2020 edition,” even though the most recent change to the law happened in 2019.  As far as I know, there hasn’t been any changes to the law since then.  But, still, I’m using the title 2020 because that’s the year I’m posting this, and because I want to give you an overview of the law up to the present day.

At the end of this post, I will share with you one interesting development that has come up in 2020 with the rise of COVID-19.  Though it isn’t an official change to the law, it is certanily a more flexible tone coming from one of the prominent voices on Cottage Food expectations in Arkansas.

The Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1953
For an overview of Cottage Food laws in Arkansas, it may help to turn back the clock before 1953, when opportunities to sell homemade products looked a lot different.  At the time, there were far less restrictions than there are today.  Entrepreneurs were given a wide berth to do as they pleased.

Granted, in those days, opportunities for foodborne illnesses were also a lot more widespread.  Illnesses like Norovirus, Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and Clostridium botulism were all more commonplace when food makers could get away with making, preserving, transporting, and selling their food products any way they saw fit.

All of that was the case until Arkansas passed “Act 415” known as the “Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act” in 1953.  For the first time,  the Health Department was granted authority to license and inspect all food establishments—presumably including home-based food establishments.

This landmark law resulted in an immediate improvement in Arkansas’ public health and life expectancy rates.  In that sense, the new regulations were understandable and appreciated.  As a customer, you’re able to enjoy your meal a lot better knowing that what you’re eating is safe and is unlikely to kill you.

The negative side to it, though, in my view, is that whenever the state enforces safety, it inevitably strips away some freedom.  Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers warned us about that.  While the 1953 food law did improve health and safety, it also made things a lot harder for entrepreneurs to do business, especially when many of the regulations were more precautionary than they are necessary.

Personally, I can see the need for certain standards and practices, though in a perfect world, or even in just a free world, my preference would be, rather than forcing these things, to find a better way to educate and equip consumers and producers, allowing them to make some of their own decisions in this area.  It makes me a little uncomfortable thinking we’ve created a “food police” who can tell us what we can or can’t eat.

Regardless of the pros and cons, Arkansas’ food act was established.

The Cottage Food Law of 2011
Years later, in 2011, the Arkansas Legislature eventually passed “Act 72,” which finally exempted “cottage food operations, farmers’ markets, and other similar food sale entities” from permit requirements.  This was a big relief to home business owners, because the act defined “cottage food operations” as any person who “produces food items from their home that aren’t potentially hazardous.”

The Cottage Food law was a big step in the state’s removal of a lot of the red tape it had placed over an entrepreneur’s home kitchen.  It wasn’t a total removal of the red tape, though, because the list of items it was permitted to make and sell had its limits.  The law restricted the list of qualifying food items to include:

(1) Bakery products;
(2) Candy;
(3) Fruit butter;
(4) Jams;
(5) Jellies; and
(6) Similar products specified in rules adopted by the Department of Health.

As I stated earlier, there are also rules and allowances for items such as Eggs, Meat, and Produce, as well as things like Maple Syrup, Sorghum, and Honey, etc.  I’m leaving all of those out of this discussion, though, because, while all of them are things that are home-produced, there are a few nuances that I feel put them in a slightly different category than the basic “Cottage Foods” list above.

Regarding the basic Cottage Food list, the limit is on food items that aren’t “potentially hazardous.”  How do you define what is “potentially hazardous”?  Well, for that you must go to the Department of Health, who define potentially hazardous foods, at least on a starting level, as any food that requires refrigeration or heat to remain safe.

That, of course, comes as a huge disappointment to us because, naturally, one of my wife’s specialties is her homemade pies, and cheesecakes, and all her goodies with cream cheese frosting, which all require time in the fridge.  She also has a knack for hot-and-ready meals like lasagnas, and chicken pot pies, and other homemade dinners that we know would be popular were it not for this rule.  So, unless you get a permit, you can’t sell things are time and temperature controlled, or what is commonly referred to “TCS” (time and temperature controlled for safety) items.

Related to TCS restrictions, you also can’t use artificial sugars in your canned jams and jellies because of how those artificial sugars are understood to react in room temperature storage.

Speaking of home canning, most of what you can at home probably doesn’t qualify as a Cottage Food, not because of TCS requirements but because of the essential conditions needed to kill bacteria in the canning process.  For those who aren’t familiar, it’s important to understand there are two general types of canning.  The first is what’s called “water bath canning,” which, through the process of simple boiling, is used to process and preserve your more naturally high in acid foods.

The other canning method is called “pressure canning,” which can reach higher temperatures, making it ideal for your lower-acid foods.  All of that is important because the higher the acid level, the easier it is to kill off any bacteria.  It also helps if the moisture content is low.  pH levels are also important.  Hence, why jams and jellies are allowed on the list, but why your canned soups and vegetables aren’t.  Arkansas also doesn’t allow acidifying agents, so if it’s not naturally high in acid, you can pretty much rule it out.

So, the list the law outlines is the list you’re limited to.

Other factors in the law include not only what you can sell, but how you label it and where you can sell it

In terms of labeling, every Cottage Food item you’re wanting to sell has to include on its packaging the following 4 things:

(1) the name of the product,
(2) the product’s ingredients,
(3) your name and address, and
(4) the words “this product is home produced” in a 10-point font.

The other thing to remember is you can’t make any nutritional, health-benefit claims on labeling.

In terms of locations you can sell your items, according to the old 2011 law, your options are either:

(1) from your home,
(2) a farmers’ market,
(3) a county fair, or
(4) a special event.

Similar to the limits placed on what you can sell, Arkansas has pretty strict limits you in where you can sell it.

Everything covered up to this point is a basic summary of Arkansas’ Cottage Food law, as it was enacted in 2011.  If it helps you remember, you can think of it in 3 simple parts: (1) the list of allowed items, (2) the labeling of those items, and (3) the locations they can be sold at.

The 2017 Amendment
A few years later, in 2017, an amendment to the 2011 law was eventually made under “Act 399,” which added one more thing to the list of products you’re allowed to sell.  That item was “Chocolate-covered fruit and berries that are not cut.”  Just remember, if you poke a stick or toothpick in those berries it’s no longer classified as “uncut.”

For berry growers and chocolate lovers out there, this amendment was great news.  Honestly, the addition is good news for all Cottage Food sellers, because even if your business doesn’t sell uncut fruits, to see a loosening of restrictions anywhere on the list is a good omen for all of us.  Hopefully, it’s a sign more things will eventually be added to the list someday.

Personally, Amy and I are holding out hope that things like salsas will one day be found worthy to sell from home.  My wife can make some good salsa.  And not just salsa, but there is so much more she’s good at making that would be wonderful to share with customers if only they were on the list.  I know many of you home business owners can relate to that.

The other thing the 2017 amendment did was add to the list of locations you’re allowed to sell at to include “online farmers markets.”  Here again, this is another great development, particularly, for farmers’ markets and those who sell through a farmer’s market since so many consumers do their shopping online these days.

For Cottage Food sellers who don’t sell through a Farmer’s Market, the amendment doesn’t change things much.  In fact, it probably makes things a little worse, because while you still have to conduct business by direct-sale-only methods, Farmers Markets can now attract a much larger customer base (perhaps even stealing away some of your customers) because of the convenience factor incentivizing them to shop online with them instead of the hassle of having to meet up in person with you.

On this point, I’ll go ahead and share with you how we’ve gotten creative, having a desire to tap into an online customer base without using a Farmer’s Market, while still complying with Arkansas law.   You have to get creative.  Again, as a disclaimer, I’m not a lawyer (even though I did speak with one before trying this), so don’t take my word for it.  You need to do your own research.

What we’ve done is gone ahead and created a catalog on our website of all our products, without using an online farmer’s market, but we’ve limited it strictly to marketing purposes, at least for our Cottage Food items.

Instead of allowing customers to complete their transactions on our site—(note: according to the law as it’s enforced by the ADH, the restriction is on “internet sales,” and my understanding of a “sale” is defined by a formal transaction)—our customers submit tentative “requests” for an item.  We then follow-up with them to arrange for the whole required “direct, in-person sale.”

Would it be easier to complete our sales online?  Absolutely it would.  Unfortunately, that’s not what the law allows us to do, so a “marketing/submit-your-interest” setup is the best we can come up with short of doing the online farmer’s market.  I imagine it’s no different than advertising on social media, letting people respond to that, and working out a time to meet up in person.

For those who can take advantage of the online farmer’s market, the 2017 amendment is great.

The 2019 Amendment
After 2017, the most recent amendment that we’ve seen is the 2019 amendment (under “Act 775”) which adds to the list still one more location Cottage Foods can be sold, namely “Pop-up shops.”

What is a pop-up shop?  According to the Act, a pop-up shop is:

 “…a cottage food production operation selling items in an unaffiliated established business for a limited time period with the consent of the owner of the unaffiliated established business and the owner or employee of the cottage food production operation being present at the point of sale.”

In other words, a “pop-up shop” is you selling your stuff on-location at some other business, with their permission, and with your business’ direct participation, for a limited time.

The 2019 addition of pop-up shops, in my opinion, is even greater news for Cottage Food sellers than the 2017 amendment, for the simple fact that it probably helps out a far larger number people than the other changes.  With pop-up shops, anyone can setup practically anywhere, assuming that location is its own brick-and-mortar business.  I’m assuming brick-and-mortar is what they mean by “established.”

The exact wording of the law is “unaffiliated established business.”   I take that to mean “any brick-and-mortar business that isn’t your own.”  Folks, that gives you a lot of options.

Sales at pop-up shops still have to be made directly.  You’re not selling through the business.  You’re just selling at the business.

The other thing you need to know is by running a pop-up shop, the law states you open your home kitchen up to inspection by the department of health, should they require it—which, in my opinion, is a bit of a contradiction to the original law exempting a Cottage Foods Production Operation from permit requirements in the first place.  Regardless, if you want to run a pop-up shop, you accept the strings that come along with it.

All of that is a broad overview of Arkansas’ Cottage Food law up to 2019.

I promised I’d share one other interesting development that has come up in 2020 with the rise of COVID-19, that being the shut down and limited access to many farmer’s markets throughout the state.  I imagine even for those who rely on the use of pop-up shops, fairs, other special events, or even setting up from their own home are experiencing a major hit in customer traffic.

I haven’t seen all the guidelines for special arrangements coming out from those in charge, but I did see an article put out by UofA’s Division of Agriculture that speaks to the issue.  In my opinion, it provides a much needed easing of conscience when it comes to trying to balance a strict “letter of the law” v. “spirit of the law” approach to compliance.

The article, written back in March, put it this way, :

“[Another] pressing issue may be access to a market or selling your items. Most communities have shut down their farmers’ markets or limited sales because of the prohibition on more than 10 people gathering. Right now is not the best time to invite customers to your home either.

If you feel compelled to continue your Cottage Food sales, consider using online advertising and create points of distribution for pick up with customers for a specific time.”

Kristin Higgins, Mar. 31, 2020
“Selling Cottage Food During A Pandemic”
Arkansas Division of Agriculture

Notice closely how that was worded: “consider using online advertising” (that goes back to the strategy I mentioned before) and “create points of distribution for pick up.”  I presume that to mean “…in addition to (or other than) your home, a farmers’ market, a county fair, a special event, or a pop-up shop.”  I presume that could be the use of a commuter lot, or your church parking lot, or a curb-side pickup option to make your direct-sales and handoffs.

Obviously, that’s not the law as it’s written.  I’m sure the article’s author knows that, but there’s an acknowledgement these are unusual times and there’s got to be some flexibility.  Just don’t push your luck.  We all still obey the law as closely as we can if we want to stay out of trouble.  COVID-19 will eventually go away.  When that happens, I’m hoping the right people can seek more permanent changes in the law to provide greater allowances.

My personal wish list would include more allowed items to sell and more allowed locations to sell them at.  In fact, I’d be happy if UofA’s “points-of-distribution” idea was the norm.  If nothing else, what I really would like is the ability to complete actual transactions online with my customers rather than just making arrangements for direct-sales, which is no guarantee of a sale since customer’s can often change their mind when they realize the hoops they have to jump through to pick up their item.

Oh, the joys of balancing public safety and personal freedom!

If there are any changes in Arkansas’ Cottage Food law, I’ll try to put out an update

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