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We no longer sell drugs, we sell artisan bread at the farmer’s market now

Updated: Jul 4

As the old saying goes: “teach a man to fish, he stops asking you for fish” or something like that. I realized early on in my employment as a culinary instructor at a men’s correctional facility that some of my students were natural businessmen. Some of them were EXCELLENT at selling products, developing distribution, and creating a corporate structure that I and my little side gig spice company could only dream of (shameless plug: link to my small batch artisan spices listed below). The problem with the product that they once sold is that it is illegal and got them into my classroom in the first place.

So, what do you do with a population of people that have a natural born talent in sales? How do you get them excited about culinary arts AND feed their kingpin dreams? Simple: change their product. What about distribution you may ask? Enter, the Florida Cottage Food Law. Most states have their own version of cottage food law where low risk foods can be prepared in-home and sold at farmer’s markets, flea markets, and festivals. For instance, low risk foods like bread, jams, jellies, spiced or sugared nuts, spices, cakes that don’t need to be refrigerated, honey, etc., are all covered and ok for sale under this law as long as they are sold directly to the consumer. They cannot be sold on the internet, wholesale sold to businesses, or sold across state lines. But that leaves a ton of opportunity to start a homebased business. I mean shoot, I paid $10 for a loaf of bread at a recent farmer’s market!

I just graduated a student who is very close to EOS (end of sentence). He took to bread baking like a duck on water. He changed ingredients around and came up with his own formula with great success. There’s a secret ingredient he recently added to his signature bread, but I’m sworn to secrecy. One day, he made the most incredible bread rolls. He rolled out this billowy beautiful dough into a rectangle and then spread homemade pesto (made from basil from our garden) from edge to edge. Then he rolled the dough like a cinnamon roll, cut them, and baked them. I’m not lying when I tell you that I would pay $25 for a half dozen of those bad boys if I saw them at the farmer’s market.

The cottage food law is a quick way to get cash in hand for those who love the hustle. Even if it’s just to supplement income, it’s a great alternative to more nefarious dealings. So, we spend a lot of time making jams, breads, and cakes to make sure that these guys have a skill under their belt to make money right away when they need it. That’s of course, in addition to the 600-hour classical culinary training my program teaches.

My dream is to fill local farmers’ markets with people who used to cook and sell meth, but now they bake and sell artisan bread. Will they make $15,000 a week like they do when they’re slingin dope? Probably not. But making bread instead of cooking meth will prevent them from having to look over their shoulder constantly and prevent them from being tempted to get high on their own supply. It’s an opportunity to succeed that wouldn’t have naturally come their way.

I hope my students do well at the farmer’s markets with their creations. And you should too! I tell these guys, “Tell your story to people, because people will want to participate in your success!”. Like buttermilk biscuits, together we rise! Hopefully, you’ll be lucky enough pick up some strawberry jalapeno jam made by one of my graduates to slather on those biscuits.

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