Not Selling Flour

FARMERsmarketosbornesOsborne’s Supermarket in Hugo had a Farmer’s Market.

You may remember that I had spoke highly of Osborne’s Supermarket here.  To refresh your memory, Osborne’s Supermarket is the small supermarket located in the little town of Hugo, Colorado.  The owners are the third generation of the family owning Osborne’s.  They have rural supermarket management skills in their blood and they do an excellent job running their little store. The staff is always pleasant.  The shelves are always full.  What they don’t stock they can order in a lot of cases.  Considering how remote Hugo is, they carry an excellent assortment.  Their food is as fresh as it can be, given the rural situation.  While it’s true that Osborne’s ain’t no Wegman’s, they are excellent for what they are: a rural supermarket in a rural location surrounded by commodity big scale farms.

Osborne’s Supermarket is frequently involved in many community projects.  You may remember the ceiling tile my children painted.  Osborne’s Supermarket donated the paint and ceiling tiles.  Anyone who was willing could come to the Senior Citizen Center that day and paint a ceiling tile.  The painter would have to donate a new book to the library.  At the time, Osborne’s Supermarket needed to replace their old ceiling tiles.  They replaced them with the new ceiling tiles painted by the community members.    It was a win-win for everybody.  Now, years later, every time we go shopping at Osborne’s, my children are sure to show their ceiling tile to me and to anyone else who is willing to look and listen.

One such community outreach that Osborne’s Supermarket did was host a Farmer’s Market in August.  They are rented a tent, at their own expense, and offered free space to anyone who is willing to set up and sell produce and baked goods. The food that the community members sold was actually  in competition with what what lies on the shelves of Osborne’s Supermarket.  The owners of Osborne’s Supermarket were willing to invite competitors onto their property just for the  sake of the community and community outreach.  They asked for nothing in return. No rent. No percentage of sales. Nothing. It’s just their act of good will.

For those of you, like me a few years ago, who may think that a once per year Farmer’s Market doesn’t do a bit of good, let’s again review what Lincoln County is really like.  It’s an area geographically bigger than Delaware.  5000 non-inmate people live here.  There are a handful of towns, with Hugo and Limon being the most populated.  We are surrounded by farmland.  Tons of farmland and now and then a house.  Those farms grow for the commodity market.  They raise their livestock for the feed lots. Lincoln County is Monsanto’s dream.  There are no certified organic farms in Lincoln County, and none most of the bordering counties, either.  (I think there is an organic contract dairy farm maybe 60 miles away from Hugo.) Lincoln County is kind of the opposite of Lancaster County Pennsylvania.  Having a Farmer’s Market here is huge. Huge, even if it is once per year.

I’m a farmer.  My vegetable garden bombed again this year.  So what does that leave me, a farmer, to sell at a Farmer’s Market? Wheat and proso.  The varieties of wheat and proso that we grow on our little farm are actually legal to be sold.  (You may remember that in 2011, we planted a copyrighted variety of wheat which we legally had to sell back to the grain elevator.  It is all sold and gone and out of here.  The last thing I need is to get sued by the Big Ag conglomerate.  I think we more or less decided that we wouldn’t grow anymore of those contracted and copyrighted varieties. The thought of growing something and then not legally being able to eat it is mind-blowing to me.)

Your Joe-Schmo baker does not have a flour grinder.  He may not even be aware of where flour comes from, or where whole wheat flour comes from.  I have a flour grinder.  Hmm, I thought. I can grind flour and sell it.

Enter in the Colorado Cottage Foods Act.  Passed in 2012, the Colorado Cottage Food Act aimed at allowing small home producers to sell their items at roadside stands, their own farm or farmer’s markets.  Maybe I’m naive, but I do believe that there were good intentions behind the Colorado Cottage Food Act.  For the most part, it loosened up the rules for producers (with sales under $5000 annually per item) to produce and sell their wares.  I’ll pick on jelly, for example.  Before this law, a home producer would have to rent an inspected kitchen to make and can their jelly.  Now thanks to the Colorado Cottage Foods Act, they can do this at home, add some required labeling, and sell up to $5000 worth annually (as long as it isn’t “low-sugar” jelly) free of regulation.

The Colorado Cottage Foods Act has a big list of dos and do-nots.  Flour wasn’t mentioned.  There was a short blurb in the dried bean section about calling the Colorado Department of Agriculture about flour.  OK.  I did. Press this for that. Yadda. Yadda.  A few people passed me around.  “Call your local public health department,” was the answer I finally received.

So apparently, prior to my phone call, the local health department had no idea that they were the ones responsible for enforcing the Colorado Cottage Foods Act.  Yeah. So they didn’t know anything about flour.  A few phone calls and rigamarole later, I got the answer.  Flour is not under the Colorado Cottage Foods Act.  Producing flour requires “too much preparation, equipment and cleaning”.  To sell flour, I must be licensed as a Retail Food Establishment.

Let’s pause for a moment here.  Have you ever made jelly?  It is a long and involved process.  (You may remember that I’ve talked a little bit about canning jelly here and here.)  Have you ever ground flour? You put the wheat berries in the grinder, turn it on, and Viola! out pops flour

So don’t tell me, Colorado Lawmakers, that making flour is more involved than making jelly. You are just wrong.

I am a law abiding citizen.  This is why I did not sell flour at Osborne’s Farmers Market or any other Farmers Market for that matter.  (Plus the night before my son ate a magnet and I had to take a road trip to Aurora to the Emergency Room that evening.)

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