Today we feature the story of a home baker from Lexington, Kentucky. This is Katie’s baking story in her own words.
“I started making sugar cookies in January of 2014, because everyone said “you need to start a cookie business!” I already had my KY ID and Federal ID because I paint furniture and other commissioned artwork. I thought why not add cookies to the different mediums I work with? I had gotten this wild idea I would make cookies for my youngest daughter, who cheered on the all-girl team for the University of Alabama. Since it was the first time that the team had been to the college nationals I just wanted to give them something. I then made Easter cookies for my family, and like me they had no idea I could bake cookies, much less decorate them! Friends started asking me to do cookies, and everyone kept saying you need to sell these!
Being in business and going to craft shows with people selling food, I knew that I needed some form of a permit. I got online to research what I needed to get, and where I needed to go and got floored by the Kentucky cottage food law. I could not believe how Kentucky was one of the forerunners in cottage laws (2003), but through the many years were now on the bottom of that list; having one of the worst ones in the nation. It completely saddened me how “proud” they are of their slogan “Kentucky Proud”, when only the people who can say that are a small group of farmers with guidelines. I am sure they too would even appreciate updating the law.
After the first few months of discovering I had a gift at baking and decorating these little cookies, for the next year I very quietly baked my cookies at home using all the guidelines I read they would want. I wanted to make sure that what left my house was as good as any bakery!
I searched for a commercial kitchen during that time here in Lexington. That proved very hard to come by with a price that would make sense, while following the health department’s guidelines. Kind of like looking for a unicorn. After a little over a year, I was determined to find a way to be legal and sell my cookies. I stepped out and got my food managers license from the Fayette County Health Department. A year later I was introduced to a kitchen I could work out of. It was not easy, and working around the owner and all they had going on was not what I had hoped for and I ended up pulling out after only three months.
I thought I was done, but I was talked into a catering business three month later, and was back at trying yet again. The kitchen owners were nice and as helpful as they could be. But because I had to agree to half my earnings to cover the huge area I was given, the use of all their supplies and equipment, and the use of the kitchen anytime I wanted, six months later I had come to some conclusions. One, I would have made more money just working for their kitchen, and two that I was toast. I was burned out, and quite honestly never wanted to bake or see another cookie ever again.
It has been a year since I left there. I still feel the same way. I don’t want to do cookies, but yet I still make them for my family, close friends and previous customers that were as loyal as can be. I don’t know how that happened. I loved doing those little cookies, I called them my edible masterpieces. I believe if I had just been able to make cookies when I wanted or needed to, that I would not be in this burned-out place. I never wanted the pressure and all the demands I had working in a commercial kitchen. I just wanted the freedom to do what I loved and when I wanted to do it.
I appreciate what you are fighting for, and believe in it 100%! Even if I personally never make another cookie I will always be for the right for people to bake from home so they too can be Kentucky Proud — without having chickens, wheat or sugar cane in their backyard!
Katie Baldwin, Home Baker from Lexington, Kentucky