Explainer: What is the Colorado Cottage Foods Act?

The six-year-old law allows Centennial Staters to make no-refrigeration-required foodstuffs—breads, cookies, pastries, preserves, pickles, and the like—in their home kitchens and sell their scratch-made wares (as well as eggs, honey, tea, and more) from their yards, at local markets and events, and online. Producers working under this law need only take a food-safety class to be certified; they also have to maintain a clean kitchen, properly label their packaging, pay sales taxes, and sell directly to consumers within our state’s rectangular borders. Sound easy? It actually is—much more so than leasing a commercial kitchen just to bake and sell a few hundred pies or cookies. Intrepid producers can earn up to $10,000 in net revenue per year, per CFA product (e.g., brownies are one product, and brownies with walnuts are considered a different product)—meaning it’s not out of the question for folks to earn a decent living from the comfort of their own home kitchens, for the delicious benefit of their fellow Coloradans.

Photograph by Paul Miller

The Bakery at Small Potatoes Farm

When Monica Wiitanen and her husband, Wayne, bought their 10.5-acre Paonia farm in 1997, there was one thing missing: the ability to “turn excess produce into other things and sell them, as farmers have always traditionally done,” she says. When Wiitanen, who’s 72, learned about other states passing cottage food laws, she was inspired to take up the cause in Colorado. She proceeded to drop off her own sourdough loaves—along with calls for change—to then state legislator Gail Schwartz, who eventually helped champion the Centennial State’s own Cottage Foods Act (CFA) legislation, which passed in 2012. As a CFA pioneer, it’s only fitting that Wiitanen now runs a thriving home baking operation. She and her staff make more than 100 loaves of bread, as well as cinnamon rolls, buns, and pita rounds, in her outdoor wood-fired oven every week, often using San Luis Valley wheat Wiitanen mills herself. While the supplemental cash flow is nice, Wiitanen is even happier that Colorado’s CFA—“one of the best in the country,” due to higher earning limits and a relatively long list of eligible products—has allowed others in Delta County, in particular, to make their farms more financially viable. “With our short irrigation season,” she says, “it’s helpful for farmers to be able to do this year-round.”
How To Buy: Visit the Bakery at Small Potatoes Farm on Fridays from 3 to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; loaves start at $6. 40575 O Road, Paonia, 970-527-4051

Photograph by Paul Miller

Las Conchas Bakery

For someone who doesn’t call herself a baker, Crystal Araujo makes extraordinary conchas. These particular “panes dulces,” or sweet breads—with their crunchy, shell-like tops—are ubiquitous at Mexican bakeries, including those across the Denver metro area, but Araujo couldn’t find any she loved near her Aurora home, close to the Southlands mall. “My mother moved to Texas in 2016, and I was missing her and feeling nostalgic for the family get-togethers we used to have,” she says. “For Latino-Americans, when family is together, it’s never really complete without pan dulce and coffee. I wanted to re-create that feeling.” After multiple rounds of recipe tweaks and feedback from her husband, Edmundo, and friends, Araujo established Las Conchas Bakery—and she’s been baking nonstop for a growing customer base ever since. “Conchas can get stale and dry,” Araujo says, “and I wanted mine to be different.” We say mouthwatering mission accomplished, thanks to her conchas’ soft, fluffy bread base, which she tops with vivid flavors and hues, from pistachio to strawberry to Mexican chocolate.
How To Buy: Find out which concha flavors are available via Araujo’s Instagram account (@lasconchasbakeryco), and place your order, starting at $10 per half-dozen, via email (lasconchasbakery@gmail.com). Araujo offers free delivery within five miles of the Southlands mall, or you can contact her for pickup information.

Photograph by Paul Miller

Sunray Natural

Fort Collins
Fort Collins farmer Josh Hillhouse was tired of showing up to early spring farmers’ markets with nothing more than bags of salad mixes to sell. “We needed to make more money to justify the time involved with doing the market,” Hillhouse says. He and his wife, Kirsten, hatched a plan to supplement their biodynamically grown produce—as well as chicken and duck eggs and grass-fed beef—with CFA-approved, shelf-stable spice mixes and teas. With the help of their 12-year-old son, the Hillhouses’ line of dry goods has ballooned to almost 70 unique products, including a popular ginger-mint-lavender herbal tea made from organic, fairly traded botanicals and a tomato-basil spice blend that does triple duty as a seasoning, a dressing, and a dip mix. In fact, their CFA line has become so popular the family now devotes a portion of its eight-acre farm to growing perennial herbs for the products. In November, they debuted a year-round retail store on their property where they’re selling their teas and spices as well as baked goods—and of course, when in season, fresh salad greens.
How To Buy: Order Sunray Natural products (loose-leaf teas and spice blends start at $5 for about an ounce) online, or visit the farm’s retail store Tuesdays through Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 5656 N. Highway 1, Fort Collins

Photograph by Paul Miller

Cajun Mountain Girl Creations

Laraina James’ veins might very well run with pickle juice. Taught to preserve by her father (who was taught by his mother, who was taught by her mother), Louisiana-born James feels like she’s communing with her ancestors through Cajun Mountain Girl Creations. Based in Nederland, James uses as much local produce as she can get—Platteville’s Miller Farms is a regular source—to craft her spicy wares. “Everything I pickle contains jalapeño, garlic, and a little cayenne,” James says. “It’s how I get a ton of flavor and a little kick.” As long as she keeps the pH levels below CFA limits (a food-safety requirement), James can pickle just about any vegetable or fruit she likes—and she does. Her asparagus and Brussels sprouts, in particular, are tangy delights, and during the colder months, James also sells applesauce, relishes, and chutneys. In fact, her cranberry chutney, available now, is the perfect condiment for that turkey or ham on your holiday menu.
How To Buy: Find Cajun Mountain Girl Creations pickles ($9 per pint) at farmers’ markets from Nederland to Fort Collins. 985-713-1421

Photograph by Paul Miller

Raleigh Street Bakery

David Kaminer was the kind of kid who regularly made breakfast in bed for his parents, so it’s no surprise that, years later, the Pittsburgh-raised teen attended culinary school. After an externship at the Broadmoor, Kaminer traded Pennsylvania for Colorado, working in restaurants from Boulder to Golden to Colorado Springs; eventually he settled on baking, learning the tricks of professional bread making by working with the masters at Udi’s Artisan Bakery (now Izzio Artisan Bakery). Today Kaminer is drawing on his pedigree to craft superb naturally leavened loaves, using organic ingredients and freshly milled grains, from his home hearth in northwest Denver. “I started the bakery to make the products I want to eat,” Kaminer says. We want to wake up to his crackle-crusted, whole-grain breads—especially the flavor-packed, sunflower-seed-studded dark German rye—too.
How To Buy: Preorder loaves ($4 to $7) from Raleigh Street Bakery online with at least two days’ notice; Monday pickups are at Call to Arms Brewing Company, and Friday pickups are at Kaminer’s home bakery. From June through October, you can also snag preordered loaves at Lafayette’s Isabelle Farm on Thursdays and find a Raleigh Street Bakery stall at the Union Station Farmers Market on Saturdays. 5245 Raleigh St., 303-709-1020

Photograph by Paul Miller

Spicy Jamz

It was a case of juicy Palisade peaches that led friends (and former call center co-workers) Joanna Hunter, Katie Diel, and Sasha Landrigan into the jam-making business. Wellington-based Hunter was looking for a more flexible occupation that would allow her to work from home while caring for her daughter with special needs, so in 2016 she partnered up with Fort Collins residents Diel and Landrigan to sell the rich, sweet-and-spicy peach-habanero spread she’d been making and giving away since she overbought on stone fruit the previous summer. “Friends were saying I should sell my jam,” Hunter says, “and one day I told Katie that I was finally going to do it. A month later, Katie wanted in, and Sasha joined us two months after that.” These days, the trio works together part time, making far more than just that punchy peach jam—flavors now include blackberry, strawberry, raspberry, pineapple, and, in the fall, cranberry, all flavored with habanero chile powder from Savory Spice Fort Collins—and the brand’s website is primed with recipes and ideas for creative ways to use the different varieties. Because friends don’t let friends cook alone.
How To Buy: Check out Spicy Jamz’s website to find upcoming market dates or to place an order for an $8 eight-ounce jar for pickup or delivery (Northern Colorado only).

Photograph by Paul Miller

Sweet Treats by Melissa

You might say Melissa Megliola has Etsy, YouTube, and Google to thank for her thriving cookie business, Sweet Treats by Melissa, which she runs from her south Denver home. “I was trying to figure out a way to market the Italian cookies I learned to make from my mom and grandma, so I went online,” Megliola says. “When I saw all the custom-decorated sugar cookies out there, I decided to teach myself to make them.” With the help of video tutorials and more than a spoonful of natural talent, Megliola now creates beautifully designed cookies that actually taste as good as they look. She also sells her beloved Italian treats (lemon balls, butter cookies, and Neapolitans, to name just a few) to anyone in Colorado with a sweet tooth and the patience to wait three weeks for pickup.
How To Buy: See more of Megliola’s gorgeous treats, request a quote ($14 per pound for Italian cookies; $39 and up per dozen for custom-decorated cookies), and place orders through her website.

Photograph by Paul Miller

The Fleischer Family Farm

Think you’re busy? Paul Fleischer probably has you beat. The full-time agriculture and special-needs teacher at Alameda International Jr./Sr. High School also farms a half-acre plot in Lakewood, tends a productive apiary, runs a CSA program, hosts on-property workshops, classes, and special events, and keeps his farm stand stocked with CFA products. (Not to mention parenting two young children with his wife, Chelsie.) The Fleischers hope to double down on their urban farm dream by buying 1.2 acres adjacent to their current plot in February, but in the meantime, the CFA allows them to “fill in the gaps and offer more variety,” Fleischer says. That translates to raspberry jam from the couple’s sprawling berry patch, eggs from their free-range chickens, and raw honey from the farm’s hives. But be forewarned: The Fleischers’ CFA products have a devoted neighborhood following. “We never have enough,” Fleischer says. He hopes the purchase of the additional acreage will remedy that problem—and allow him to make the switch to working their land full time.
How To Buy: The Fleischers’ farm stand is closed for the season—it will reopen on June 15—but you can call or contact them online to purchase eggs ($6 per dozen) and honey (starting at $11 for an eight-ounce jar) throughout the winter, while supplies last. 2020 S. Allison Court, Lakewood, 412-973-8041

Photograph by Paul Miller

Counter Currant Micro Bakery

Arvada & Lakewood
While most kids erect lemonade stands in their front yards, Kelly Conley’s and Ginny Kooyman’s children are more likely to be found selling scones and other treats that their mothers bake each week for their four-month-old CFA bakery, Counter Currant. Arvada-based Conley and Kooyman, a Lakewood resident, first crossed paths five years ago at a home-school meetup, where they bonded over their shared love of all things DIY—including baking. “Now we just bake a lot more,” Kooyman says. “[Counter Currant] gives both of us the flexibility to work on a level that works for us.” Their selections—apple pies, pear tarts, sticky fig cake, chocolate shortbread—change weekly, often star local produce, and there are always gluten-free options available. The mamas’ can-do venture is even inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs: Kooyman’s 13- and 11-year-olds and Conley’s 12-year-old are teaming up to launch a CFA-certified granola line this month.
How To Buy: Weekly menus can be found via @counter.currant’s Instagram account; prices range from $6 for two croissants to $27 for a 10-inch pie. Order online by Thursday for Saturday pickup in Lakewood or Arvada.

Photograph by Paul Miller

Pie Bird

Licensed clinical social worker Jamie Burke has long considered baking a form of personal therapy; at first, sharing delicious treats with friends was just a happy bonus. She found so much joy in rolling out all-butter pie crusts and scooping cookie dough, however, that she started selling her wares at area markets under the Pie Bird name in 2012. Two years later, Burke took her sweet side hustle into a commissary kitchen so she could produce larger volumes of her signature chocolate tarts and mini apple pies for area coffeeshops (selling to retail outlets is not allowed under the CFA). Sounds like a success story, right? And it was—until Burke realized, nine months into the change, that she actually found the act of baking at home to be far more soul nourishing, not to mention convenient. “I like making things to sell directly to families, and scheduling time at the commissary was so hard,” she says. Nowadays, Pie Bird once again operates out of Burke’s Capitol Hill kitchen. And while that means no more goat cheese tarts, thanks to CFA restrictions against items that require refrigeration, you can still indulge in some self-care of your own with Pie Bird’s fudgy caramel-and-peanut-butter-swirled brownies, sea-salt-sprinkled dark chocolate chip cookies, and other comforting confections.
How To Buy: Check Burke’s website for the current menu (from $20 for 13 cookies to $28 for a nine-by-13-inch pan of brownies), and order through the contact form. Burke provides free home delivery to Denver residents.

This article was originally published in 5280 December 2018.

Callie Sumlin
Callie Sumlin

Callie Sumlin is a writer living in Westminster, and has been covering food and sustainability in the Centennial State for more than five years.

Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen

Denise Mickelsen is 5280’s former food editor. She oversaw all of 5280’s food-related coverage from October 2016 to March 2021.