Oklahoma Senate considers bills that will allow local farmers markets, home bakers more freedom

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EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR) - Some local bakers, farmers, and farmers markets are closely eyeing two bills in the Senate right now.

One impacts regulation for farmers markets and the other does the same for home bakers.

"We are a daily indoor farmers market so we have over 100 vendors, we sell on consignment basis," said Jennifer Webster.

She and her husband opened the Conscious Community Co-Op in Edmond almost a year ago.

They leased a building near Waterloo and Coltrane and business was good - for a few months.

Then, they were targeted by repeated, anonymous calls to the health department.

"I would also like to say we passed every inspection," Webster said.

She says state inspectors didn't know how to handle this new type of business model.

"The Department of Ag said that we didn't fit into their current laws and guidelines of what a farmers market is," Webster said. "Department of Health didn't know what to do with us."

After a 4 day shut-down-- they reopened as a "retail" establishment which sparked new problems.

"I became like a small grocery store and current Oklahoma laws do not allow for bakers to bake in their homes and sell in a retail store," said Webster.

The community helped them put in a commercial kitchen, but bakers like Kris Hunter say they want to work from home.

"I come here at 4 a.m., I leave here at 8 a.m. normally so that I can go to my daytime job and start over the next day," Hunter said.

That's why they're supporting Senate Bill 1714 - which replaces the Homemade Food Freedom Act.

The bill removes the $20,000 annual gross sales limit for bakers like Kris-- allowing them to sell products they bake at home.

"I would only feed you what I would feed my family," said Hunter.

In addition, Senate Bill 1785 would cut the red-tape for farmers markets registering with the Department of Agriculture.

"We shouldn't be treating homemade bread like we're buying weapons from the Taliban," said Webster.

Both bills will be heard next week.

The Oklahoma City-County Health Department released a statement saying:

"One of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department's major goals of food safety within public health is to prevent the occurrence of human illness.
Our inspectors are in the field daily inspecting and working with licensed food establishments. The underpinning of legislation should always be safety and making sure there is fairness for every licensed establishment that operates in the community.
We support farm initiatives and in particular the farmers markets.
Our inspectors perform routine inspections, respond to public complaints concerning food facilities and also investigate reports of foodborne illness outbreaks.
We work with manufacturers and food establishments to ensure foods are packaged safely and labeled correctly."

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