Muddy Fork Farm & Bakery, a Bloomington-based company founded in January 2010 by husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Katie Zukof and Eric Schedler, cranks out everything from whole wheat sourdough loaves to butternut spice rolls. Though it brings in $1,300 to $1,500 each week, and the owners recently moved their operations to a new professional kitchen with a brick oven, it began on a shoestring. A shoestring so thin that, just a few years ago, Indiana law wouldn’t have allowed it.
It was a game-changer for Zukof and Schedler—and many other would-be food entrepreneurs long on ambition but short on startup funds.
“With minimal investment [about $1,700] and supplies, we just started baking and saw how it went,” Schedler said. “I don’t think there’s any way we would have done this without knowing that we could be successful by first starting as a home-based vendor.”
Muddy Fork—along with dozens of other food-based businesses around the state—owes its existence to an unglamorous-sounding addition to the Indiana Code called House Enrolled Act 1309. Enacted with little fanfare in 2009, it (like similar laws already adopted in some two-dozen other states) allows home-based vendors—or HBVs—to sell certain types of foods at farmers’ markets and their own roadside stands, with minimal state oversight.
HEA 1309, like similar laws around the country, is designed to encourage local HBVs by easing regulation and oversight on a select list of foodstuffs that are nearly impossible to contaminate—even by people who prepare them in their home kitchens, as HEA 1309 allows. It’s meant for everyone from gardening hobbyists who want to sell surplus produce, to those bootstrapping their way to something bigger.