Food and Economic Freedom Close for New Mexico’s Homemade Goods Producers

by Amy Gants | March 31, 2021
8 min read
Gants' Goodies, a popular stand at farmer's markets in North Dakota and Wyoming, will reopen for business in southern New Mexico if the governor signs a bipartisan bill lifting unworkable restrictions on cottage food production. Source: Amy Gants

What is food freedom? In many states, that means the freedom of citizens to make, sell and purchase homemade goodies that are shelf stable without extensive government regulations. The laws are typically known as “cottage food” laws, and they often mean economic freedom for many low-income single women living in rural areas, as well as immigrants, and retirees. In recent times it’s meant even more to people who have suffered job losses due to COVID-19 shutdowns, during food shortages and hoarding. I have personally benefited from relaxed Cottage Food regulations in other states.

My husband and I both lived in North Dakota, where we both worked in the Bakken oilfield. He is a mechanic and I am a regulatory and safety consultant. As was true for many other people, 2020 was very hard on us.

Portrait of Amy, Mike and Berince Gants
Amy and Mike Gants moved to New Mexico to help his mother Berince revive the family’s pecan orchard. In addition to re-establishing Gants’ Goodies, they hope to harvest their first pecan crop in 2022. Source: Amy Gants

I typically get laid off in the fall and called back in the spring, but not in 2020.  The unemployment ran out sometime last spring, so I decided to start baking and selling my goodies at farmer’s markets. In North Dakota, that is legal. There are no licensing regulations; no rules about where I store my foods; virtually no governmental barriers at all to doing my thing. All I had to do is follow some simple rules, and I could just start baking and selling.

That was a godsend to us because I was able to make a living. My sourdough bread and other baked goods became popular all over western North Dakota in a short time. When we would go to our home in Wyoming, I could do the same. The laws in both states are supportive of cottage food producers.

In December of 2020, my husband and I purchased his mother’s small pecan orchard in Cuchillo, NM. I really thought I’d be able to continue baking out of my home kitchen and selling in the Sierra County area. I was wrong.

As I had done in North Dakota and Wyoming, I researched the regulations for cottage food before I just started selling my goodies here. To say they were confusing would be an understatement. In my former career I read and interpreted extremely complicated regulations for a living, but the cottage food regulations in New Mexico had me scratching me head. They are akin to commercial kitchen regulations and nearly impossible for a home baker like me to follow.

Gants Family Orchard, circa 1993
The Gants family orchard, circa 1993.  Source: Amy Gants

Some time in February I saw a post on Facebook about House Bill 177, the Homemade Food Act. Written by Erica Smith, the senior attorney for the Institute of Justice, a national law firm that describes itself as a champion of liberty, the post invited New Mexico cottage food producers to tell their stories to win in support for the bill’s passage, and that’s how I became involved in advocating for it. I never intended to dive into New Mexico politics, but that’s what I did. If you don’t like a law, do something to change it.

One of the things I did was to reach out to our local state representative, Rebecca Dow. She was very responsive, even when the legislature was in session. Representative Dow told me that she has always supported this bill every time it’s been introduced. She also got to work, helping gain support for HB177 from other House members.

New Mexico’s current cottage food regulations are burdensome, hard to interpret and almost impossible to meet. The current law requires an expensive and time-consuming licensing process, which includes submitting engineered drawings of plumbing in home kitchens, undergoing a home kitchen inspection, having two sets of refrigerators and freezers, as well as separate dry food storage. At present in this state, cottage food ingredients cannot be stored with ingredients used for household consumption.

The current law also bans sales on-line or by phone and restricts sales only to farmer’s markets and roadside stands. The City of Albuquerque totally bans cottage food sales, and Native Americans, living on reservations in New Mexico, are also effectively banned from cottage food sales, as well. The result is devastating to those who want to make a living and cannot otherwise do so and, instead, have to go without any income. Another unintended side effect is illegal selling, which is rampant and dangerous to public health because goods are being produced and sold without any regard for regulations whatsoever, without proper labeling and without the makers’ having taken a food handler’s safety course.

There is HOPE! After HB177 was introduced, the Institute of Justice, got involved and helped negotiate amendments that made all sides happy.

The bill’s co-sponsors included Representative Zachary J. Cook, a Republican representing Lincoln and Otero Counties, and Representative Marian Matthews, a Democrat representing Bernalillo County. Erica Smith helped them guide the bill, which was tabled once, through many meetings with the New Mexico Department of Health and others who were opposed, the amendments brought the bill back to life.

Amy's remodeled kitchen in Cucillo
If HB177 becomes law, Amy Gants’s remodeled kitchen with its three-shelf convection oven will be back in business by July 1. Source: Amy Gants

HB177 passed both the House and the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support. The next step is the governor’s signature. All 2021 bills must be signed before April 8, and any bill not signed by then is effectively vetoed and does not become law.

What exactly does HB177 do for the cottage food market in New Mexico? It eliminates the requirement for a license and inspection by the state. It eliminates the requirement to store foods separately and to submit an engineer’s drawing of home plumbing. It allows on-line and phone sales. It allows for shipping goods within the state. HB177 applies to all shelf stable foods like breads, donuts, cookies and other baked goodies, as well as certain canned foods. Sales of time-sensitive and temperature-controlled foods that contain ingredients like meat are still not allowed under this bill.

HB177 lifts current barriers for Native Americans living on reservations, and it prevents local municipalities from banning cottage food sales, which will open up this market for residents of Albuquerque.

HB177 does require cottage food producers to take a food handler’s safety course like ServeSafe, which is available online, is good for three years and costs around $15. The cottage food producers in states that already have laws similar to HB177 have proven that the consumption of homemade goods is very safe. Food-poisoning and other related illnesses are extremely rare.

Food freedom means more than economic freedom to producers. Food choice for consumers is a huge benefit. Think about foods that are simply unavailable in your area. Cuchillo, where I live, does not have a bakery, so my sourdough bread and other baked goods will help to satisfy an important local need.

Consumers really like to know where their food comes from and, with supportive laws like HB177, they get to meet the person who made their food face-to-face and talk to them. They will know that what they are purchasing is fresh and not full of unhealthy fillers and preservatives.

Amy's sourdough loaf
Artisan sourdough bread was Gants’ Goodies best seller and could soon become available here via phone sales and online and not just at farmer’s markets, which are the only outlets allowed cottage food producers under current New Mexico law. Source: Amy Gants

In times when grocery store shelves are empty, cottage food producers can fill in some of the gaps. Farmer’s markets will thrive because their vendors will be able to satisfy their customers’ desire for variety and healthy options. If signed, HB177 it will take effect July 1—just in time for our national birthday celebrations and for most of our farmer’s markets season.

I reached out to Representative Dow for comment, and she sent back this message: “By passing 177, New Mexico ag innovators have opportunities to safely explore new products without outrageous upfront costs. If anyone is looking for a ‘taste tester,’ I’m in!”

Representatives Dow, Cook and Matthews, you all have a standing invitation to taste-test anything I bake. Thank you for your efforts to make our lives better. Thank you for doing what is best for the citizens of New Mexico and reaching across the aisle to get HB177 passed.



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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.

5 thoughts on “Food and Economic Freedom Close for New Mexico’s Homemade Goods Producers”

  1. Can’t wait for some of your bagels. The store-bought here in New Mexico just don’t taste like bagels, more like bread. Good luck and I will send a comment to our governor to please sign HB177 into law. HB177 will help our little Hillsboro library’s bake sale fundraisers, as well.

  2. HB177 is great news for New Mexico. Thanks for this excellent article. And good luck with your products; I look forward to buying your bread at the Sierra County Farmer’s Market this summer.

  3. Wonderful news—the governor has signed the Homemade Food Act (HB177). It becomes effective as of July 1, 2021. Please follow my blog on Gants’ Goodies web page for our opening date details. I’m making preparations to be compliant with the new law between now and then. We may plan a “grand opening” event out at the orchard sometime this summer. Thanks, everyone, for the encouragement and for calling your legislators and the governor. It worked!

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