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What’s in a pickle? Couple sues state of Texas over cottage food law definition

Addie Broyles
abroyles@statesman.com

Anita and Jim McHaney just wanted to sell pickled beets.

The couple had land near Heane, which is in Robertson County northeast of Austin, and wanted to have a retirement side hustle that involved growing and pickling vegetables, maybe even fruit. They sold produce at a local farmers market, but when they started researching the regulations around pickles, they realized they wouldn’t be able to pickle anything but cucumbers.

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The Texas’ Cottage Food Law, originally passed in 2011 and modified in 2013 and 2014, states that home-based food businesses can sell pickles, but only pickled cucumbers. Not pickled carrots, okra or peaches whatever other briny concoction you might come up with.

This put the McHaneys in a pickle. Their farm wasn’t making enough money selling vegetables only, but they couldn’t grow cucumbers and couldn’t legally sell pickles with what their land yielded best: beets.

Fast forward three years and the McHaneys have closed the farm and are now suing the state health services department to change the language around which kind of pickles you can legally make at home and sell. The Texas Tribune published the whole account of their story in an article published today.