AUSTIN -- A Texas couple can't sell pickled produce at their local farmer's market and now they're suing the state.
Retired couple James and Anita McHaney own a small market garden in Hearne and said they financially need to be able to sell pickled produce, like beets and carrots, at farmer's markets.
“We’re not growing things as a charity," said James. "We ought to at least break even and we need to have the preserving, the pickles, we think to make the farming sustainable.”
The two filed a lawsuit in Austin on Thursday against the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). They said they decided to start selling produce at their local farmer's market to supplement their retirement income, but they later found out they couldn't sell some of their favorites because of the Texas Cottage Food Law. It said they can't sell anything pickled, except cucumbers.
“No other pickle, vegetable, or fruit can be sold under the cottage food law and we thought that was weird,” said James.
“We filed a petition [Thursday] morning in the Travis County civil district court alleging that the department’s actions and the law is unconstitutional as violating the rights of our clients under the Texas constitution to earn an honest living,” said Nate Bilhartz, the couple’s attorney.
McHaney hopes by filing this lawsuit they'll be able to help themselves and others in the process.
“We think that if this rule is changed and modified back to what the legislature had, maybe there's another thousand families that benefit from it,” said James.
As the law stands, they would have to have become a licensed food manufacturer in order to sell other pickled produce. Their lawyer said that's an expensive process that could include installing a commercial kitchen.
A spokesperson with DSHS said license fees start at $104 and can go up to around $1,700, depending upon how much you make from selling that food.