AUGUSTA — Ronda Stone made the process of gaining a home food processing license sound simple.

Stone, a consumer protection inspector in the quality assurance and regulations area of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, had a rapt audience of about 40 people for her talk on tips for starting a successful home food business at the Maine Agricultural Trades Show at the Augusta Civic Center on Wednesday.

Stone said many more people are interested in buying food made locally, and that has spurred an increase in those wanting to fill that need.

“Collectively you are a force to be reckoned with,” she told them.

Jackie Frost, who operates Butting Heads Farm in Gardiner, makes soap from the milk of her three milking goats, and now she’d like to produce food for sale.

“I want to have a licensed kitchen,” Frost said before Stone’s presentation. “I want to sell jellies and preserves and goat milk caramel called ‘cajeta,’ and I also want to be able to maybe sell beans on Saturday night.”

She came to gather information on kitchen requirements and the licensing process.

Chris Bozak, of Berry Best Farm in Lebanon, wanted a refresher. She already has a licensed kitchen in her home, where she produces jam from the farm’s fruit: blueberry, raspberry, peach, blueberry/raspberry, peach/raspberry and strawberry rhubarb.

The jams are sold in the store on the farm, which also offers you-pick berries in the summer and has been in the family since the 1950s.

Bozak went through the licensing process in 2007 with Stone.

“She’s very helpful,” Bozak said. “The only thing is she’s so busy she doesn’t come back too often.”

Bozak didn’t have to change anything in the kitchen of her fairly new home to gain the license, and much of the information she obtained concerned proper labeling and sanitizing methods.

Stone said the inspectors are ready to help people put their food processing ideas into action.

“Honestly, we work for you,” she said. “We want to be there from ground zero. There are times we have to function as regulators; we want you to think of us as educators.”

The crux, she said, is whether the site has private water – which has to be tested by an accredited laboratory – and sewer. Homes with a private septic system, she said, require a sign-off by the town codes officer or a licensed plumbing inspector.

“That can be your biggest hurdle,” she said. “Check on that first.”

Acidified foods, such as salsa, pickles, dilly beans (pickled green beans) and relishes, need to have the process approved by the food science division of the University of Maine. However, that’s generally not required for bakery items, jams and jellies.

Stone recommended most people go through the process anyway. “It’s your name on the label,” she said.

Kitchens need smooth and easily cleaned work surfaces, but stainless steel is not a requirement.

“We don’t make you get rid of your kids,” Stone said. “We don’t make you get rid of your pets.”

She said common sense prevails: Food should be stored with other food; cleaning products should be kept with other cleaning products.

“We’ve been seeing a lot of interest in existing businesses scaling up and brand-new people doing something new,” said Ronald Dyer, director of the division of quality assurance and regulation. “It’s an exciting growth area economically.”

Dyer said several hundred new licenses are issued every year, and across the state about 7,000 home and commercial sites have food processing licenses.

“Before you do anything, invite us out,” Dyer said, adding that the inspectors can offer good suggestions including promotional ideas. “It’s a fun part of our job.”