Problem and Justification:
Farms across the Northeast region suffer from serious legal vulnerabilities that threaten the strength and resiliency of farm communities as a whole. The problem is especially acute on direct to consumer and organic operations, as well as those exploring innovative business models that include agritouristm, on-farm processing, or educational programming. Only 33% have an adequate insurance policy for their farm operation, and only 7% have an operating agreement or bylaws for their farm business. Upwards of 40% of farmers are not complying with the complex, difficult farm employment law obligations of direct to consumer farms. Farmers themselves are very aware of their
limited knowledge on farm law as the average farmer rated their confidence at just 42%.
Farmers are asking for legal guidance from Extension agents, nonprofit staff, accountants, and other farm professionals, with 93% of professionals reporting that farm law questions arise in
their work. 80% of these professionals would like to attend a day-long workshop offering the fundamentals of farm law, while instructing them in how to safely, accurately guide farmers to
Solution and Approach
This project aims to do exactly that, through a series of 9 “Guiding Farmers to Legal Resiliency” workshops across the Northeastern region. These workshops will cover the basics of farm employment, business structures, land matters, insurance/liability law, sales, and agritourism/processing while
emphasizing 12 specific best practices that reduce legal risk on sustainable farms. These general workshops will be complimented by 4 in- depth workshops on the first 4 subjects. All workshops are co-presented by a local farmer, ensuring local issues are addressed and farmers are recognized as leaders in their own problem-solving. Participants will receive a Toolkit with easy-to-distribute handouts and resources for finding further information and attorney guidance. The workshop is complemented by a video course for those unable to attend and an e-newsletter offering ongoing support.
Performance targets from proposal:
192 agriculture professionals who learn about the 12 legal best practices for farmers in farm employment, business structures, land matters, sales, agritourism, and insurance/liability law recommend at least one of those 12 legal best practices to a total of 2112 farmers.