Legal Guide for Farm Marketers

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1997: $36,250.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2000
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $20,000.00
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Neil Hamilton
Drake University Law School

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: apples, berries (other), cherries, melons, peaches, pears, berries (strawberries)
  • Vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, lentils, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, rutabagas, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts
  • Additional Plants: herbs, native plants, ornamentals, trees
  • Animals: bees, bovine, poultry, goats, rabbits, sheep, swine
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: free-range
  • Crop Production: multiple cropping, organic fertilizers
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, community-supported agriculture, marketing management, risk management, value added
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, urban agriculture


    The goal of the project was to develop, research, write and publish a comprehensive legal guide for farmers and agricultural professionals addressing issues associated with direct farm marketing. The project required addressing issues associated with direct farm marketing. The project required extensive research and analysis of the legal constraints relating to direct farm marketing and a thorough understanding of the legal environment in which it operates. The research provided the basis for developing and drafting the book. The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing, was published in July 1999 by Drake University (ISBN # 0-9671556-0-6). It includes twelve chapters:

    Chapter One- An Introduction to Direct Farm Marketing and the Law.
    Chapter Two- How Law Relates to Direct Farm Marketing
    Chapter Three – An Introduction to the Common Forms of Direct Farm Marketing.
    Chapter Four – Farmers Markets
    Chapter Five – Organizing and Operating a Direct Farm Marketing Business
    Chapter Six- Contracts, Food Stamps, and Getting Paid
    Chapter Seven – Marketing Your Products
    Chapter Eight – Land Use and property Law
    Chapter Nine – Labor and Employment
    Chapter Ten – Insurance and Liability Issues
    Chapter Eleven – Marketing High Value Products and Processed Foods
    Chapter Twelve – Marketing Meat, Poultry, Eggs and Dairy Products

    The book is 235 pages long (fifty percent longer than originally proposed) and was written to serve as a teaching tool for agricultural professionals as well as a learning device for farmers. The book includes numerous checklists and other teaching devices to make it useful as an educational training resource. It includes thirty-six sidebars providing examples of real disputes, court cases, and state and local laws to illustrate the discussion. There are eighteen highlighted boxes of information containing examples of legal form and laws or providing concise discussions of issues. There are seventeen different sets of questions or checklists of steps to follow relating to specific topics. The book includes a fifty state appendix containing names and address of over 350 contacts in state government and education who can provide resource information for direct farm marketers.

    The book has received strong and uniformly positive responses from farmers, government officials, educators and others who have seen it. To date over 1500 copies have been sold and distributed to audiences of farmers, extension agents, governmental officials, lawyers, and educators. The book has been used in educational programs around the country including: the SARE direct marketing conference in Lincoln, in November, 1999; the American Agricultural Law Association conference in New Orleans in October, 2000; and the in-service extension training held at the North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association meeting in Cincinnati in February 2000. Research on direct farm marketing led the author to develop a one credit law school class on “Legal Issues in Direct Farm Marketing,” which was offered at Drake University in July 1998 and 1999 and at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in August 1999. Additional training sessions featuring the book, are being scheduled, including one for Iowa extension agents in September 2000. The book has been reviewed favorably in a variety of agricultural publications and newsletters, including Growing for Market and Successful Farming.

    Project objectives:

    • To identify the practical legal and regulatory questions dealing with the direct marketing of fruits, vegetables, meat poultry and other foods.
    • To fill the void faced by producers, USDA employees, and other agricultural advisors, resulting from the current lack of sources available to obtain answers to such questions.
    • To publish a legal guide book, developed in cooperation with an advisory committee of farmers, marketers, and agricultural officials, which answers the most commonly asked questions producers and advisors have relating to direct farm marketing.
    • To conduct two regional training sessions for key agricultural officials to determine how best to use the book in advising and educating farmers involved in direct marketing.
    • To develop a set of teaching materials and curriculum guide, which, along with a quantity of the books, will be delivered to each state.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.