A Legal Guide to the Business of Farming in Vermont

2005 Annual Report for ENE04-083

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2004: $59,069.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Debra Heleba
University of Vermont Extension

A Legal Guide to the Business of Farming in Vermont


In this project, we are developing a comprehensive legal guide to the business of farming in Vermont. The primary purpose of the guide is to provide a tool for use by agricultural service providers to better integrate legal issues into their existing business planning curricula and/or service delivery. The guide will not be a substitute for the services of an attorney. It will, however, help farm service providers and the farmers they serve: formulate farm business plans in the context of a wide range of legal issues that impact directly on farmers’ bottom lines; recognize the key legal issues in business formation, farm operation, estate planning, farm credit, and agricultural environmental regulation; recognize when an attorney’s services are necessary; and, become better informed consumers of legal services.

Objectives/Performance Targets

5000 people will learn about the guide. 200 personnel from Extension, USDA agencies, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, non-profit organizations; consultants; private practitioners; legal services offices; and others in the state of Vermont who provide technical assistance to farmers who are new to farming or are working to enhance the viability of their existing farms will access the guide on the internet. Of these:

- 150 will use the guide as a reference in providing assistance to their farm clients;

- 50 will use the guide as an on-line resource to 200 clients as an aid in drafting their farm business plans or conducting their farming business; and,

- 150 will integrate the guide in their professional activities with colleagues and clients in training peers, advising clients, delivering presentations or when authoring articles, fact sheets and web pages.


January – July 2005: First drafts of all sections are drafted, received, compiled and given a rough edit. Some sections are spot reviewed by subject-matter experts (attorneys, etc.).

August - October 2005: Farm case studies are written.

November - December 2005: Draft manuscript is reviewed by ten service providers and one farmer. Their feedback and individual comments are compiled and sent to authors for their review.

First drafts did take longer to write than we originally projected, due to complexity of the legal issues and recent and significant legislative action regarding some of the issues covered, particularly in the area of water quality. We also overestimated our ability to find other well qualified authors to cover all the topics that we wanted to address, particularly in the area of labor regulation and land use issues. The extra time was necessary to ensure that these issues were addressed accurately and comprehensivley.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The comments from our diverse set of reviewers were extensive and thoughtful. Our reviewers came from Agency of Agriculture, the Vermont Farm Viability Program, the Vermont Land Trust, UVM Extension and the Vermont Agency of Human Services (Medicare). While the reviewers all had various backgrounds and planned purposes for the resource, they were all enthusiastic about the draft. The reviewers provided valuable advice that will help us produce a final product that is a useful reference.