Cultivating Sustainable Farm Law Leadership in the Southern Region

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2024: $78,030.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2026
Grant Recipient: Farm Commons
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Eva Moss
Farm Commons


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

This project results in the
development and support of 8 Legal Ecosystem Fellows who will
deliver at least 8 farm law workshops in the Southern region on
legal issues of importance to sustainable producers. The Legal
Ecosystem Fellows will be equipped with additional resources that
empower the Fellow to continue supporting producers who attend
the workshops. As a result, 240 farmers attending the 8 workshops
(30 attendees each) will have more resilient stable businesses
and improved quality of life. 

We will achieve these outcomes by
hosting a Legal Ecosystem Fellowship- a train-the-trainer program
for Extension educators, farm education nonprofit staff, farm
business service providers, and post-secondary instructors to
lead farm law workshops locally. The training curriculum
emphasizes risk-reducing action steps and accurate, clear legal
explanations. The program also trains (and requires) Fellows to
use peer-to-peer training techniques and incorporate local
producers in their presentations.

This project was piloted in the
North Central region in 2023. Three applicants from the Southern
Region applied (despite little outreach)- we had to turn them
away. This is our opportunity to improve and adapt the program
for Southern sustainable agriculture communities. As a nonprofit
devoted exclusively to teaching agricultural communities farm
law, we are deeply skilled in creating educational materials that
accommodate all state-specific nuances that are necessary to the
curricular goals. Through our pilot program, we proved that it is
safe and effective to train laypersons in legal matters without
violating any rules on practicing law.

Project objectives from proposal:

The Fellows trained through this
project will:

  1. Improve their skills, tools,
    frameworks, and practice for increasing legal resilience in
    their agricultural community.
  2. Acquire confidence in
    delivering up to 5 educational presentations (from 5 templates)
    that help farmers take specific, risk-reducing action steps,
    without overstepping any bounds of their position as
    non-attorneys or creating additional risk for farmers and
  3. Acquire confidence in creating
    excellent presentations that are accurate, and motivate farmers
    to undertake 1 or 2 specific risk-reducing actions while being
    mindful of the varied relationships
    disadvantaged/underrepresented community members may have with
    legal systems.
  4. Learn to incorporate
    farmer-to-farmer learning and peer engagement around legal
    issues in a presentation environment. 

The mentor farmers participating
in the Fellowship program will:

  1. Support the training curriculum
    and the individual workshop presentation development of the 8
    Fellows. The mentor farmers will share their stories about farm
    law experiences where they’ve managed real risks, articulating
    their decision-making process and the resources they utilized
    for support. 
  2. Identify ways they can
    contribute to the Fellowship group’s workshops (8).

The Fellows will use their
learning to:

  1. Deliver 8 (1 per Fellow)
    educational presentations or workshops (at conferences, etc.)
    in the Southern region that empower 240 farmers to take
    specific risk-reducing action steps. 

    • The target audience are
      direct-to-consumer operations including CSAs, U-picks,
      those selling at farmers' markets or doing other direct
      marketing as well as operations using organic methods.
      These folks have unique legal concerns not necessarily
      experienced by their conventional peers. 
    • In past programming, these
      presentations attract 75% female participants and 30-50%
      underrepresented audiences overall, as these audiences have
      less access to traditional legal services as compared to
      their male and white farmer peers.

The 240 farmers attending the
Fellows’ programming provided will:

  1. Increase their knowledge of the
    subject matter (business structures, farm employment law,
    liability and insurance, farmland leasing, and food
  2. Form an intention to adopt the
    specific risk-reducing action step(s) presented
  3. Express confidence in their
    ability to undertake the action in the near term.
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.