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USDA Awards $500,000 to Vermont Law for Farmers’ Market Project

May 1, 2014

CONTACT: Maryellen Apelquist, Director of Media Relations, Vermont Law School
office: 802-831-1228, cell: 802-299-5593,

SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt., May 1, 2014—The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) a $500,000 grant to strengthen farmers’ market organizations through legal education.

Awarded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the $.5 million Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) grant enables CAFS and NOFA-VT to create “Farmers’ Market Legal Research and Extension.” The integrated research and extension project is designed to build stronger market organizations by developing a legal resources toolkit for market organizers and educating them on complex legal issues facing farmers’ markets.

Phases of the CAFS-NOFA project are established for the next four years and include the development of toolkit resources in three areas: year one, governance; year two, liabilities related to the use of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) tokens; and year three, general risk management.

Year four is dedicated to toolkit training for farmers’ market organizers nationwide. CAFS and NOFA-VT have partnered with the Farmers Market Coalition to take advantage of its national network of farmers’ market leaders and communications resources to disseminate the toolkit across the country.

“We are grateful for this USDA grant, as it will directly benefit not only farmers’ markets in our region but also across the country,” said CAFS Director Laurie Ristino, associate professor at Vermont Law School. “We’re eager to begin our research and stakeholder outreach to farmers and farmers’ market administrators, and we look forward to collaborating with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont.”

As part of the extension work, NOFA-VT plans to gather information directly from farmers’ markets, pilot toolkit resources at annual marketing conferences, and assist CAFS in training farmers’ market organizers.

“The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont is very excited to be a partner in this important work providing robust legal resources for farmers’ markets to increase their stability, which in turn has the potential to improve direct-to-consumer sales for hundreds of Vermont agricultural producers,” said Erin Buckwalter, NOFA-VT market development and community food security coordinator.

The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law School supports scholars and practitioners in producing practical, robust scholarship for use by the food and agriculture community. CAFS offers an expanding curriculum in food and agriculture for law and policy students, and training and legal tools to help build sustainable local and regional food systems. For more information about CAFS, including the extension project with NOFA-VT, call Laurie Ristino at (802) 831-1230 or email


Vermont Law School, a private, independent institution, has the top-ranked environmental law program and one of the top-ranked clinical training programs in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. VLS offers a Juris Doctor curriculum that emphasizes public service; two Master’s Degrees (Master of Environmental Law and Policy, and Master of Energy Regulation and Law), and three post-JD degrees—LLM in American Legal Studies (for foreign-trained lawyers), LLM in Energy Law, and LLM in Environmental Law. The school features innovative experiential programs and is home to the Environmental Law Center, the South Royalton Legal Clinic, and the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic. For more information, visit, find us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

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