Farmers Market Legal Toolkit Provides Free Resources for Communities

The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School, Farmers Market Coalition, and Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont have launched an online Farmers Market Legal Toolkit, a free resource to support building resilient and accessible markets throughout the U.S. The toolkit, created with support from the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, is available at farmersmarketlegaltoolkit.org.

“The Farmers Market Coalition and Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont were ideal partners for this project because they work every day with markets and understand their practical needs,” said VLS Assistant Professor Emily Spiegel. “Vermont Law School students worked closely with them to ensure that the toolkit was tailored toward the most relevant legal issues facing market leaders. The toolkit provides market managers with accessible resources to understand the legal issues their market may encounter and plan proactively to minimize legal risk.”

The toolkit responds to recurring questions from farmers market managers as they make decisions to build and grow their markets. Topics covered include how different business structures would affect their organizations, what types of legal risks exist and how to manage them, and how to make local food available and accessible for all community members. Included among the toolkit resources are best-practice recommendations for managing common risks and accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

"The Farmers Market Coalition and Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont were ideal partners for this project because they work every day with markets and understand their practical needs. Vermont Law School students worked closely with them to ensure that the toolkit was tailored toward the most relevant legal issues facing market leaders. The toolkit provides market managers with accessible resources to understand the legal issues their market may encounter and plan proactively to minimize legal risk.”
—Emily Spiegel

Toolkit users can review case studies to see how other markets have addressed issues. Featured markets include Webb City Farmers Market in Missouri, Capital City Farmers Market in Vermont, Durham Farmers Market in North Carolina, and Crescent City Farmers Market in New Orleans.

“Markets constantly contact us for the type of legal assistance that this toolkit covers,” said Darlene Wolnik, a senior researcher with the Farmers Market Coalition. “Since a primary mission of markets is to offer community spaces open to one and all, it is vital that they are as inviting as possible but also imperative that they are designed to protect the organization, vendors, and shoppers by reducing any risks. We think this site will offer markets that type of help.”