Are you a small scale vegetable farmer trying to choose the right business structure, or trying to strengthen your lease or land security? Do customers visit your site and you’ve just been crossing your fingers that nothing unexpected will happen? Are you and your employees protected from accident and injury? Learn how to strengthen the legal aspects of your business from the organization that is leading the development of legal resources for small farms across the country.

After a popular 2017 workshop, The Community Food & Agriculture Coalition and Farm Link Montana are excited to bring Farm Commons back for Sustainable Farm Law Workshops in Missoula in 2018. This year Farm Commons will again teach the popular Sustainable Farm Law 101, covering the legal issues that work their way into every aspect of the sustainable farm:

  • Hiring Workers
  • Leasing or Buying Land
  • Implementing Food Safety Measures
  • Negotiating Sales
  • Forming an LLC
  • Filing Taxes
  • Buying Insurance
  • And More!

This year we will also offer Advanced Farm Law for established sustainable farmers and ranchers. This workshop, specifically for established farmers or those who have completed Farm Law 101, will be a deeper dive into employment law and understanding and utilizing insurance on the farm. Read more and register below!

Sustainable Farm Law 101

February 24th, 8:30-4:30, Missoula

Sustainable farmers who understand the law can protect and grow their enterprises, and work together to build healthy and resilient food systems. Farm Commons’ Sustainable Farm Law workshops help build that knowledge interactively, informatively, and in a way that empowers farmers.

Sustainable Farm Law 101 isn’t a set of boring lectures filled with legal lingo. The workshop is team taught by Farm Commons legal educator Matt Stannard and experienced farmer co-presenters from Montana.

Sustainable Farm Law 101 covers Business Entities, Land Matters, Food Safety, Employment Law, Sales & Contracts, Agritourism, and Insurance.

Farmer Co-Presenter

Jacob Cowgill runs Prairie Heritage Farm and Blue Truck Bread in Power, MT with his wife Courtney. He will share their experiences with the legal topics that Matt covers. He will talk about how they have approached each of these areas, tell stories from the trenches and share successes and challenges he has had along the way.


8:30-8:45  Introductions

8:45-9:45  LLCs, Partnerships, and Corporations

  • Sorting through your options–taxes, liabilities, management factors
  • Getting the entity established
  • Drafting excellent management documents

9:45-10:00  Break

10:00-11:15  Land Matters

  • Leasing Land: Why you need a written lease and how to write one
  • Activity: Leasing priorities game
  • Purchasing Land: Legal elements of traditional farm loans
  • Crowdfunding and other alternative land financing strategies

11:15-Noon  Sales and Contracting

  • Complexities with CSA sales agreements
  • Writing a good membership agreement
  • Availability sheets and invoices

Noon-1:00  Lunch

1:00-2:00  Insurance

  • Crop and Livestock Insurance
  • Slip and Fall Injuries
  • Liability
  • Agritourism, event, and additional insurance types
  • Activity: Insurance quiz

2:00-3:15  Employment Law

  • Minimum wage
  • Workers compensation
  • Payroll taxes
  • Independent contractors
  • Interns and volunteers

3:15-3:30  Break

3:30-4:15  Food Safety, Events, and Value-Added Production

  • Recall and regulatory violation risks
  • Value-Added considerations
  • Events and accommodation issues

4:15-4:30  Final Q & A, to-do list preparation, evaluations


Advanced Farm Law

February 25th, 8:30-2:30, Missoula

This workshop gives established farmers a chance to take a more detailed look at employment law and insurance to understand the risks to their business in each of these areas. The workshop will cover options for managing this risk and use a collaborative approach to discuss specific challenges and successful strategies from the collective experience of the group.

Managing Farm Risks with Insurance: We’ll explore the risks that often materialize on farms, from crop and livestock loss to customers and employees getting hurt. We’ll review the insurance options available to farmers to help protect their business, reputation, and peace of mind.

Managing Risks When People Work on Your Farm: From a paperwork walk-through and employee handbooks to workers’ compensation and workers living on your farm, we’ll take a deeper look at how to manage the legal issues involved in farm work.

Farm Law Q & A: We’ll listen to each other’s questions and stories, and find answers and resources together! 


8:30-8:45  Introductions and Breakfast

8:45-10:30  Managing Farm Risks with Insurance

  • Risk management, insurance, and a risk assessment for your farm
  • Stuff Happens: looking at your insurance policy
  • Types of coverage, and how much insurance should I have?
  • Filing a Claim
  • Key questions to ask insurance agents

10:30-10:45  Break

10:45-Noon  When People Work on Your Farm: Advanced Employment Issues

  • All the ways people work on the farm
  • Workers compensation in focus
  • Taxation issues
  • Other Montana employment issues
  • Additional Resources

Noon-12:45  Lunch

12:45-2:00  Farm Law Q & A and Roundtable Discussion

  • Farmers discuss specific situations or questions from their operations, share solutions and get legal perspective from Farm Commons

2:00  Wrap Up


Farm Commons

Matt Stannard is the legal education and outreach manager at Farm Commons. He has a J.D. in Law from the University of Wyoming, and has taught farm law workshops in New York, Wisconsin, Idaho, and Indiana. Farm Commons strives to build communities of farmers with strong legal knowledge through its educational resources, workshops, and interactive tutorials.

Matt is also a farmer, with experience managing chickens, hogs, and (his favorite animals) goats. “I feel like farming and the law have a lot in common,” he says. “They’re both about building community, they both force you to deal with uncertainty, and if you’re patient, you can make good things happen with them.”

You can learn more and download hundreds of resources at the Farm Commons website.


The Law in Action: Introduction from Rachel Armstrong on Vimeo.


Location, Parking and Meals

Sustainable Farm Law workshops will be held at the new Missoula College Building Room 122. This building is not on the University of Montana main campus, but it is even closer to several lodging options.

Weekend Parking is free at the Missoula College building.

A light breakfast, and Lunch are included in the registration fee for each day’s workshop.