From hiring workers, leasing or buying land, implementing food safety measures, negotiating sales, forming an LLC, filing taxes, getting insurance and so on—legal issues work their way into every aspect of the sustainable farm. The good news is that developing a strong, legally resilient farm business is easier than you think!

Not just a boring lecture filled with legal lingo, this workshop will be co-facilitated by an attorney and farmers. User-friendly legal education will be integrated with practical, on the ground experience, including input from participants. Expect a compelling, informative, and engaging workshop that will inspire you to take action to build a stronger, more resilient farm!



Rachel Armstrong is an attorney in Minnesota who founded Farm Commons because farmers need access to affordable, specialized attorneys. Farm Commons strives to build a strong legal backbone for the farm community by creating educational resources and developing the capacity of attorneys around the country to do the same.

Rachel says “My passion for farming goes way back to the days when I proudly proclaimed that I wanted to be a farmer when I grew up. I’ve lived out that dream in many ways, from working on farms to managing a community garden, starting a catering company that featured local foods and running a nonprofit local foods consulting program. Although I never thought I’d become an attorney, when I realized how keenly we needed quality legal information, I felt compelled. Now, I love resolving the business legal issues that hinder farmers from achieving their goals.”

Learn more about Rachel and her work at Farm Commons.

Farmer Co-Presenters

Farmers Tracy Potter-Fins of County Rail Farm and Todd Ulizio of Two Bear Farm will share their experiences with the legal topics that Rachel covers. They will talk about how they have approached each of these areas, tell stories from the trenches and share successes and challenges they have had along the way.



Sustainable Farm Law 101 will be held on the University of Montana campus in Missoula, in the University Center, Room 330. You can see the University center on the map here and type in your location to get step by step directions to the conference.


The University of Montana has numerous parking options and parking information can be found on the University of Montana Parking Website or the Campus Parking Map. The F and V parking lots are adjacent to the University Center. There is also a very lovely walking route if you are staying in one of the nearby hotels, mapped out here.


Schedule and Topics

Day 1: Friday March 10, 2017

8:30-9:00  Registration and Coffee

9:00-10:15  Getting in and out of Farming: Business Succession, Transfer, and Creation

  • Doing your legal due diligence and crafting a sales agreement for an existing farm
  • Creating a successful farm succession strategy- retirement money, tax issues, labor contributions, and more.
  • Starting a farm operation from scratch
  • County Rail Farm’s experiences with business creation

10:15-10:30  Break

10:30-12:00  Leasing Land

  • Why you need a written lease and how to write one
  • The big questions: lease rates, renewal terms, infrastructure, and permitted activities
  • Special lease term considerations: sustainability strategies, long-term leases, agroforestry issues
  • County Rail Farm’s experiences with land leasing

12:00-12:45  Lunch

12:45-2:00  Purchasing Land: Financing Land through Mortgages, Land Contracts and More

  • The legal elements of a traditional farm loan through banks, FSA, etc
  • Using less seller-financing strategies such as land contracts and
  • Avoiding legal issues with crowdfuding or Community Supported Agriculture strategies to raise funds
  • County Rail Farm’s experience with land purchase

2:00-2:15  Break

2:15-3:00  Putting together a Team: Attorneys, Accountants, Tax Preparers, and Insurance Agents

  • Accountants, Payroll Providers, and Tax Preparers- legal benefits
  • Tips for using an attorney in a cost effective manner
  • A good insurance agent is essential to legal risk management
  • Finding great professional advisors
  • How County Rail Farm built their team

3:00-4:00  It’s all about Relationships: Communicating with Landowners and Stakeholders

  • Tips for following best legal practices without alienating members of the community.
  • County Rail Farm’s communication strategies

4:00-Close  Q&A and Wrap Up


Day 2: Saturday March 11, 2017

8:30-9:00  Registration and Coffee

9:00-10:00  Employment Law

  • Minimum Wage
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Payroll Taxes
  • Independent Contractors

10:00-10:30  Two Bear Farm’s Employment Law Experiences

10:30-10:45  Break

10:45-11:45  Interns and Volunteers

  • Interns are employees unless…
  • In-kind wages and the many, many rules
  • Volunteers for a for-profit: The Duck Test

11:45-12:15  Two Bear Farm’s Intern and Volunteer Experiences

12:15-1:00  Lunch

1:00-1:45  LLCs, Partnerships, and Corporations

  • Sorting through your options- tax, liability, and management factors
  • Getting the entity established
  • Drafting excellent management documents
  • Two Bear Farm’s business structure

1:45-3:30  Insurance: Crops/Livestock, Farm General Liability (aka Property/Casualty), and Product Liability

  • Crop/Livestock insurance: Whole Farm, Multi-Peril, Noninsured.
  • Slip/Fall Injuries: Covered and uncovered risks in farm general liability policies
  • Basic nature of how farm liability works in court and the function of an insurance policy
  • What if someone gets sick from your food? When you get sued, when you become liable, and what insurance will protect you.

3:30-4:00  Two Bear Farm’s experiences with Insurance

4:00-Close  Q&A and Wrap Up


If you have any questions about this workshop, contact Dave Renn by email or phone at 541-829-3757.