FMC Announces Insurance Webinars to Start January 31st

      Posted On: January 11, 2011

The rise in the number of farmers markets in recent years comes as no surprise to those in the movement who have recognized a resurgence of interest in supporting local direct-to-consumer food systems. The explosive interest in farmers markets has generated a number of challenges that any growing business will face. This year, for example, we saw the California scandal where several farmers were caught selling produce that had been shipped in from out of state, sometimes from other countries, and then passing it off as local produce.

Then, as marketing teams began to understand the public’s growing interest in supporting local farms, they labeled outdoor arcades as “farmers markets,” even when there’s nary a farmer to be found, or a single item that had been grown within the state. More importantly, growth in farmers markets mean more vendors, more shoppers, and more risk – risks to integrity, as noted above, but also legal risks. In order to help more farmers markets understand the issue of risk and insurance, the Farmers Market Coalition was awarded a cooperative agreement with the USDA Risk Management Agency’s Risk Management Education Program.  This is a logical follow-up to the FAQ questions (and accompanying video) on the FMC web site dealing with liability and insurance.

Since October, FMC convened a Farmers Market Insurance Task Force composed of member organizations representing state-wide farmers market associations, insurance companies, farmers, and legal connections. The task? To advise in the development of an educational webinar series for those interested in learning more about different types of insurance, how to purchase a the coverage you need at a fair price, and the liabilities that are associated with doing business at a farmers market. As more insurance industry players seek to target the farmers market niche, being an educated consumer is ever more important. The first part of purchasing any policy is overcoming the sometimes overwhelming “legalese” that infuses most insurance research.

Jeff Cole, Executive Director of Mass Farmers Markets and moderator for this webinar, emphasizes the importance of reviewing an insurance policy before purchasing it. He says “You wouldn’t buy a car by going to the sales lot and giving them your money before you even see the vehicle.” The same goes for insurance policies. Know what you’re buying, before you buy it. Thus, the first webinar in FMC’s series, “Demystifying Farmers Market Risk and Being a Smart Insurance Shopper,” aims to identify all areas of legal exposure to risk, define the most commonly used terms, and identity helpful tips for analyzing and purchasing an insurance policy.   Peter Kochenburger, University of Connecticut Law Professor, and Melissa Kauffman, Producer/Account Manager from Jester Insurance, will both explain the essentials of understanding insurance policies, and the different factors that influence a policy’s price such as attendance, number of vendors, governance, items sold, and more. Download the slides from the presentation here.

But what about the producer? It’s impossible to imagine a farmers market without the farmer, and almost as difficult to imagine the types of risks that a farmer is exposed to while at market. Imagine a shopper walking by a basket full of produce, scraping their leg on an exposed wire, ripping their nylons and shedding a few drops of blood and then suing for $25,000 in damages. Sound unrealistic? It’s not; it happened in Massachusetts and could easily happen at other markets. The second webinar, “Producer Liability: Understanding & Communicating Vendor’s Risks and Insurance Needs” addresses how the farmer can protect themselves from these types of risks through Producer General and Product Liability insurance. You can download the presentation slides here.

Now that you have a firm understanding of insurance terminology, and your producer have learned about their insurance options, there comes the time to understand the importance of market liability insurance, and the different questions to consider when making such a purchase. “Making the Most of Your Market Insurance Policy and Minimizing Market Liability Risk” held on March 8, at 1 p.m. will give market managers the tools they need to make informed decisions about buying an insurance policy and the questions to consider when making such a purchase. You can download the slides from the presentation here.

Concluding the series on farmers market insurance is “Protecting Board The Members and Learning the Nitty Gritty of Statewide Insurance Programs.” The final presentation on April 5, at 1 p.m. will cover what types of claims are covered by a Directors’ and Officers’ policy, which includes price-fixing, vendor discrimination, and negligent management of a market. Special attention will also be given to statewide insurance policies such as those in Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Colorado. By comparing such a wide variety of policies, and providing a forum for discussion about their particulars, FMC hopes to empower more states to make informed decisions about potential statewide insurance programs.

Registration for all webinars is free to members, who will receive invitations to each webinar as registration opens. Registration is now open for January 31st’s Demystifying Farmers Market Risk and Being a Smart Insurance Shopper at Stay tuned to FMC’s Facebook page for more information about the February, March, and April sessions.