The What and Why of the Farmers Market Legal Toolkit, Part 3: Risk Management

      Posted On: March 19, 2018

By Darlene Wolnik, FMC Senior Researcher |

In partnership with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT), Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, and the Farmers Market Coalition, the Farmers Market Legal Toolkit was developed for market leaders looking for legal tools and resources to help them build resilient farmers markets in their communities. This is Part 3 of a three part series highlighting the uses of each section of the toolkit.

In 2013, I did a workshop for NOFA-VT at their Direct Marketing Conference, which is held in South Royalton at the beautiful Vermont Law School campus. On that visit, I spoke about the governance of markets and the need for the right incorporation and the right management structure based on that incorporation.

Directly after my workshop ended, I saw Laurie Ristino, the brand-new director of the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems making a beeline for me. “Hey!” she said enthusiastically, “can we talk about doing a project here at the Center for markets on incorporation issues?”

Soon after, she and I, along with NOFA-VT’s Direct Marketing director Erin Buckwalter, came up with a research project funded through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative to create a legal toolkit for markets. We decided to focus on the 3 areas where we had the most questions: Governance, SNAP/Currency, and General (mostly market day) Risks. This is a series of brief posts of what and why we decided to cover in the toolkit.

General Risks

Basically, this section was meant to cover market day risk mitigation (a word you become very familiar with when dealing with legal issues!) along with other general issues as seen in the above screenshot from the Toolkit. For example, I remember reading the first-rate Washington State Canopy Safety 101 resource years ago and being impressed by the level of detail:

Canopy Weights must be attached to vendor and market canopies at all times. Member markets shall agree to, and enforce, the following language and shall include the following paragraph in all market contracts, guidelines, and vendor handbooks or policies regarding canopy use. “All vendors who wish to erect canopies (including umbrellas) on the Farmers Market site during a normal period of market operations, including the set up and break down period, are required to have their canopies sufficiently and safely anchored to the ground from the time their canopy is put up to the time it is taken down. Any vendor who fails to properly anchor his or her canopy will not be allowed to sell at the Farmers Market on that market day, unless that vendor chooses to take down and stow their canopy and sell without it. Each canopy leg must have no less than 24# (pounds) anchoring each leg, and market umbrellas, 50#. Alternatively, canopies may be secured on grass or unpacked soil by steel auger anchors or spiral tent stakes of at least ½” thickness and 12 – 15” length, properly installed and secured. Non-spiraled, straight tent stakes are not an acceptable canopy anchoring system. Holding capacity of auger anchor systems is dependent on soil conditions and density and may not be adequate in rocky soils.”

That was exactly the sort of excellent advice we wanted to offer or to refer to in the Toolkit and so spent a lot of time talking to markets about which risks they dealt with often and even visiting markets to find best practices and also finding (a throat clearing AHEM here) those markets that need a little upgrade to their risk management processes! We hope both groups look through this Toolkit and either give a nod of approval to our efforts (and upload any new resources to the FMC Resource Library and let us know) or uses the Toolkit to get things right at the market.

For example, one hot topic lately has been in learning what to ask for when working with the host for your market site or knowing how to negotiate with potential location hosts. Check out this section of the Toolkit if this is an issue your market is currently facing.

Please let us know how you use the site or email me when you add a new resource to the FMC Resource Library that would be useful for those in the Toolkit.

[Click here to read Part 1: Governance]
[Click here to read Part 2: SNAP/EBT Implementation]