Market Law 101: Farmers Market Legal Toolkit Update
Posted On: October 12, 2016
by Erin Buckwalter, NOFA-VT, and Darlene Wolnik, FMC
Since the fall of 2014, FMC Senior Researcher Darlene Wolnik and Executive Director Jen Cheek have been collaborating with Erin Buckwalter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) to assist the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at the Vermont Law School on a national farmers market legal toolkit.
This four year project, funded through the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), is meant to help navigate some of the complex legal issues involved in starting and running farmers markets. The project focuses on three key areas: governance/business structure (researched in Year 1), EBT/SNAP issues ( Year 2), and general liability & risk management (underway in 2016).
The ensuing resources will be organized on a new website hosted by CAFS, scheduled to be live by the end of 2017. The toolkit will offer a cross section of resources that should mitigate the risks of operating a market through detailed research papers, examples of appropriate language for documents, downloadable checklists, and case studies of markets from around the country.
With the assistance of the FMC and NOFA-VT project team, law students under the direction of Jamie Renner, Assistant Professor of Law and Supervisor of the CAFS Food & Agriculture Clinic have done successive rounds of interviews with dozens of market leaders to uncover the most pressing issues markets currently face. Many of the market organizations interviewed have since offered their templates or redacted documents to be added to the Legal Toolkit.
The students also meet weekly during the semester with Erin Buckwalter to ask questions and gain perspective on the nuances of how farmers market operate.
“Through this project, students in our Food & Agriculture Clinic are learning how to collaborate with food system stakeholders like FMC and NOFA-VT (and the many market leaders and farmers they represent) to create collective impact, as well as how to communicate legal knowledge in user-friendly and engaging ways,” said Jamie Renner. “My hope is that they leave the clinic more inclined to work with others to solve problems, and to treat law as a tool for the masses, not just lawyers.”
Next up will be the beta testing of the resources which should begin in the next few months. Erin Buckwalter says, “ We will be looking for a combination of state leaders and farmers market leaders representing markets of all shapes and sizes to help us. The feedback we receive from these beta testers will help us in our final phase of refining these tools before they go live. We are still in the process of developing the schedule for the beta testing, so contact me if you want to assist with the review process of the site.”