A single legal vulnerability can be make or break for a farm. But farmers, ranchers, and agriculture communities already have their hands full taking on goliaths like monopolistic agribusiness companies. Local farms need a leg up.

We’re helping farms build a common cause for legal resilience — and a new future for small business law in the United States. Why a commons? A commons is a place where those who are dependent on a resource for their livelihoods are also the ones to control and manage that resource. Farms today are getting squeezed by gigantic social and economic forces. They need shared tools for resilience.

A farm business law commons enables farmers, ranchers, and agricultural professionals to:

  • Understand farm business law as it is now, and how to effectively use the tools it offers
  • Shape the evolution of farm business law to achieve their shared goals, and
  • Work effectively with attorneys and other professionals to create long term legal resilience.

Farm business owners should be in charge of the legal dynamics that shape their destiny every day. And we can achieve much of that without courtrooms or legislative change. Here’s how.

Build the Short Term Legal Resilience of Individual Farms

Farmers build baseline legal resilience by adopting the 10 legal best practices in ways that support their self-defined goals for the farm. This builds collective knowledge and consensus about farm law risk management, while also offering the opportunity to develop in-depth legal resilience through in-depth resources, workshops, and other community events.

Create a Community-Wide Farm Law Commons over the Long Term

Communities develop their own solutions to complex farm law challenges through access to farmer leadership development as well as educational resources that promote dialogue and drive community consensus around farm law challenges.

Sustain an Ecosystem of Support

Trained attorneys, insurance agents, and other professionals are able to provide efficient, effective, and affordable service that facilitate farmers’ self-defined goals in their communities.

Our Staff

Rachel Armstrong, Executive Director

As the founder and Executive Director of Farm Commons, Rachel Armstrong creates the organization’s innovative approach to farm law education and risk reduction. Her vision for changing the way consumers experience business law been awarded with two prestigious fellowships: a 2012 Echoing Green Global Fellowship and a 2018 Ashoka Fellowship. As leading authority on direct to consumer farm law she has authored dozens of publications on farm law matters for farmers, alongside several academic and trade publications for attorneys. Ms. Armstrong instructs continuing legal education classes for the American Bar Association, teaches farm law for the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and is a co-author of “Farmers’ Guide to Business Structures,” published by Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. A graduate of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the University of Wisconsin Madison, she lives in Northern Minnesota with her husband and three young children.

Erin Hannum, Associate Director

Erin serves as Farm Common’s Associate Director where she focuses on aligning Farm Commons’ operations with the organization’s mission and vision. She has been with Farm Commons since 2015 and has played a meaningful role in helping to build the organization’s foundation. Her legal experience spans over fifteen years in an array of contexts including clerking for a U.S. Court of Appeals judge, litigating on behalf of clean water and biodiversity, and providing legal support to nonprofits and small businesses. Erin holds a law degree from Emory University and a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with a concentration in Environmental Science from Northwestern University. She is a member of both the California and Washington State Bar Associations. Erin has weaved her passion for food and farming throughout her life and around the globe, from spending her childhood summers on her grandparent’s farm in Northern California, supporting urban gardens in the Southside of Chicago, launching a catering company, and working on a biodynamic farm on the southern tip of Western Australia. Erin currently lives in Switzerland with her husband and daughter where she enjoys cooking and eating locally grown veggies and wandering in the forests. She feels inspired and nourished to be part of Farm Common’s amazing team and community.

Eva Moss, Farmer and Partner Development Manager

Eva Moss leads development of our educational curriculum, ensuring that our workshops empower the agricultural community with critical knowledge and skills. She also works closely with partners to build legal programming opportunities for farmers across all 50 states. Eva has ancestral farming roots stretching from the island of Samoa to Alabama, and holds a Master’s degree in Food and Agriculture Law and Policy from Vermont Law School and a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from Sewanee: The University of the South. She has taught food policy courses at Guilford College for the Sustainable Food Systems department, and has operated her own small farm business, Heartstrong Farm, in central North Carolina. She is deeply grateful to work with farmers through our programming to guide them to legal knowledge and tools that cultivate healthy farm relationships.

Sarah Vaile, Staff Attorney for Core Resilience

Sarah Vaile is Farm Commons’ Staff Attorney for Core Resilience. Sarah’s work focuses on ensuring farmers and the agricultural community are receiving sharp legal analysis as she writes newsletters, books, guides, and supports development of curriculum at Farm Commons. She also helps lead workshops and crafts new educational programming. Sarah earned her undergraduate degree from Indiana University – Bloomington, and earned her law degree from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in White Plains, New York. Sarah has 14 years of experience in the legal field, and has worked in a variety of roles such as law clerk for Klamath County Circuit Court, and has been an attorney for two non-profits, Southern Oregon Public Defender and Rogue Advocates, and in private practice, as associate attorney at the law firm of Robert Good and in her own solo practice, Siskiyou Law. Sarah lives in an old farmhouse in the little mountain town of Ashland, Oregon with her husband and two rambunctious sons. Sustainable agriculture has been a passion of Sarah’s since discovering her first farmers’ market while living in England post-college, then working at the Seward Food Co-op in Minneapolis. Sarah has served on the boards of Rogue Farm Corps and Friends of Family Farmers in Oregon, and is thrilled to work at Farm Commons, where her skills and passions align.

Taylor Coons, Legal Operations Coordinator and Office Manager for Farm Commons

Taylor coordinates our Volunteer program, conducts legal research, and handles administrative tasks. Her background is in Environmental and Animal law with a Juris Doctor degree from Vermont Law School and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Hawaii. When not doing work for Farm Commons, she helps manage her families’ timber farm and hardwood furniture building businesses on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Farm Commons is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and your support through membership or a donation is greatly appreciated.

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Illustrations featured on this website were sourced – with modifications – from Freepik Storyset.