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
Create a Community-Wide Farm Law Commons Over the Long Term
Sustain an Ecosystem of Support
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 has 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, Education Program Director
Eva Moss (she/her) leads the development of our educational curriculum, ensuring that our workshops empower the agricultural community with critical knowledge and skills. Eva has ancestral farming roots stretching from the island of Samoa to Southern Appalachia. She 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 in central North Carolina. She is passionate about guiding farmers and ranchers nationwide through our programming, connecting them with knowledge and tools that cultivate healthy farm business relationships.
Chloe Forkner Johnson, Staff Attorney
Chloe Forkner Johnson is Farm Common’s Staff Attorney. Chloe’s work focuses on ensuring farmers and the agricultural community receive sharp legal analysis as she writes newsletters, books, guides, and supports curriculum development. Chloe farmed for many seasons, learning from Neil Taylor near her hometown in Ellenwood, GA, Ken Dawson of Maple Springs Farm in Cedar Grove, NC, and Kelly Morrison of Color Fields Farm in Durham, NC. Chloe earned her bachelor’s degree from New College of Florida and went on to study law at the University of Georgia School of Law in Athens, GA. She began her legal off-farm career as a public defender, providing legal services for low-income clients and, later, developing equity programs for lawyers and court systems with a non-profit in Raleigh, NC. As an agricultural professional, Chloe has advised farmers through the Brannan Law Firm in Hillsborough, NC, on small business formation, zoning, and real estate issues. Chloe most recently worked at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) as the Local Foods Systems Manager. At CFSA, she led market access efforts and provided technical assistance to growers on GAP certification and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Chloe owns land with four friends in Cedar Grove, NC, and is slowly turning that raw piece of land into a homesite and a place to grow her food and flowers.
Bonita Croyle, Communications Manager
Bonita Croyle (she/her) is Farm Commons Communications Manager. Bonita’s work focuses on developing and implementing all communication and marketing strategies, connecting with members and stakeholders, and ensuring that farmers, ranchers, and the agricultural community receive timely, relevant, accessible, and equitable materials. As an adoptee, Bonita has both adoptive farming roots spanning Mennonite and Swiss German identities and ancestral farming roots in the deep American South and Nigeria. Bonita holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and professional certificates in Human Rights, language justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. She grew up on a broiler farm with over 60,000 chickens and has a background in Education and Legal Marketing. Bonita is delighted to work with an organization engaged in agriculture community care and focused on empowering farmers with legal resilience.
Kate Cowie-Haskell, Farmer Education Associate
Kate Cowie-Haskell joined Farm Commons in the spring of 2022 with a background in agriculture and public media technology. Their interest in social systems led them to a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Rochester, followed by a year as a Fulbright Fellow in Bulgaria. Public radio spoke to them as a powerful medium for storytelling and community conversations, so they started their career supporting the daily production of a talk show at WXXI in Rochester, NY. After returning to their home state of Massachusetts, Kate began working closely with producers hoping to launch new podcasts and broadcast shows at PRX.
Kate recently returned to their love of farming. They spent two seasons working on community farms around Boston, where they witnessed unprecedented challenges facing farms (and some brilliant farmer-created solutions). They are excited to use their public media skills and love of popular education to serve the agricultural community through Farm Commons.
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.