In this episode, Eva, Rachel, and Sarah discuss key legal considerations for farmers diversifying into collective distribution programs, farmstand sales, and product delivery in response to COVID-19’s changes to marketing channels.

Let’s say we have a farm that used to sell to restaurants and at farmers markets, and those channels have now closed due to COVID-19 suppression actions. The farmer here needs to figure out how to get their product into customers’ hands. Popular options right now that we’re seeing are opening an on-farm farmstand, co-distribution with other farms through online sales and delivery, and converting to a community supported agriculture (CSA) model.

When opening a farmstand, the action step for farmers is to look into local zoning and health safety regulations, paying special attention to any grocery store type rules that might apply (e.g. time and temperature controls for certain products, cooler functionality, etc.).

For co-distribution with other farms through online sales and home delivery, the action step is to look into the zoning code for the delivery destination to see if when stepping into commercial distribution and sales and zoning codes are being violated.

When converting to a CSA, zoning codes can also restrict where product distribution occurs, e.g. folks could get in trouble for having a drop site at their house. If this is the case, look into distributing in commercial areas or working with drop-site home owners to research their zoning code.

For more information on managing these legal risks when diversifying farm enterprises, check out our resources Adding Value to Farm Products: The Legal IssuesBuilding a Legally Resilient CSA Workbook, and Hosting Safer, More Legally Secure On-Farm Events.

Disclaimer: We are working hard and fast to get information together about COVID-19 related programs to share with the farming community as quickly and accurately as possible. Please note that things are rapidly shifting during this time and what was accurate info 2 days or 2 weeks ago may not be accurate tomorrow. As such, please look for our most recent updated information on all COVID-19 issues. As always, the above communications are delivered for educational purposes only and do not constitute the rendering of legal advice.

“Podcast intro” from Royalty Free by Kevin MacLeod. Released: 2020.