Picture of Neil Hamilton

Neil Hamilton, Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law and Professor of Law & Director, Drake Agricultural Law Center

The Author and Support

“The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing” was written by Professor Neil Hamilton and published in 1999. The original publication was prepared under a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE).

The Drake Agricultural Law Center is now updating and expanding the content of the legal guide and making it available to an online audience through this website. The second edition and this corresponding website are supported by USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA).

The Audience

“The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing” is intended to serve two main categories of readers involved in the exciting process of direct farm marketing, although hopefully many people can benefit from it.  These two groups are:

  • farmers involved in direct marketing of produce, livestock, and other food products which they raise, and
  • advisors, such as USDA employees in Extension, and attorneys, who are asked by farm marketers to provide information or advice in specific situations.

The Purpose

Interest and demand in direct farm marketing of locally produced foods has grown substantially over the last decade. There is also a growing number of ways in which farmers and consumers interact. In all of its forms, direct farm marketing is an effort to establish personal contact between the people who raise the food and the people who eat it.  By doing so the people involved on both sides of the transaction have shortened the chain that brings food to the marketplace.

Direct farm marketing, like other forms of agricultural activities, has associated with it a variety of legal issues.  Some of these legal issues, such as real estate law or income taxes, are similar to those faced in traditional forms of farming.  But there are a rich variety of legal issues which arise because of the nature of direct farm marketing or result from laws enacted by governments at various levels to protect or regulate direct farm marketing activities.  As a result, farmers involved in direct farm marketing need to be aware of how these laws may affect their operations.

While there are a growing number of legal resources and other forms of information written to assist farmers and their advisors in understanding agricultural law topics, this is not true as it relates to direct farm marketing.  For the most part there are few examples of educational materials which have been written to help direct farm marketers understand how the law may apply to them.

The lack of information about the laws and rules applying to direct farm marketing, creates uncertainty about how different business decisions might impact a farm.  This uncertainty can increase the risk that direct farm marketers will engage in behavior which might create legal or financial risks for their operations.  Everyone will agree that it is better to know the answer – if one exists – than to guess what the answer might be.  This book was written to help give you many of these answers.

The Forum

This website has been developed by the Drake Agricultural Law Center with the following purposes in mind:

  • Make “The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing” more accessible,
  • Provide updates on direct farm marketing law and policy, and
  • Allow readers to ask questions directly to Drake Agricultural Law Center staff and law students.