Many farmers wonder if it’s worth their valuable time to talk to a lawyer. You have a million things on your to-do list that are critical to your mission, and dealing with legal issues can easily get put on the back burner. Still, working with a good lawyer before problems happen can save you time, money, and heartache.
Below are some reasons why it makes sense to invest in a relationship with an experienced lawyer who can help your farm business grow and thrive over time.
Farmers put their hearts, souls, family finances, and more into their farm operations. Families relocate to make farm dreams possible, and farmers often work night and day to make the farm a success. This effort and investment is worth protecting with advance legal planning. Still, many farmers don’t call a lawyer until they are in crisis, and at that point legal advice can be useless, prohibitively expensive, or both—and the farm can be lost.
…and they can also help you work through inevitable business challenges quickly and efficiently.
Although farmers have strong and admirable do-it-yourself instincts and abilities, do-it-yourself legal work is a risky proposition. Farming is already a risky business due to weather, crop prices, fluctuating market demand, etc., and farmers also face all of the additional risks of small business ownership.
Working with an experienced lawyer to plan out farm business strategy and guard against common risks makes a risky business more secure.
Planning how you will handle the details of likely future scenarios can help avoid confusion or disputes.
For example, if you hire a lawyer to draft a lease, a lawyer could help you think through how and whether on-farm events are allowed on the farm property. Once written into the lease by a lawyer, everyone can be on the same page about not just whether on-farm events will be allowed, but whether there is a maximum number of guests, limitations on number of events per year, parking restrictions, or state licensing requirements. If the rules are written down in black and white in the lease (and you can go back to your files and check what you agreed to if you forget the details over time), you’re less likely to argue over details related to on-farm events. You’re also less likely to have to evict a tenant or be evicted, less likely to lose rent dollars or farm income, and a lot less likely to end up in court.
And if you do end up in court, a well-drafted lease that accounts for your interests may well be the difference between winning and losing.
Lawyers can help you pinpoint your biggest areas of business risk and potential legal liability. Then, they can help you figure out how to lessen those risks by either 1) making a bad outcome less likely to occur or 2) reducing the harmful effects of a bad outcome.
Either way, strategic legal planning can be the difference between losing the farm and continuing a treasured farm legacy.
Savvy legal planning can help you develop a competitive edge in a crowded marketplace. Understanding the unique legal landscape particular to farming can help you to shape and run your operations in a strategic manner that can add value to your bottom line.
As many business owners in other types of business can tell you, a lawyer’s advice does not have to be just about the law. Lawyers can be a valuable source of general advice to you and your business, including advice on business strategy, ethics, and public relations.
The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems is an initiative of Vermont Law School, and this toolkit provides general legal information for educational purposes only. It is not meant to substitute, and should not be relied upon, for legal advice. Each farmer’s circumstances are unique, state laws vary, and the information contained herein is specific to the time of publication. Accordingly, for legal advice, please consult an attorney licensed in your state.