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Direct Marketing

Direct marketing of farm products is on the rise. As of 2017, according to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, Maryland farmers sold upward of $54 million dollars worth of food directly. The COVID-19 pandemic has also changed buying habits and created a renewed interest in purchasing farm products directly from producers. Whether its sales at farmers’ markets, through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), direct sales to a store or restaurant, or through an online sales platform, many Maryland farmers are adopting new direct marketing channels and with these new opportunities come associated legal issues.

To help farmers be better prepared to navigate the legalities of direct farm marketing, ALEI at the University of Maryland Francis K. Carey School of Law, created a Legal Guide to Direct Farm Marketing for Maryland Specialty Crop Growers. The Guide is laid out in three main parts to address different areas of concern for growers engaged in various stages of direct marketing.

  1. Preparing to Direct Market
  2. Contracting
  3. Taking it Online

After hearing from Maryland farmers about how the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many folks pivoting to online sales and having to choose the best online sales platform, the ALEI team consulted existing resources and used feedback from growers to create a companion resource to the Guide, a checklist entitled Considerations for Online Sales PlatformsThis checklist will help farm businesses keep track of practical questions to ask when searching for an online sales platform for their operation.

ALEI legal specialists presented the topics in A Legal Guide to Direct Farm Marketing for Maryland Produce Growers in a series of webinars. You can watch a recording of the Legal Side of Direct Farm Marketing: Liabilities, Contracting, & Taking it Online below.

ALEI legal specialists also conducted a series of webinars about Harnessing Your Farm’s Story to Build a Successful Farm Brand. The topics of discussion were Branding Strategies from BIPOC Farmers, Building & Protecting Your Intellectual Property, and Legal Considerations for Digital Marketing from BIPOC Farmers. You can watch a recording of the three webinars below.

ALEI plans to continue its efforts to educate Maryland’s farmers to help them maintain and enhance their direct marketing efforts.  Other ALEI resources that are relevant to addressing legal needs when pursuing direct marketing channels are listed below.

Farmers Market Vendor Agreement Guide

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Resources

Anyone with questions about these resources and education may contact Megan Todd (motodd@law.umaryland.edu) or Sarah Everhart (severhart@law.umaryland.edu), 410-458-2475.

Funding for A Legal Guide to Direct Farm Marketing for Maryland Produce Growers and the associated education was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM190100XXXXG020. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.