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Conference Name Food Rules: Assessing Legal Variables and Managing Entrepreneurial Farm Business Risks

Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant


Consumers are increasingly demanding fresh, local produce, and farmers are working to meet that demand. To support farmers as they address the legal and financial risks of locally producing, processing, and marketing farm products, University of Illinois Extension collaborated on several projects aimed at farmers who are, or would like to, market their products directly to consumers.

In 2008-2009, University of Illinois Extension collaborated with The Land Connection to host Food Rules workshops throughout the state. The Food Rules workshops covered federal and state rules and regulations with a panel featuring personnel from State and County Health Departments, Illinois Department of Agriculture, legal experts and farmers. In 2010-2011, University of Illinois Extension coordinated with University of Illinois Associate Professor A. Bryan Endres and attorney Nicholas R. Johnson to present “Managing Legal Risks in the Direct Farm Business,” a project that guides farmers through the maze of federal and state laws that apply to businesses such as farmers’ markets and U-pick operations. The project included a legal guide and website (www.directfarmbusiness.org), and a series of webinars at Extension offices throughout the state.

At both the Food Rules workshops and Direct Farm Business webinars, Extension used pre-and-post presentation surveys to ascertain whether the workshops and webinars enhanced participants’ knowledge of key rules and regulations, as well whether this knowledge improved ability to comply with those rules and regulations. Follow-up surveys gathered information about specific actions taken as a result of knowledge and/or skills gained through participation in the workshops and webinars.