Employment Law for Massachusetts Farmers

What should farms in Massachusetts consider when hiring employees? What are the rules of the road for agricultural workers in the Commonwealth. These two webinars from 2018 and 2024 cover key information for complying with Massachusetts employment law. Both webinars cover worker classification, overtime, agricultural labor exceptions, minimum wages (note that the amounts changed from 2018 to 2024), and comparing Massachusetts and federal employment laws, and how to know which applies.

Attorney Beth O’Neal of Conn Kavanaugh also covers the following in her 2018 presentation:

  • Consequences of employee misclassification
  • 2018 federal unpaid intern guidance

Attorney Sean Fontes of Partridge Snow & Hahn also covers the following in his 2024 presentation:

  • A deeper dive into agricultural labor
  • Leave and sick time
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Paying minors
  • 2024 federal independent contractor classification rule

Easements

Easements on a piece of property significantly influence how land can be used. Attorney Andrew Marchev and Third-Year Law Student Clinician Veronica Gassert of Three Rivers Law present the different types of easements and common conditions found in each.

Introduction to Cooperatives

Cooperatives as a business structure help maximize resources and distribute profits equally among members. They can also foster a strong community since members work and vote alongside each other. This webinar, presented by attorney Erika Dunyak of Vermont Law and Graduate School, reviews the different types of cooperatives and what to consider before filing.

Branding Best Practices

As a small business owner, you want to develop and protect your brand, but you don’t yet have the funds to file for trademark protection. In this webinar, Attorney Christina Licursi of Wolf Greenfield covers steps you can take to have some level of protection from the beginning as well as when to take the plunge and file for protection.

Selling Value-Added Products on the Farm

If you are a farmer interested in opening a farmstand on your property, this webinar will teach you about key federal, state and local regulations that impact small food producers who seek to make and sell value-added products from home.  We will cover what’s allowed when selling meat, eggs, dairy, cottage foods such as pickles and baked goods, and more, and explore the legal solutions that can help these businesses grow and thrive.  

Presenter: Legal Services Specialist, Christine Dzujna, of Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund

Onboarding New Employees

Congratulations! Your small business is ready to hire your first employees. This is both an exciting and daunting process. Luckily, we have Tara Walker and Bill Wahrer of Bernstein Shur Portland, Maine who will walk you through this process. They will cover common legal traps for the hiring manager in the hiring and interview process, she will provide a checklist of best practices, and recommended documentation for your new employees.

Presenters: Attorneys Tara Walker and Bill Wahrer of Bernstein Shur

Media and Marketing 101

As a small business, you are likely using emails, text, and social media to advertise your business and communicate with your customers. You may also have your own webpage spotlighting customer reviews and other content. With all these forms of social media and communication comes a web of laws that are difficult to navigate. During this webinar, a team of attorneys from Bernstein Shur will help you detangle these laws. We will cover topics such as email, text, and social media marketing, claim substantiation, website policies, the proper use of logos and other copyrighted material, endorsements, testimonials, and customer reviews, and other hot topics in advertising law.

Presenters: Attorneys Elliot Brake, Kevan Lee Deckelmann, Chad W. Higgins, Matthew J. Saldaña

Hosting a Food Focused Event: The Legal Side of a Delicious Activity

Hosting an event with food on your farm is a great way to gather your community, educate the public about farming, and grow your business. Watch this webinar to learn about next steps to safely and legally offer samples, host a tasting, farm to table meal, or other event with food on your farm. During the session you will hear from Corie Pierce, owner of Bread and Butter Farm in Shelburne, Vermont and regular host of burger nights. You will also hear from Andrew Marchev, Legal Fellow at the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems and Lisa Chase, Agritourism Expert at University of Vermont Extension.

Presenters: Corie Pierce, Bread and Butter Farm Vermont, Dr. Lisa Chase, University of Vermont, Attorney Andrew Marchev, Fellow at Vermont Law School

Laws of the Land: What to Know About Your Farm BEFORE You Commit

You’ve heard the phrase ‘location, location, location’ when it comes to choosing a home. It’s no different for farmers when choosing a site for their farm business. All sites come with unique conditions that impact the farm’s viability, including physical characteristics, zoning restrictions, federal and state permitting requirements, and pre-existing third-party rights of neighbors, landlords, tenants, easement holders, or lenders. This webinar will cover the who, what, how, where, and most importantly, why, of identifying the unique characteristics and regulatory requirements tied to your future farm property before you sign on the dotted line.

Presenters: Attorneys Laura Hartz and Stacey Caulk of Drummond Woodsum

Your Legal Toolkit for Starting a Farm

When you’re starting a farm business, there are lots of important legal issues to consider, from what type of business entity you’ll form to how to protect yourself from liability and plan for the future. This comprehensive webinar will equip farmers with the legal know-how to tackle these key decisions and start off on a strong legal footing.

Employment Law for Maine Farmers

Navigating employment laws on your farm can be a challenging task. This webinar will help Maine farmers understand how to handle various workers on your farm, including WOOFers, volunteers, and CSA workers.

Presenter: Tom Trenholm, Drummond Woodsum.

Elements of a Farmland Lease

When a farmer works with a landowner to put together a farmland lease, there are many important considerations. This webinar will inform farmers and nonprofit farm organizations about the key elements that should be in a farmland lease.

Presenter: Jeff Polubinski, Gravel & Shea.

Starting your Farm or Food Business: Succession Planning

When you’re forming your LLC or other business entity, it is important to plan for the future. This webinar will prepare you with key questions to consider about succession planning when forming your business.

Presenter: Kim Memmesheimer, Hoefle, Phoenix, Gormley & Roberts, PLLC.

Options for Forming a Social Enterprise

As a farmer or food entrepreneur, you may want to create a successful business while also working for social good. In a social enterprise, these goals go hand-in-hand. In this webinar, we’ll discuss the details of a social enterprise. And, we will talk about the advantages and disadvantages of common business structures that can be the foundation for your social enterprise (sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, corporations, co-ops, and non-profits).

Presenters: Colin Antaya, Esq. and Kohei Ishihara Founder of Movement Ground Farm

Opening Your Farm to Visitors and Controlling for Liability

From farm dinners to CSA pick-ups, and from Airbnb to educational programs, you might open your farm to friends, neighbors, and even tourists. As you welcome visitors to your farm, you need to be ready to handle the myriad of risks that they bring with them. Join us to receive practical advice from an agritourism expert, an insurance agent, and an attorney. Each will provide you with tools to prepare for the worst and enjoy the best.

Presenters: Attorney Mary Rose Scozzafava; Stuart Farnham, AFIS Vice President of Frazer Insurance Agency, Inc.; Lisa Chase, University of Vermont Agritourism Expert

Hiring Your First Farm Employees

Congratulations! Your farm business has grown, and you are in dire need of hiring some help. Enter employment law – specifically, agricultural employment law. Join our one-hour webinar to learn the general laws that you are required to follow as an agricultural employer. We will cover important pay considerations, how to get employees properly set up, and best practices to avoid discrimination lawsuits. After this session, you will feel confident to make your first hires.

Presenter: Attorney John S. Gannon, Skoler-Abbott LLC.

Resolving Challenging Issues through Agricultural Mediation

Sometimes, as a farmer, you find yourself stuck or facing a conflict. Whether your business has been threatened, a creditor is hounding you, or a neighbor is making complaints about your farm, you are not alone. The USDA’s certified Agricultural Mediation programs can help you through these situations.

The mediation program is a free service that gives all voices an opportunity to be heard and work together toward a solution that works for everyone. In this webinar, you will have a chance to meet Agricultural mediators in New England. They will give you an overview of the program and share some stories that illustrate the effectiveness of their work.

Presenter: Matt Strassberg, Director of the Environmental Mediation Center

Understanding Purchase and Sale Agreements

A purchase and sale agreement is the document that establishes the steps of the transaction, as well as the responsibilities of the Seller and the Buyer. Purchasing real estate can seem like a complicated process but we will walk you through it.

During this webinar, Massachusetts attorney Richard Cavanaugh of Common Grow, LLC will discuss typical provisions in a purchase and sale agreement. He will also cover some other issues – like zoning and wetland restrictions – that you should consider when deciding whether or not to buy a property.

Presenter: Attorney Rich Kavanaugh, Common Grow LLC.

Regulations and Insurance for CT Food Businesses

The Yale Law School Ludwig Center for Community & Economic Development provides legal services to clients to promote economic opportunity. The clinic has assisted affordable housing developers, community development financial institutions, farms and farmer’s markets, and many other clients to increase access to resources and break down economic barriers. Paul Healy is a second-year law student and member of the Clinic. His legal interests include startup financing and urban development. He also holds a master’s degree in Economics from Oxford University. Bessie Bauman is a third-year undergraduate and research assistant to the Clinic. Her legal interests include welfare law and urban development.

FSMA Inspections: What Growers Need to Know

Sara Dewey and Mary Rose Scozzafava of the Conservation Law Foundation review the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Safety Rule and what it will mean for Massachusetts farmers. Topics include: what is the produce safety rule, how does it relate to the Commonwealth Quality Program, and what inspections will look like for farmers in 2020.

Protecting Your Recipes: Trade Secrets and More

Mary Rose Scozzafava, Senior Fellow at Conservation Law Foundation presents a webinar on how best to protect your recipes as a food entrepreneur. Topics include: challenges to protecting recipes, trade secret, trademark, and using the recipes of others.

Is your Farm Apprenticeship Legal?

What do farmers need to know to legally bring on a farm apprentice? The laws governing apprenticeships can be complicated, and it is important for farmers to understand how to comply with wage and hour laws. Andrew Dennington, a partner at Conn Kavanaugh in Boston, presents on this important topic in a recording from the NOFA/Mass winter conference in 2018.

Shared Use & Community Kitchens

Community kitchens can provide entrepreneurs and community groups a crucial link to building food businesses or running community food programs. This webinar shares some of the considerations for using shared community kitchen space legally, safely and successfully. The webinar includes an introduction to community use of kitchens, understanding the basics of what community and residential kitchens are and are not allowed to do, key legal considerations for community kitchens, and a case study of a successful food entrepreneur working who started in a shared kitchen.

This webinar was produced by Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) in partnership with Franklin Regional Council of Governments, Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, Conservation Law Foundation, Massachusetts Association of Health Boards, Franklin County Community Development Corporation, and Whole Harmony.