Rachel Armstrong founded the nonprofit Farm Commons, a legal resource for sustainability-minded farmers, in 2012. And Cassie Noltnerwyss owns Crossroads Community Farm in Cross Plains, Wisconsin. And they’ve both joined me for this episode to talk about the legal side of employees and other workers on the farm.
Rachel started her career working on farms and in community gardens before she transitioned into doing nonprofit and advocacy work for sustainable agriculture. She decided to go to law school when she realized that the resources didn’t exist to answer the kinds of questions small-scale and local growers were asking. Today, Farm Commons offers a variety of legal resources for farmers, from land use and business transfer to employment and contract law.
Cassie owns Crossroads Community Farm with her husband, Mike. They raise about 20 acres of vegetables, sold through a CSA, farmers market, and wholesale to grocery and restaurants in nearby Madison. Now in their twelfth year of business, Crossroads has up to ten full-time employees at the peak of the season. While Cassie doesn’t have any formal business or law training, she had learned a lot along the way as the business has developed and grown.
Together, Rachel and Cassie dig into the nitty-gritty parts of the legal side of having employees on the farm. We take a look at contractors versus employees, managing volunteers, workers compensation, minimum wage, overtime, navigating federal and state laws, payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, and more.
The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.
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Quotes from the Show
[Employment law and farm law are] about risk management and making careful choices for your farm, and that’s what farmers do every day. (Rachel)
As a farm we’ve been striving towards a living wage. This is year twelve, and it’s the first year we’ve been able to do that. (Cassie)
The law is what we, in this democracy, have decided collectively is the best way to govern the relationship between employers and employees.
Fact Sheet 71 lays out the criteria that an intern position must meet in order for the intern to be an intern and not subject to the rest of employment law.
Rachel referenced IRS publication 51 about taxes for employees.
Farm Commons has a handy flow chart about the Food Safety Modernization Act produce rule and how your farm is affected.