Fresh, local produce at corner stores.

On August 7, 2012, Whitelock Community Farm in Reservoir Hill and Linden Food Market celebrated a new partnership in which the store will sell fruit and vegetables grown at the nearby urban farm; this agreement is part of a pilot program sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Baltimore City health department. Small corner stores, with limited shelf space, have traditionally provided only shelf-stable food, such as canned goods, often focusing on non-food products like cigarettes and candy. Through new partnerships, however, local urban farms are beginning to sell their produce to small corner stores; this provides fruit and vegetables to neighborhoods with few grocery options.

Real Food Farm is also entering a similar partnership with Dakao Market in Baltimore’s Belair-Edison neighborhood in the near future.

Below are a few legal questions to consider that may arise from these new partnerships:

  • Will the farm offer credit or other payment terms to the corner store? This can be risky.
  • If you do choose to offer credit, how can you tell that the store is creditworthy?
  • What are the terms of the written agreement between the farm and the store? Should you include fees in case of cancellation?
  • Will you provide a discount to the store?
  • Will you accept returns? Produce usually is no longer in good condition by the time the retailer realizes that it cannot be sold, so most farms probably would not want to accept returns on produce or give money back for produce not sold. However, some farms are producing value-added goods with a longer shelf life, such as jams and pickles, that could, in theory, be returned.

The best way to avoid legal problems between farms and stores is to have a thorough written contract that both parties understand and to which both parties agree. Each side would greatly benefit from the advice of an experienced attorney before they enter an agreement. If your nonprofit farm or garden is incorporated in Maryland, contact the Community Law Center for help with these questions!

Posted on by Becky Witt

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