University of Maryland Extension

Chapter 4: Managing legal risks to grow your urban farm

Nicole Cook, B.S., J.D., LL.M., Environmental and Agricultural, Faculty Legal Specialist, Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI), University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Urban Ag home | Table of contents

Chapter Intro Image

Nicole Cook, B.S., J.D., LL.M.

Environmental and Agricultural
Faculty Legal Specialist

Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI)
University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Disclaimer: This chapter highlights common legal concerns that may arise in operating an urban farm. The information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Always consult a qualified attorney for legal advice pertaining to your specific legal concerns.


Legal risk is associated with many of the day-to-day activities of all types of farms. For example, there are legal ramifications for not repaying an operating loan or failing to use appropriate safety precautions when using pesticides. Marketing agricultural products involves contractual commitments, and human issues associated with agriculture also have legal implications, ranging from employer/employee rules and regulations to inheritance laws. Urban farms can be presented with additional legal challenges because they exist in densely populated areas surrounded by private and commercial neighbors unlikely to be familiar with (or possibly simply intolerant of) the sights, sounds, smells and activities of farming, and because they are typically located in areas that were specifically not set up to support agricultural activities.

Additional legal risk for urban farms is generated by uncertainties about things like government policies and regulations related to land access and land use, noise and odor nuisances, water access and use restrictions and requirements, and additional food safety concerns. Failing to obey the laws and regulations can have serious consequences including fines, criminal penalties, and/or abatement orders. Understanding and keeping up to date with the laws will help you better manage the legal risks to your farm.


Previous page: Additional resources and literature cited
Next page: Action items


Maintained by the IET Department of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. © 2021. Web Accessibility

University programs, activities, and facilities are available to all without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, marital status, age, national origin, political affiliation, physical or mental disability, religion, protected veteran status, genetic information, personal appearance, or any other legally protected class. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in any event or activity, please contact your local University of Maryland Extension Office.