There’s nothing like mother nature to remind you of the impermanence of things. The same day we woke up to find some of our chickens missing, we came home to a broken pipe and flooded home, and this week a storm that eclipsed the total snowfall of the last three winters combined snapped the tops off hundreds of trees and threatened to collapse our high tunnels on the eve of their third season.
This week in field school, we covered legal business structures, farm insurance, employment law and taxation. We’re not law, business, or tax experts, and though we’ve already incorporated, filed taxes, and taken on two summer interns, it was great to hear from a professional insurance underwriter and tax preparer and be able to get some questions answered. A lot of legal aspects of our farm were modeled off of farms we’d worked with in the past, old-timey tidbits of advice from old-timey farmers, or just whatever seemed like the internet’s least sketchy answer. Setting up legal structures and contracts probably isn’t what drew anyone to farming, but working through the flowcharts and worksheets reaffirmed many business structure decisions we made before we even knew where we were going to put our shovels in the ground.
Lisa, our landlady, chuckled when Dana put up the slide advising the difference between employees, independent contractors, and interns – Becca & I have always wanted to impart farming knowledge to people who wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity, but it was funny to see the ways that the internships we offered complied with the strict six-part legal test for internships while some internships we’ve held ourselves wouldn’t meet that definition! We stumbled through filing taxes for the first time incorporated as a legal partnership this year after a rat infestation and subsequent fire stymied our efforts to track sales and deductions, and learned this week at Farm School that the value-added products we want to sell in 2019 are likely not covered under our previous insurance policy.
Winter reveals so much that’s obscured by the turmoil of summer. Tracks in the snow outed our raccoon chicken thief and helped us save our remaining hens. And the windbreak of cedar trees killed by the blizzard are the same age and diameter of the cedar trees whose stumps are now the rotting fenceposts they stand in line with – suggesting that this isn’t the first or last storm to knock out this hedgerow. The new windfall from the storm will fortify the fence that bounds our farm, just as an expanded understanding of tax structure, employer law, and insurance will underpin our farm in invisible, but essential ways.
Joe & Becca