Answers to your questions about gardening, energy, homesteading and other sustainable living topics.
I’d like to sell some of the surplus garden produce and eggs from my homestead. Do I need special farm liability insurance to do that?
We checked with insurance agents and homesteaders in several states. The answers varied widely from state to state and policy to policy.
In one case, the agent said not to worry about it unless you’re really the cautious type. However, if you want to be sure you would be covered if a customer were injured while visiting your property or by consuming your products, start by discussing farmers market insurance with your agent. Some agents told us the liability coverage with their standard homeowner’s policy would provide some protection, as long as your agriculture-related income is less than a certain threshold, such as $1,000. One agent recommended you check the exclusions on your homeowner’s or rental policy, and if there isn’t a specific exclusion, you should be covered under your regular policy.
Other companies offer a special rider or endorsement attached to the standard homeowner’s policy specifically to provide liability coverage for small-scale farms that earn less than $10,000 (or another specified amount) annually from agriculture. If you meet the farmstand regulations, you can obtain extra liability protection for as little as $25 to $50 per year. If you desire even more protection against a possible worst-case scenario, you can purchase an umbrella policy for a few hundred dollars annually that will pay $1 million or more for liability claims.
Some providers (often state- or regionally-based) offer special “country lifestyle” or “small farm” policies for those who don’t need the same level of coverage a large commercial farm or ranch would need. The Blumenthal and Donahue Agency in New England, for instance, has a standard homeowner’s policy plus farm and product liability for small farmers in their region (many of whom have just 1 acre). Agents can customize policies for specific needs, such as beekeeping, Christmas tree growing, sheep breeding, etc. In the Midwest and Rocky Mountain states, Farmers Union has a small-farm liability insurance package for those who earn less than $20,000 from farm income and own or lease fewer than 80 acres.
If you rent your homestead, you may want homestead insurance beyond whatever the property owner carries. Renter’s insurance usually includes some liability coverage but, as with many homeowner’s policies, yours may not cover liability for people who use your products.
If your insurance company is not able to offer farmers market liability insurance, or the cost is exorbitant, shop around for a provider who can help. (Independent agents who represent multiple companies can do the shopping for you.) Ask other local homesteaders or market growers for their recommendations, or consult your state Farm Bureau. Farmers’ co-ops and other local farm organizations sometimes partner with insurers to offer goods and services to members at reduced rates.
— Vicki Mattern, Contributing Editor
(Readers, we’d love to hear about your experiences with farm liability insurance. Contribute to the discussion in the comment section below. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS)
Photo by iStockphoto/Chris Fertnig
Vicki Mattern is a contributing editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, book editor and freelance magazine writer. She has edited or co-authored seven books on gardening, and lives and works from her home in northwestern Montana. You can find Vicki on Google+.