SEE IT HERE: Farmstead Cooperative LLC Agreement Template version 1.0 Build 150407
Linked above is a rendered version of the LLC Agreement that we will be using (minus our specific names, etc.) to organize our effort to create a Farmstead Cooperative. It is marked up with footnotes that I’ve added to help clarify some of the legalese, but also to emphasis some of the important concepts. Once downloaded you can “turn off” or remove these notes by manipulating the style sheet in the header. You can also work with the document in a word processor like Microsoft Word (see instructions below).
Yes it is LONG, and probably boring on a narrative level, but the idea behind it is that the language is based on legal precedent in an effort to create a structure that will perform exactly as we want it to perform in every possible challenging circumstance, especially if challenged in a court of Maine law.
In many ways, I’ve learned, that documents like this function within the legal system just like software functions when it is compiled and run by a digital processor. Software code is not easy for the lay reader to understand, but it is meant to perform a specific set of tasks for the user through the refractory of the digital processor. In that same way legal language is software programmed for the court system to perform a specific set of tasks. In that spirit, please enjoy.
[To simply save the document to your computer for off-line review click the link above and then use your browser’s “Save As” menu item to save the document as an .html file. Then you can open the off-line copy in a browser, or in a word processor (like Microsoft Word) — just make sure you set your word processor to open documents with a .html extension, usually called “Web Pages” naturally.]
I can describe the specifics about how we went about forming our Farmstead Cooperative and then separately worked out a method that would allow some folks to become members of that FC. Our “one way” is probably unique to our collective situation (and therefore one of many ways to do it). The specifics described here are likely unique to our group. Another group may decide to organize in a different manner, as they should, according to their own collective requirements and goals.
Transferring access to farm land (partially or completely) using a Farmstead Cooperative is not easy. In fact when compared to a cash sale, mortgage sale, or lease agreement it’s probably the most difficult method for a seller to use. Significantly, while it allows for shared access to land, it also demands shared responsibility for that land as long as one remains an equity member of any fraction.
The Farmstead Cooperative idea became the only way I could achieve our goals of keeping our farm agriculturally viable into the future, and offering a new farmer fair equity when they worked to maintain and improve the land. As we began the formal process of creating an “entity” under which we could organize the idea of a working Farmstead Cooperative, I sent a letter to the lawyer that we had chosen to work with on the transfer paperwork. He immediately dubbed it “The Manifesto.”
The letter reworked the outline we had sent to a lawyer friend who helped us find a Maine lawyer who specialized in land use issues. I used the letter to organize and clarify the ideas I had been thinking about around this effort, and to help me communicate to the lawyer what we wanted to create.
My wife and I moved to mid-coast Maine from Boston in 1990. We both had grown up in the suburbs, and we both had lived an urban life after college. We enjoyed the Big City, but we wondered what was out there beyond the last street light. Mostly I wondered — having worked in many food services positions (cook, waiter, bakery manager) through high school, college, and post-college — where did the ingredients prepared and consumed come from before they were hauled through the service entrance in boxes, big bags, and tubs? I thought, “surely we could spend a year investigating that mystery and then return to Boston with wisdom and experience well beyond our peers?”