Legal stuff


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An array of disparate laws govern businesses. In regard to businesses in Montgomery County MD, County, State, and Federal governments have laws, regulations, and taxes that can apply to it.

For those who are interested, then, here are some of the legalities involved in running farmersmarket.pizza LLC.

(1) Registration

farmersmarket.pizza LLC is a company that is registered in Maryland. The name of the company is the name of the company website plus LLC.

The LLC stands for Limited Liability Company. In particular, the company is an SMLLC, single member LLC. Under the law the owner is somewhat protected from damages done by the company under certain circumscribed circumstances.

You can check on the status of the company at the maryland.gov website egov section. Enter FARMERSMARKET.PIZZA in the search box, or alternatively, select Department ID and enter W20504130 in the search box. Then click on the company name to get a status report.

Also, according to egov.maryland.gov:
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A Trade Name (Department ID begins with a ‘T’) is a “doing business as” name, which may be different from the legal name of the business as registered with the State. Registering a Trade Name is not mandatory, but is recommended if you are a…Limited Liability Company operating under a name other than the name registered with the State.
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B. Street Farmers Market is a registered Trade Name of farmersmarket.pizza LLC.

I wrote to the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) to get some clarification on this topic of trade names. The egov website, quoted above, says “Registering a Trade Name is not mandatory, but is recommended….”

The reply I got was, “The trade name application needs to be filed in order for the owner to continue doing business under the trade name. If the owner wants to file please visit our online portal for a mandatory expedited fee of $75 or file using a paper app for a non expedited fee of $25 (check or money order) enclosed. Please follow the link below for either options.”

That makes it sound that registering Trade Names is mandatory.

So, which is it? “…not mandatory…” or “The trade name application needs to be filed in order for the owner to continue doing business under the trade name.”?

I sent them an email pointing out the contradiction.

For the record, I’m including here screenshots from the egov website:

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So I got a reply back from SDAT. My question was, “Please let me know if registering a trade name is mandatory, or if it is not mandatory.”

The response was, “if the owner wants the dba the owner has reservation over both the llc name and the name without the legal ending. It is optional, the owner does not need one if the owner does not want one.”

In other words, I think it’s legal to do business under a different name than the registered name that has the legal ending, that is, other than the name ending in LLC. And they’re saying the best practice is to register that dba, although there is no absolute legal requirement to do so.

So I took their advice and the process is now complete. Here is a link to the documentation and below is a screenshot. For the record the Department ID for the Trade Name “B. Street Farmers Market” is T00490240 if anyone wants to look it up on the egov website linked above.

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(2) Insurance

The owner also carries FLIP insurance. Furthermore, the market may take out event insurance to insure the market as a whole.

(3) Legal representation

The owner is represented by attorneys. One lawyer specializes in criminal law. He defends the owner and the company against criminal accusations. The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is a law firm with a number of lawyers and deals with issues relating to the laws regarding producing, preparing, and selling food. An example of how the FTCLDF works is included in the Notes section below.

(4) Food laws

I am indebted to Kenneth Welch for much of the following. Here is his contact info for those seeking more information.


Kenneth Welch
Environmental Health Manager, Licensure & Regulatory Services, Department of Health & Human Services
Montgomery County
255 Rockville Pike, Suite 100
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: 240.777.3840
Fax: 240.777.3088
kenneth.welch@montgomerycountymd.gov


It is legal to make some types of food out of a home kitchen. This link explains that.

Making and selling allowed food out of a home kitchen does not need a license. The food may also be sold at a farmers market, but will need licenses to sell there. More on the licenses in (5) below.

Some food which cannot legally be made out of the home may be made at a farmers market or at a County approved kitchen. A County approved kitchen is basically a kitchen that meets certain guidelines set by the health department. A County approved kitchen can be a commercial kitchen; or it can be a kitchen in a non-profit. It cannot be a residential kitchen. Always speak to the government every step along the way. For example, making yogurt and cheese is not allowed in even a County approved kitchen without some State and Federal regulations coming into play.

Union Kitchen is a shared commercial kitchen space that rents out “pods” — small kitchen areas — to owners for preparing food. There is also shared equipment and storage space. Union Kitchen is ideal for larger operations.

Thus, it is legal to make bread at home and sell it at a farmers marker. It is illegal to make a cheese pizza at home and sell it. Cheese pizzas that are sold at the market must be made at the market and/or at an approved kitchen.

(5) Licensing

Farmers markets don’t have to be licensed in MoCo. This is based on speaking to Jeremy Criss. Here is Mr. Criss’ contact info if anyone seeks more information on this.


Agricultural Marketing Professional (AMP)
Jeremy Criss, Director
Montgomery County MD Office of Agriculture
18410 Muncaster Road
Derwood, MD 
Phone: 301-590-9638
Email:
jeremy.criss@montgomerycountymd.gov
https://extension.umd.edu/mredc/montgomery-county-community-contacts


However, each vendor at the market requires two licenses: a farmers market license and a vendor license, according to Kenneth Welch.

Notes

In order for an LLC to offer the owner protection he should not treat the business as an extension of himself.

Therefore at farmersmarket.pizza LLC we do whatever we can to ensure that the LLC is independent of, and a separate entity from, the owner. The owner owns the company. The owner runs the company. The owner works for the company. But the owner and the company have separate bank accounts. The company accounting is separate from the owner’s financial accounting.

An exception is when it comes to filing taxes. An SMLLC owner may elect to file taxes with the business added on using a Schedule C which is actually part of the owner’s filing. This does not constitute a legal intermingling however. The business finances and the owner’s finances remain separate.

The question arises: who would want to sue the company or otherwise use legal means to impede the company?

Some examples are:

– A customer who buys food at the market and claims they were damaged by eating it, say, by contracting food poisoning.

– A local brick-and-mortar store that feels they are losing business to the farmers market and that the market is acting unfairly by skirting laws that the store has to obey that add onerous costs to the store’s operation. Such a store may try to get the market shut down on the basis of a legal technicality.

– A government official that feels the market is violating the law. Here is a case like that. In brief, a small farm was selling mushrooms legally. But the local health department apparently didn’t know the law and tried to stop the farm from selling mushrooms. The FTCLDF stepped in and showed the health department the error of their ways.

In summary, anyone wading into the food business has to gird themselves for battle. Over a period of more than a hundred years, there has been a push in America to sanitize, raise hygiene in, and eliminate potential for illness in food production. The upshot of this has been that the associated costs of making food on a small scale have skyrocketed. It’s virtually impossible to break into the food business in Maryland without risking a lot from the get-go. It means a constant struggle and low profits.

Rockhill Farm in MD started a dairy and I think the approval process took over a year. Someone in DC started a cheese making company at their wine and cheese restaurant, buying a top of the line cheesemaking machine and they even built a cheese cave and they were bringing in raw milk. And then their rent went up and they went out of business.

So the market has a secondary goal beyond the primary mission of feeding the community. We want to increase demand for quality food from local producers. This will increase the viability of entry-level operations. Our motto is we are baking a political statement.