Elizabeth Boepple

Beth for blogThe first two things noticeable about Beth Boepple (pronounced “BEP-lee”) are her high wattage smile and her clear, relaxing voice. She comes by her impeccable speech habits from her parents: her father was head of the UVM Theatre Department for many years and her mother became a speech pathologist. The smile is likely fed from love of her brand of legal work, which she pursues in Maine at the law firm BCM Environmental & Land Law, PLLC. Previously, Beth was an attorney at Lambert Coffin. While there, she and her partners pioneer a food and farm section in their practice. “Our goal is to get one started in the Maine Bar Association as well,” she says enthusiastically.

At a recent UVM summit on food security and food systems, Beth was often seen engaged in thoughtful conversations with entrepreneurs and academics concerned with regional food and farm issues. Over dinner one night with a community garden/food sovereignty researcher from Johannesburg, South Africa and a food pantry/food safety analyst and soon-to-be U.S. General Accounting Office analyst, Beth shared experiences and listened carefully when talk turned to policy issues that intersect with the practical.

Whether on the international, national, or local level, Beth explains her comfort with the details of food purveyance:

“Just prior to attending law school as an older student, I partnered on one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in Vermont. We saw it all—when you bypass the bigger corporate food suppliers, you are faced with how to get seafood from the boat to the chef and still keep it as fresh and economical as possible! That process would be repeated with other local and specialty food purveyors—I still remember the mushroom deals. All the intervening transactions with local producers really fueled my dedication to help farmers and the New England local food industry with their legal needs.”

Beth has a robust law practice. Amongst other areas, she focuses on business entity formation, especially for farm and food businesses. She also works in real estate and permitting and licensing—a routine part of a farm-and-food practice.

Why does she volunteer for the Legal Food Hub for work she does anyway?

“It is challenging sometimes, as all lawyers know, to make time for pro bono work. It can take on a life of its own and eat up a lot of time. Work for the Maine CLF Legal Food Hub, however, struck me as a way to do good and do it in a field that is my passion. It was a no-brainer to volunteer!”

Jon Klavens

 

Klavens photo 2Jon Klavens and his dedicated group of attorneys are no stranger to lending their talents for good. Their unique law firm was founded on the very idea of representing businesses with an environmental or other social mission.

Serving as pro bono counsel to the Dorchester Community Food Co-op has been rewarding, fun, and fits with their professional goals. “The Co-op has managed to put together phenomenal local programs that are not only educational but allow people to buy locally grown food,” says Klavens.

Klavens and his colleagues have strong ties to New England and he says that they are “passionate about the idea of bringing local, healthy food to the Boston area.” In fact, Klavens Law Group doesn’t stop there. Their passion for local food spreads throughout Massachusetts, with an attorney from their office working on a grocery co-op in Amherst.

Finding meaning in legal work wasn’t always so reachable. Klavens went to law school with the idea of pursuing environmental and social goals through the law. Working in a conventional law firm as an environmental, and then corporate, lawyer provided excellent training but didn’t quite bring about that fulfillment. “I felt that there were so many missed opportunities to do proactive good. Since I’ve become a business lawyer with an environmental and social focus, it’s been very empowering.”

Now, Klavens and his law group offer their expertise doing things business lawyers normally do – helping ventures get formed, financed, do business with customers, engage in mergers and acquisitions – but they do it almost exclusively with for-profit and nonprofit ventures that have environmental or other social goals and missions.

And while buying and eating local food is a passion, Klavens is aware, personally, that we can’t all grow it ourselves. “We have some gardeners in our practice – not me – but we support it as much as we can.”

Klavens sees the good the Dorchester Community Food Co-op will have on the people of Boston. “They’re a very dynamic group that has already achieved a tremendous amount of good by raising awareness of food issues.”

Nicole Riley

 

riley_nicoleGrowing up in a rural community in Maine, attorney Nicole Riley came by her appreciation for hard work naturally. “I feel like there’s some sort of New England grit. People are really supportive about the small farms around here.”

Working with the fledgling Dorchester Community Food Co-op was a way to both reconnect with small farmers, and offer some expertise. As a real estate lawyer at Goodwin Procter LLP, Nicole has offered the Co-op much-needed advice and assistance on the inevitable challenges that arise with trying to find the right space for such a unique operation.

This was the first time Nicole has volunteered with the Legal Food Hub, and she considers herself lucky to have been matched with the Co-op. “I feel sad for people who don’t love food. I love to cook and it brings me great joy. Even if it’s terrible, you at least have a great story.”

Nicole knows the value of a little help from an expert. She and her husband have recently started their own vegetable garden, with frequent advice from her mother. “The internet is not as helpful as you’d expect!”

The satisfaction Nicole feels over offering her services for the Food Hub isn’t just about healthy food, however. Nicole worked as a waitress for six years in a number of places around Boston, the last job at a little place called “Cheers.”

“It was a good job to have in college, and gave me great life skills. I value the people who work hard in the food-service industry.”

Nicole is pleased to have offered her expertise, experience, and knowledge to the Co-op and looks forward to picking up some more tips from the experts when they open their doors in 2016.

Written by Danielle Vick

Rich Cavanaugh

rich-portrait-sm-13

Rich Cavanaugh is the founder of Common Grow, LLC, in Orange, Massachusetts, and a graduate of The Farm School. Rich joined the Hub network in July of 2014 and has generously taken on three cases so far. We asked him a few questions to learn more about why he got involved.

What kind of law do you practice? Have you always focused in this area?
Over the last two decades, my practice consisted mainly of civil litigation and counseling nonprofit and for-profit corporations in the firm I helped establish in Lowell, Massachusetts. Two years ago, my wife and I participated in a year-long practical farming program at The Farm School in central Massachusetts. That experience confirmed our desire to shift gears and build a life more closely connected to the land. As a result, I formed Common Grow, LLC, which provides legal and land use services to protect and cultivate the beauty and purpose of farmland in our communities. The scope of those legal services include business organization and governance, real estate transactions, farm succession planning, regulatory compliance, and other areas of interest to those in the agricultural sector.

What size is your firm?
Right now, I’m enjoying being a solo-practitioner.

Why did you decide to volunteer time and expertise to the Hub?
The focus of my new practice aligns perfectly with the mission of the Legal Food Hub, and I feel fortunate to be able to participate at this early stage of the program’s development.

Without providing any confidential information about any of your cases, can you generally describe some of the issues that you have worked on through your Hub cases?
So far, I have assisted a young farmer who was facing eviction from land that he was renting due to actions of a third party. I have also been assisting a newly formed, agricultural nonprofit draft its governing documents and obtain its tax-exempt status, as well as counseling an older farmer who is seeking to step back from the day-to-day responsibilities of her farm while also helping to ensure the long-term viability of the farm and her retirement.

What have been the most challenging and most rewarding parts of the cases you have taken on?
The most rewarding part for me is that I can help those who are committed and talented enough to grow food that is better tasting and better for us and who grow it in a way that is better for our land and helps foster community. The greatest challenge is that many people growing food do it more for the rewarding life it brings than for its monetary rewards. It remains a challenge for farmers to grow in an ecologically sustainable way while also doing so in an economically sustainable way. My hat is off to those who are succeeding at both. We are all the better off for it.

Is there anything else about your experience working with the Hub, farmers and/or food businesses that you’d like to share?
One of the aspects of the Legal Food Hub that I find compelling is that it allows an attorney to provide pro bono services to those who truly deserve the assistance. The Hub takes the laboring oar in interviewing the applicants and helping to find a good fit between lawyer and client. As an attorney looking to provide services to those in our food economy, the Hub provides an easy way to connect with those who could best use some help.