How do I protect my employees? Where can I sell my produce now that my farmers market closed? Is there grant money available for my business? Despite the pandemic we find ourselves facing, New England has mobilized, and an incredible amount of resources have become available to food businesses and farmers to help provide financial relief as well as business guidance during this difficult time. Below is a list of these resources as well as helpful advice on the laws that are in flux.
Article by Laurie Schreiber of Mainebiz
Amy Rowbottom has been making artisanal cheeses for about 10 years.
Taking Skowhegan-based Crooked Face Creamery from a part-time startup to an established food producer made her realize she needed legal help to protect her products and brand. But she had never done any legal work or trademarking on her own and she operates on slim margins, scarcely able to afford the expense of hiring a lawyer.
Taking part in a business boot camp in 2018, she heard about the Legal Food Hub, a program of the Conservation Law Foundation that provides pro bono legal services to food producers and farmers.
After reaching out, she was put in touch with David McConnell, an attorney with Perkins Thompson in Portland who has a practice in trademark and copyright issues. They met in 2018 and McConnell shortly thereafter filed a trademark application for Rowbottom’s logo with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The procedure is simple on its face, says McConnell.
“But there are a lot of traps for the unwary,” he says. “You have to precisely identify each class of goods and services that the mark applies to.”
Saving on legal fees
Central to Rowbottom’s brand is a logo of a cow with a crooked face.
“She was being proactive,” says McConnell. “She recognized it was worth getting the federal trade mark registration.”
After nearly a year, which is how long the trademark process typically takes, the problem has been solved. Rowbottom only had to pay for the trademark filing fee. Thanks to the program, she saved between $1,000 and $5,000 on legal fees, McConnell estimates — a big chunk of change for a bootstrap operation.
That kind of aid illustrates Legal Food Hub’s mission. Founded in 2014, it connects eligible farmers, food entrepreneurs and organizations that support them with attorneys from a growing network who work on their legal issues for free, with an overall goal of helping to grow the farm and food sector.
The program operates in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, with plans to expand to the other New England states. Since its launch, the hub has handled 375 cases, offering $2.5 million in pro bono legal services in the four states.
In Maine, the hub is managed by the Conservation Law Foundation’s Portland office.
“We saw a trend and a growing need in the farming and food entrepreneur community for affordable legal services,” says Phelps Turner, a staff attorney who manages the Maine hub. “So we leveraged our connections in the legal community throughout New England to create this program. We identified attorneys and law firms willing to volunteer their time and provide free legal services to farmers and food entrepreneurs.”
Farms and food businesses in New England often run on tight margins, yet have many legal needs, Turner says.
“They have limited budgets,” he notes. “We saw that, often, the businesses were not able to afford a lawyer for matters they identified as legal needs.”
Although some of the legal issues facing food producers have evolved over time, such as food safety regulation, generally speaking the legal landscape isn’t much different from any other type of business, Turner notes.
“I think it’s more that the profit margins remain small or perhaps are even shrinking among farmers and food entrepreneurs, so they’re dealing with limited resources and have to make choices,” he continues.
That might result in food producers not being able to retain legal counsel to deal with standard matters.
“Cases we’re placing through the Legal Food Hub in Maine typically involve contracts, leases for land or business space, purchase and sale agreements related to real estate, and conservation and agricultural easements,” he says. “There are also cases involving entity formation — how a business chooses to structure itself and protect itself in terms of liability, along with related tax implications. There are employment and labor issues — making sure they conform with minimum wage and overtime requirements, or know how to work with apprentices and seasonal workers. There are state and federal laws they have to navigate.”
Intellectual property and trademark law applies to food entrepreneurs — people making value-added products like Rowbottom’s specialty cheeses.
“They’re often seeking to protect their recipes, their name and their logo,” Turner says. “Ideally, you seek to protect those early on so you’re not facing an issue later where someone else starts using your recipe, name or logo.”
In Maine, the hub has placed 165 cases over the past five years.
“We’ve seen a dramatic need and it’s not tapering off,” Turner says.
The hub spreads awareness of its service through outreach to the food and farm community — setting up a table at the Maine Agricultural Trade Show, for example.
“We also constantly try to grow our network of volunteer attorneys,” says Turner. “We want to reach as many farms and entrepreneurs as we can, and we need a range of lawyer expertise and also lawyers who are geographically available throughout the state.”
For lawyers, the hub offers educational programs around food and farm issues, like a continuing legal education course on agricultural easements and a new online portal with food- and farm-related legal resources and guides.
McConnell has helped several clients through the hub so far. In addition to Rowbottom, another client was the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets when it needed help filing for trademark protection. His service probably saved the federation $1,000 to $2,000. The federation also received help from attorney Kenleigh Nicolletta of Brann & Isaacson in Lewiston in filing for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.
The federation — a resource for farmers’ markets that works with farmers, consumers and communities — needed trademark protection for its Maine Harvest Bucks program. The program allows food assistance recipients to receive a bonus dollar for every dollar spent at participating farmers’ markets. Because the bonus money must be spent on fresh produce, the idea is that the program helps the recipients and also provides extra income to farmers.
The program’s name was originally used by a number of nonprofits but lacked a consistent message, explains the federation’s director, Jimmy DeBiasi. Several years ago, control of the program was passed to the federation, which decided trademark protection was key to maintaining the integrity of the brand’s message. They went to the hub.
“As an under-resourced organization, we all of a sudden had legal counsel that helped us negotiate with other organizations to protect Maine Harvest Bucks and create licensing agreements that worked for everybody,” DeBiasi says.
“Usually, clients are not well-versed in the arcane aspects of trademark or copyright law, which you wouldn’t expect them to be,” McConnell says. “That’s where a lawyer adds value.”
McConnell tries to meet clients face-to-face, ideally at their operation.
“I can get a better sense for what may be some issues that they might not have initially identified as something they needed help with,” he says. “And we can do some creative planning to get things on the right trajectory.”
McConnell doesn’t mind working pro bono. As it turns out, his practice is largely focused on the food economy anyway, and he co-owns a new rum distillery in Portland, Three of Strong Spirits.
“This work dovetails nicely with what I was already doing for paying clients,” he says. “It makes Maine a much more vibrant place to live in, if we have active systems of producers who are making delicious food and drink.”
Legal Food Hub helped Shovel & Spoon, a farm and farm-to-table catering business in Limington, set up a limited liability corporation, acquire farmland and protect its brand.
The business started in 2018 in Acton, then purchased 30 acres in Limington and moved there.
The hub connected co-owners Tomer Kilchevsky and Courtney Jean Perry with several lawyers on successive issues. Connections came quickly and turnarounds were fast, Kilchevsky says.
“We’re farmers and cooks and have little experience in law and contracts, so having someone there to guide us through the process was extremely helpful,” he says. “And it’s not like they helped us once and went away. They check up occasionally on how things are working out.”
They estimate they’ve saved $3,000 to $4,000 in legal fees.
What would folks typically do without the hub?
“I think some people were going without legal representation,” Turner says. “I think some have been trying to address some of these issues themselves, or were just not addressing them at all. The fact that there have been 165 cases in Maine, in five years, suggests there was, and still is, a great need.”
“Putting it through the intellectual property lens, they might build a product or a brand, then find out later there’s a Goliath who swoops in and crushes their David, so to speak, with a preexisting mark,” says McConnell. “Or maybe they didn’t have someone help them write a good contract at the front end. Or maybe it’s not in writing at all, but just a verbal understanding. Later on, if there’s a disagreement, sometimes they’re not in a position to move forward in a way they anticipated.”
At Crooked Face Creamery, Rowbottom has about 40 wholesale accounts and two distributors, just bought a larger cheese pasteurizer and is in the process of scaling up. She’s reached out to McConnell on additional issues, including researching lease arrangements and problems with an equipment supplier.
Without McConnell’s help, Rowbottom says, she would have had to hire a lawyer or do the work on her own.
“There are so many things to do when you’re running a business,” she says. “To weave your way through those things, when somebody else has all the resources and knows the process, is a huge time-saver. And it’s reassuring to know it’s going to be done right.”
This article originally ran in Mainebiz. Read it here.
New England farmers looking to hire a farm apprentice or a few employees for the farming season face a web of confusing legal requirements. These requirements can be hard to navigate. For example, what types of farm work qualify for exemptions from minimum wage or overtime? When can a farmer have volunteers help on the farm? What kinds of leave does a farmer need to provide for employees?
The Legal Food Hub is here to help sort through those complex questions. In partnership with New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and Conn, Kavanaugh, Rosenthal, Peisch & Ford, a Boston law firm, we put together a legal guide on employment law for Massachusetts farmers. The guide, written by attorneys Mary O’Neal, Andrew Dennington, and Henry Tran, identifies the key legal issues that farmers should think about when hiring employees. We also hosted a series of workshops and webinars on the topic for farmers across the state. These educational offerings help farmers identify the legal risks in their operations so that they know when to turn to a lawyer for help.
“The issue of whether and how farmers should compensate interns, apprentices, and volunteers is a particularly challenging one,” the team of attorneys from Conn Kavanaugh reports. “Our work for the Legal Food Hub has been a wonderful opportunity for us to share our knowledge with agricultural entrepreneurs who may not otherwise have access to legal services. We also have enjoyed learning more about an emerging growth sector of our region’s economy.”
In other states, we have paired farmers with attorneys in our network to help navigate their employment law questions. When he was hiring an apprentice for the season, Phil Cuddeback of Phil’s Farm in Eliot, Maine, worked with Tom Trenholm of Drummond Woodsum in Portland to answer his questions. And that legal help made a difference. “I now feel confident in my approach to find affordable labor, which is essential in the success of my business,” Phil said.
The Legal Food Hub has just released an employment guide for Rhode Island and is working to develop legal guides and workshops on a range of legal topics. For example, we produced a legal guide on community kitchens and hosted workshops on topics including intellectual property law for food entrepreneurs, business formation for farmers, and leases for farmland. In the coming year, we look forward to providing educational offerings that help farmers and food businesses across the region identify legal challenges and feel prepared to work with one of our volunteer attorneys on their legal needs.
Getting timely legal assistance can make all the difference for a farm, food business, or community organization. Just ask Suzie Flores and Jay Douglas of Stonington Kelp Company. Suzie and Jay, who operate their new kelp company in Long Island Sound, sought the Legal Food Hub’s help to form a business entity before their first kelp harvest.
In March 2018, the Legal Food Hub launched in Connecticut in partnership with the Ludwig Center for Community and Economic Development and the Environmental Protection Clinic at Yale Law School. The Legal Food Hub’s arrival in Connecticut has been an exciting opportunity to provide accessible legal assistance to farmers and food entrepreneurs in the state.
“The Legal Food Hub comes to Connecticut at a critical time for our state’s agriculture industry,” said State Rep. James Albis. “The average age of farmers in Connecticut is 59 years old – retiring farmers will need help in succession planning to make sure their farms are being preserved, and entrepreneurial farmers will need help getting started as many farms transition from one owner to the next. The Legal Food Hub can help fill the inevitable legal needs of farmers new and retiring alike.”
Since its launch, the Legal Food Hub has served 14 farmers, food entrepreneurs, and nonprofit organizations in the state. These participants include a mobile farmers’ market, a local refugee assistance project, a nonprofit educational farm, and a small food business that makes products with food that would otherwise be wasted. Our growing network of attorneys in the state has assisted with issues ranging from business formation and employment law to real estate transactions.
The Legal Food Hub has more work to do to support a resilient and sustainable local food system in Connecticut. One study found that only 10% of surveyed farmers use legal services, in contrast to 70% of small businesses in general. There are numerous legal needs associated with starting a farm or business, acquiring land, entering into contracts, transferring land to family members, and other essential business matters. Some farmers and food entrepreneurs who cannot afford legal fees either go without or pay more than they can afford, harming other aspects of their business’s economic viability.
As the Legal Food Hub continues to grow in Connecticut, we are eager to serve more innovative farmers and food businesses across the state. Local farmers and food businesses are at the heart of healthy and thriving communities. A sustainable food system is essential to the health, environment, and economic growth of our communities in Connecticut and throughout New England.
Sarah Turkus knows firsthand how difficult it can be to navigate complex legal issues while running a busy small farm. Sarah has been a farmer and youth educator since 2010 and, in her latest endeavor, manages a nonprofit cooperative farm that opened in 2018. In preparing for the farm’s launch, Sarah wanted to ensure that she had a clear understanding of the legal rights and responsibilities of both the farm owners and its employees. With her demanding schedule, however, she simply did not have the time to get up to speed on the numerous employment laws affecting her farm.
She’s not alone. The reality is that small farmers usually lack the time and resources to tackle many legal matters head-on. To help farmers like Sarah, CLF’s Legal Food Hub has released a new guide that makes it easier for them to comply with state and federal employment laws – so they can spend more time growing and producing delicious local food, and less time trying to navigate these complex laws on their own.
Farm Employment Law is Complicated
In Rhode Island, over 90 percent of farms qualify as small farms, growing and selling between $1,000 and $250,000 of agricultural products per year. The state has become a leader in small farm growth in the United States, and this has created a boon for consumers craving local food. To meet this demand, our farmers work tirelessly and face numerous hurdles every day. While many of these challenges are unpredictable or beyond their control, such as low production yields and increasingly extreme weather, others should be more manageable, such as following the letter of the law when hiring an employee or intern.
However, following the letter of the law isn’t always easy because many exceptions and exemptions apply to agricultural work. For example, under both U.S. and Rhode Island employment laws, agricultural employees are exempted from overtime pay requirements if they are doing farm work. That means an employee would not get paid overtime for planting or harvesting work but would when working a stall at a weekly farmers’ market.
Also, even though many farmers call their workers “interns,” federal law prohibits for-profit farmers from hiring people for unpaid internships unless seven specific criteria are met. Rhode Island state law goes even further and prohibits for-profit farms from using volunteers. Usually, this means that all workers at a for-profit farm must be paid as employees unless they qualify as interns under the law. However, many farmers don’t even know that these laws exist and may unintentionally fail to comply with them.
CLF’s New Guide Aims to Help Farmers Navigate Employment Law
Overtime pay and internship requirements are just a few of the employment issues often overlooked or misunderstood by small farmers. Developed in collaboration with Rhode Island employment law attorney Gina DiCenso, the Legal Food Hub’s new employment guide provides an overview and summary of common employment law issues. These include workers’ rights, how a farmer must pay their employees, what time off employees are entitled to, workplace safety requirements, and best practices for employee handbooks. The guide also lists useful resources that farmers can consult for more information. Also, farmers can reach out to the Legal Food Hub for help in navigating these legal issues.
Understanding employment law is essential to protect both farmers and their employees. Ultimately, CLF’s new guide will help our busy small farmers like Sarah Turkus succeed by making it easier for them to understand and address employment law issues proactively. The guide is free to download here. We hope you’ll share it with your local farmers and farm workers so they can spend more time farming and less time dealing with legal issues. The more we can support our farms and farmers, the stronger we can make our local food economy.
By Mary Rose Scozzafava
Do you wonder, as a New England farmer, how the new U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Produce Safety Rule applies to you? Have you read the Rule, but thought that it didn’t cover the situations on your farm? Conservation Law Foundation’s (CLF) Legal Food Hub and Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) are speaking up to ensure that the regulations work for New England farmers.
A Voice for New England’s Sustainable Agriculture
New England agriculture is made up of mostly small, diversified farms. Farmers grow and sell a variety of products and engage in many different farming activities, including raising livestock. New England farmers also employ organic farming practices at a higher rate than other regions of the United States. So, New England farm operations tend to be smaller in acreage, yet more complex than larger operations.
With our local understanding of the unique characteristics of New England’s farm sector, CLF’s Legal Food Hub and Harvard Law School’s FLPC took a look at how new guidance for produce safety will affect our New England farms. We want to be sure the rule works for farmers here in our region.
New Produce Safety Requirements under FSMA
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011 and required the FDA to write new regulations to create standards for produce safety, called the Produce Safety Rule. The Produce Safety Rule went into effect on January 26, 2016. The Rule established new standards for the growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produce for human consumption. Compliance is phased in over a several-year period starting January 2018. This is the first time that farms have had to follow federal food safety regulations.
The FDA recently released a draft guidance on the Produce Safety Rule, which is intended to assist farmers in understanding and implementing the Rule. The guidance provides a broad range of recommendations on how to meet the requirements of the Rule and some real-life examples. For example, it outlines how to determine whether produce or farms may be eligible for exemptions from certain requirements of the Rule. However, the guidance is not yet final, and the public was invited to provide comments on how to improve it.
CLF and FLPC Comments Address Needs of New England Farmers
In partnership with FLPC, CLF submitted comments on the Produce Safety Rules draft guidance. Our comments focused on the impact of the Produce Safety Rule on the small, diversified and sustainable farm practices common to New England.
We made recommendations to make the rules clearer and make implementation easier for New England farmers. For example, our comments requested clearer guidance for gleaners who harvest food from farms for donation. We also recommended that gleaning activities be exempt from the Produce Safety Rule. In addition, our comments requested more clarification on the status of specific biological soil amendments, including worm castings and vermicomposting, foliar fertilizer, and agricultural tea.
The full comments submitted to the FDA can be viewed here.
The Legal Food Hub is working to help farmers understand how to comply with new requirements under FSMA. Check out a recent webinar on the Produce Safety Rule here.
By Lauren Moore
For busy and hardworking small farmers and food entrepreneurs, even a full twenty-four hours in a day is often too short to finish all the tasks that must get done to keep a farm or business running smoothly. It can be especially difficult to find the time and money to address the array of complicated legal issues that farmers and food entrepreneurs often face, such as protecting a business name or complying with food safety rules.
The Legal Food Hub understands how hard folks in our local food system are working to provide local produce and food products across New England. In response, we have been expanding our educational offerings to provide farmers and food entrepreneurs with practical information and resources for both identifying and dealing with common legal issues.
As part of this initiative, we recently held a Winter Webinar Series to demystify some key legal issues for farmers and food entrepreneurs. Topics covered ranged from how to manage student loan debt to how to pay farm employees. Here’s a roundup of the webinars:
- Words Matter: Protecting Your Trademarks and Copyrights: Presented by Mary Rose Scozzafava, a Senior Fellow at CLF and former Partner at WilmerHale, this webinar walks you through how to choose and register your business name as a trademark and provides tips on avoiding pitfalls and protecting your market brand. Watch the webinar here.
- Entity Governance for Non-Profits: Developed by the Transactional Law Clinics of Harvard Law School, this webinar explores key legal considerations and best practices for non-profit and charitable organizations. Watch the webinar here.
- Selected Topics from the FSMA Produce Safety Rule: Presented by attorney Sumana Chintapalli, and Lori Pivarnik from the University of Rhode Island, this webinar provides a brief discussion of portions of the Food Safety Modernization Act Product Safety Rule that are particularly relevant to farmers and food businesses. Watch the webinar here.
- Legal Considerations of Agricultural Easements: Presented by Beth Boepple of BCM Environment and Land Law, this webinar discusses key legal issues related to agricultural easements that farmers and other landowners may encounter. Watch the webinar here.
- Employment Law for Farmers in Rhode Island: Presented by Erica Kyzmir-McKeon, a Senior Fellow and attorney at CLF, and attorney Gina A. DiCenso, this webinar provides an overview of common employment law issues, including how farmers must pay their employees, what time off employees are entitled to, and the legal distinctions between unpaid interns, registered apprentices, and volunteers. Watch the webinar here.
- Student Loan Basics for Farmers: Presented by Erica Kyzmir-McKeon, CLF Senior Fellow and attorney, and Deanne Loonin, attorney with the Project on Predatory Student Lending at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School, this webinar discusses the different types of student loans and how borrowers can deal with them. Topics include managing repayment, avoiding or getting out of loan default, and loan cancellation. Watch the webinar here.
As farmers start their growing season, the team at the Legal Food Hub will keep working to help farmers and food entrepreneurs flourish by providing the tools to identify and address legal issues. If you’re a farmer or food entrepreneur with a legal question or problem, we encourage you to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-844-LAW-GROW. Together, we can build a more resilient local food system.
Massachusetts Overtime Exemptions – What You Need to Know
If you’re a farmer hiring employees in Massachusetts, navigating the rules of the road can be challenging. This blog post highlights a recent court ruling in the Commonwealth that could affect when farmers pay their workers overtime.
Overtime laws require employers to pay one and a half times the regular pay rates when an employee works more than forty hours in a week. Both the federal and state overtime laws include exemptions to this requirement for certain types of work.
The Massachusetts overtime laws include an exemption for agricultural and farming workers. However, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently decided a case that affects what is considered agricultural and farming work.
In the case of Arias-Villano v. Chang & Sons Enterprises, Inc., the highest Massachusetts court determined that the agricultural exemption only applies to a very narrow type of agricultural work – the planting, raising, and harvesting of crops. The exemption does not apply to post-harvest activities, for example cleaning, sorting, and packaging produce, even if related to the farming operations.
Federal Overtime Exemption
The federal overtime exemption for agricultural workers is less restrictive than the Massachusetts exemption. However, the Court in Arias-Villano compared the federal definition of agriculture with the Massachusetts definition. Employers in Massachusetts are required to fulfill the requirements of the Massachusetts overtime requirements; the federal requirements are provided as a basis for the more restrictive definition used in Massachusetts.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act includes an exemption to the overtime pay requirements for agricultural workers, but agricultural work is defined to include both farming activities, including growing and harvesting crops, and certain post-harvest activities, including preparation for sale.
Specifically, the exemption includes “farming in all its branches … and any practices … performed by a farmer or on a farm as an incident to or in conjunction with such farming operations.” (FLSA Sec. 203(f)).
Work that is simply in conjunction with a farming operation qualifies for the agricultural overtime exemption, including post-harvest packing, sorting, and transportation. Food manufacturing, however, is not qualified for this exemption. (https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fact-sheets/12-flsa-agriculture)
Massachusetts Overtime Exemption
In contrast to the federal agricultural exemption, the Massachusetts overtime exemption defines agriculture as “labor on a farm and the growing and harvesting of agricultural, floricultural, and horticultural commodities.” (M.G.L. c. 151, §2).
The definition of agriculture under the Massachusetts overtime exemption does not include post-harvest activities, nor does it allow for the exemption of work that is incidental to farming operations, unlike the federal exemption.
Arias-Villano and What’s Changed
In Arias-Villano, a group of employees who worked at a bean sprout company sued for overtime pay. The company grows, harvests, packages, and distributes bean sprouts in a hydroponic operation. These employees were responsible for cleaning, sorting, weighing, and packaging the sprouts and cleaning the facility, but were not responsible for growing or harvesting the sprouts. The employer claimed that overtime pay was not applicable because the company was engaged in agricultural and farming activities.
However, the Court determined that the responsibilities of these employees (cleaning, sorting, weighing, and packaging sprouts) were not agricultural and farming activities under the Massachusetts overtime law. The Court determined that Massachusetts had intended to adopt a narrow exemption, and intentionally modified the definition of agriculture from that used in the federal statute.
So, after this decision, if an employee is engaged in post-harvest activities and is working more than forty hours per week, the employee must be paid overtime wages under the Massachusetts overtime laws. Activities such as the harvesting of crops, planting of seeds, and maintenance of a field would be considered exempt activities under the Massachusetts exemption. However, activities that are post-harvest, including cleaning, grading, sorting, packaging, and transporting agricultural commodities would not be exempted, and the employer would be required to pay the overtime rate.
The Court and the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards have not addressed if overtime must be paid if an employee works both in growing and harvesting (exempted) activities, as well as post-harvest (non-exempted) activities.
If you’re a farmer hiring workers in Massachusetts and you need help figuring out how employment laws apply to your operation, contact the Legal Food Hub at www.legalfoodhub.org and check out our employment law resources here.
See how other states are dealing with Agricultural Employment Law:
Liz Sharpe JD Candidate, 2020, Seton Hall University
The Portland Press Herald announced that the Legal Food Hub is a 2019 winner of a Source Maine Sustainability Award. The Herald highlighted the work that Dave McConnell of Portland law firm Perkins Thompson performed for Crooked Face Creamery. The creamery’s owner, Amy Rowbottom, successfully trademarked her business’ name and logo with McConnell’s assistance.
You can read the full story here.
New Food Economy reported on the positive impact that the Legal Food Hub’s pro bono attorneys are having on farmers and food entrepreneurs in New England. Read the full story–including profiles of some of our great farmers, food businesses, and lawyers–here.
Civil Eats also addressed the role of lawyers in supporting farmers and the local food system. You can read the story here.
The Legal Food Hub and Hogan Lovells teamed up in October to bring Hub participants and attorneys an update about the much-anticipated federal food safety rules. Joe Levitt, a partner at Hogan Lovells and a former director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, and Elizabeth Fawell, counsel at Hogan Lovells, presented on two webinars detailing what food entrepreneurs and farmers should expect. The first webinar covered the Preventive Controls rule, which applies to most facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food. The second webinar discussed the Produce Safety rule, which establishes standards for safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables. The webinars introduced the rules, the timeline for implementation, and exemptions that may be relevant to New England farmers and food entrepreneurs.
If you missed the webinars, you can watch them online anytime. Simply click the links below, follow the prompts to register, and you’ll be able to access the presentations.
Watch the webinars here:
The Legal Food Hub’s 2017 Year in Review details a busy year connecting farmers and food entrepreneurs with the legal help they need. Read the full report here.
Bangor Daily News reports on the Maine Legal Food Hub’s 100th case since its launch in the state in late 2015, a milestone that Maine Legal Food Hub coordinator Phelps Turner said demonstrates a need for this type of pro-bono legal assistance for those in the farming and local food realms.
Maine Magazine interviews Legal Food Hub participants and network attorneys to demonstrate how together they are working to secure a sustainable food system. Read the article>>
To Market, a new magazine about food and the people who produce it, explores the Legal Food Hub by highlighting farmer and food business success stories and the dedicated attorneys who contribute their time and expertise to the Hub’s work. Read the article here and look for a hard copy near your local Edible publication.
The Hub plans to replicate its success in Massachusetts and Maine (and soon Rhode Island and Connecticut) by working with partners across the country to bring our model nation-wide. Read the article>>
Local food advocates in Rhode Island could be getting some legal help this fall, as the Conservation Law Foundation plans to offer free legal services to farmers and food entrepreneurs in Rhode Island. Read the article>>
The Boston Globe explores how the Legal Food Hub’s great success in Massachusetts and Maine has paved the national expansion. Read the article>>
To celebrate our second year, we’ve released a report detailing our impact and plans for expansion.
Click here to learn more about our work providing pro bono legal services for farmers, food entrepreneurs, and the organizations that support them.
The Portland Press Herald delves into the labyrinth of labor laws applicable to farmers and highlights how the Maine Legal Food Hub helps farmers untangle this web. Read the article>>
CLF launched its Legal Food Hub with one goal in mind: keeping New England’s food producers in business. A year and a half into this new program, we are delighted to announce that the Hub has crossed a major threshold in its mission to achieve this goal: we placed our 100th case and crossed the half million dollar mark for pro bono legal assistance leveraged through the program. The program has taken off like wildfire!
The Legal Food Hub provides pro bono legal assistance, workshops, and trainings to farmers, food entrepreneurs, and related organizations in order to foster a sustainable, resilient, and just food system. We launched the Hub with a pilot in Massachusetts in 2014 and expanded to Maine in 2015. In the coming year, we anticipate expansion to Rhode Island, and have plans for the remaining New England states for the future. The image below hits the high points for our progress so far.
We are pleased that this program has been able to help more than 100 farm and food businesses get started, stay on solid footing, or avoid going out of business. We are deeply grateful to our partners in the legal community who have stepped up by offering their services for free to show support for the farmers and food entrepreneurs that sustain our communities across New England. We look forward to connecting more New England businesses to necessary legal services in the years to come.
To learn more about the Legal Food Hub or sign up to receive updates, please visit: www.legalfoodhub.org.
The Maine Legal Food Hub was proud to be part of the 75th Annual Maine Agricultural Trades Show held in January at the Augusta Civic Center. Hub network attorneys and other experts presented 10 workshops for farmers on topics ranging from choosing a legal structure for a farm business, to employment issues, food safety, and farm transition. Thirteen unique presenters connected with over 100 farmers, including many seasoned and aspiring producers.
Two additional sessions gave farmers an opportunity to meet one-on-one with Hub staff and network lawyers. The message to farmers: there are many ways to accomplish farm-related goals, but there are no off-the-shelf solutions. Every farm has unique assets and challenges, so it’s crucial to include an attorney as part of the farm’s advisory team.
In addition to workshops, Hub volunteers reached hundreds more farmers through the information at our exhibition table. Although many of the folks who stopped by had not heard about the project previously, the positive response from everyone we talked to was energizing! There’s clearly a need for the Hub’s core service: matching farmers, food entrepreneurs, and food-system organizations with network lawyers to provide pro bono legal assistance.
Edible Boston explores the challenges of matching farmers with available farmland and mentions how the Legal Services Food Hub assists farmers in securing land. Read the article>>
The Fall 2015 edition of Small Farm Quarterly highlighted the Legal Services Food Hub as an excellent resource for farmers. Read the story >>