On the heels of a successful two years running in Massachusetts and Maine, CLF’s Legal Food Hub is coming to Rhode Island, and we are looking for attorneys and firms to join our network. The Hub connects lower-income farmers and food businesses to much-needed pro bono, transactional legal assistance and is a great way for experienced attorneys to support their communities and local businesses.
This initiative comes at a crucial time for the Ocean State. According to the 2012 Census, more than 90% of Rhode Island farms see annual net income of less than $30,000, with more than 60% of farms reporting net losses. This essential part of our state’s economy exists on increasingly narrow margins, and the need for legal services can put a struggling food producer over the edge.
Like it is for all business owners, legal assistance is a necessary cost of doing business for farmers and food entrepreneurs. However, these services are often so costly that some farmers and food entrepreneurs either go without or pay more than they can afford, jeopardizing other aspects of their businesses’ economic viability.
In some cases, farmers and food entrepreneurs are not fully aware of their legal needs in the first place; they may not understand how failing to address legal issues can prevent their business from achieving financial viability. In the worst-case scenario, farmers or food entrepreneurs lose their businesses or exit the field because they are not able to effectively navigate legal hurdles.
This is certainly true in Rhode Island. A recent report released by the Rhode Island Food Policy Council highlighted several food system gaps and leverage points, including the need for technical assistance geared toward farm and food businesses to support growth of this important sector of our state’s economy.
That’s where CLF’s Legal Food Hub comes in.
The Legal Food Hub addresses this issue by providing free legal assistance to lower-income individuals seeking to start small food businesses, stabilize existing farm or food enterprises, or grow their entities to employ more individuals and reach new markets.
The upward trend in the number of farms and a growing food business sector in Rhode Island show that the state’s food system is an area of economic strength and promise. Access to legal services can be the tipping factor in whether a farmer or food entrepreneur goes on to fulfill that promise. By providing these essential services, the Hub fills a gap and supports local communities and the economy. A healthy economy and a healthy community go hand in hand, and both are tied to the success of our food producers.
Now here’s where you come in. We all eat, and we all have a stake in the success, strength, and resilience of our food system. That’s why we’re looking for attorneys in Rhode Island to join our network as we launch the Legal Food Hub in the Ocean State. This is a unique opportunity for the legal community to give back to those who give so much to all of us.
Are you a Rhode Island attorney? Do you know Rhode Island attorneys who would be interested in joining our attorney network? Please send them our way! Interested parties can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find more information about the Hub at www.legalfoodhub.org. Your help is much appreciated!