Farmers and Lawyers: A Match Made in Maine | Conservation Law Foundation

Farmers and Lawyers: A Match Made in Maine

Ben Tettlebaum

Noah Fralich moved back home to Maine with one ambition: to open a business on his family’s land in New Gloucester. His fledgling cidery business was just getting off the ground when he hit a snag – the name of his business was already trademarked by someone else. Now, in the midst of trying to grow his business, he was confronting a significant legal issue, with limited means to afford a lawyer to help him solve the problem.

(150415-79)--New Gloucester, ME--April 15, 2015--Norumbega Cidery--Noah Fralich, Norumbega Cidery LLC, a Legal Services Food Hub participant, 402 Woodman Road, New Gloucester, ME 04260, filling and capping 22 ounce bottles one by one.  © George Waldman

Noah Fralich from Norumbega Cidery is just one small food business benefitting from the Legal Services Food Hub. © George Waldman

Noah’s not alone. Like many small businesses, farmers and food entrepreneurs in Maine have a slew of legal needs that, if not addressed properly from the outset, can lead to big problems down the road. Ensuring that our local food producers not only survive but also thrive will strengthen our environment, our communities, and our economy.

Enter CLF’s Legal Services Food Hub.

CLF developed the Legal Services Food Hub to help local farmers and food entrepreneurs like Noah overcome the legal hurdles associated with running a small business. We match eligible farmers, food entrepreneurs, and food-related organizations with skilled attorneys, who provide their assistance pro bono.

The Hub officially launched in Maine on May 18. Noah was among a packed house of 80 guests who joined us for this special event at the Portland law offices of Verrill Dana. Congresswoman Chellie Pingree — a farmer herself — gave the keynote address, telling the group about the importance of local agriculture and supporting food producers through this project.

Ali Tozier, Rep. Chellie Pingree, and Stephen Wagner

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (center) keynoted the launch. Maine Law students Ali Tozier (left) and Stephen Wagner (right) helped develop our legal guide for attorneys.

The Hub has been running successfully in Massachusetts for a year, where we have served a variety of innovative farmers and food businesses through our extensive network of attorneys. In Maine, our attorney network is growing quickly and already includes the largest firms in the state down to small partnerships and solo practitioners. To help Maine lawyers get a better grasp of the issues that farm and food businesses may confront, CLF collaborated with the University of Maine School of Law to develop a legal guide for attorneys in our network.

From Noah’s cidery to a decades-old organic farm trying to ensure their land remains protected for farming, the people that we’ve helped highlight why such a need for quality legal assistance exists – and the difference that help is already making.

If you are an attorney interested in getting your hands dirty – in the best possible sense – join our expanding network around the state. If you’re a farmer or food entrepreneur who needs help, contact us today.

Together, we can grow our local food system and support the hard-working farmers and food entrepreneurs who make it all possible.

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