November 15 marked the official opening of the Rhode Island Legal Food Hub, and the day was celebrated with a breakfast launch event at Social Enterprise Greenhouse.
We had a fantastic lineup of speakers from across the Rhode Island local food movement, who highlighted the importance of food systems work here and the need for the legal services that will be made accessible by this important program.
CLF President Bradley Campbell opened the program and, in his welcoming remarks, he underscored the importance of the Rhode Island Legal Food Hub and the Farm & Food program to CLF’s mission and vision. State Senator Sue Sosnowski was the first of our guests to take the podium. Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture, Senator Sosnowski is a farmer herself and spoke about the need for, and lack of access to, legal services among many in the farming community.
Director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Janet Coit also spoke, reflecting on important progress made in Rhode Island food systems. She noted the appointment of the state’s first Director of Food Strategy and the important economic impact of our food sector. She also discussed how we continue to make progress, including recognizing the gap in technical assistance that CLF’s Legal Food Hub bridges.
Lisa Raiola, President and Founder of Hope & Main culinary incubator, spoke from experience about the lack of ready access to farm and food legal resources, noting her own search when considering opening Hope & Main. She also remarked on the promise and growth that we can expect to see from the food sector, thanks in part to the help of Legal Food Hub network attorneys.
Finally, Sue AnderBois, Director of Food Strategy for the State of Rhode Island, noted how the Hub’s work fits in with the first-ever Rhode Island food plan currently under development, and how the work of Hub network attorneys in providing legal services supports the state’s ultimate goals of a growing, thriving, local food system and economy.
Among our network firms in attendance were attorneys from Nixon Peabody, Pierce Atwood, Barton Gilman, as well as several smaller firms and individual attorneys. Also in attendance were CLF collaborators and supporters including Chief of the Division of Agriculture Ken Ayars, staff from Senator Whitehouse’s and Congressman Langevin’s offices, members of the Rhode Island Food Policy Council, launch sponsor United Natural Foods, Incorporated, Courtney Bourns representing CLF’s Farm & Food program funder the Kendall Foundation, and members from CLF’s Rhode Island advisory board, to name just a few.
While the launch signified the official entry of the Hub onto the Rhode Island food scene, we have already successfully placed four test cases running the gamut of Hub attorneys’ transactional breadth: two cases were for farmers with real estate–related concerns, one for a nonprofit organization in need of employment law guidance, and one for a food entrepreneur seeking trademark advice. We have signed on a number of attorneys for our network and are actively seeking to enlist more.
With such an exciting kickoff for the Rhode Island Legal Food Hub, we can’t wait to see where we will go from here!
To farmers, food entrepreneurs, and the nonprofit/community organizations that support them, we are accepting cases so please get in touch with us! And if you are an attorney interested in getting involved, we would love to hear from you.