The Vermont Legal Food Hub connects farmers, food entrepreneurs, and food system organizations with free legal services.
A thriving local food system depends on the success of farms and food entrepreneurs—yet many of these businesses lack legal support. Starting a farm- or food-related business comes with many associated legal needs, such as acquiring or transferring land or entering contracts. Farmers or food entrepreneurs sometimes go without these services or pay more than they can afford. In the worst-case scenario, they may leave the profession due to these and other hurdles.
To tackle this problem, CAFS partnered with the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) to establish the Vermont Legal Food Hub, a program that matches income-eligible farmers, food entrepreneurs, and related organizations with skilled attorneys willing to provide free legal assistance on discrete, business law matters. CLF launched the first Legal Food Hub in Massachusetts in 2014; since then, hubs have expanded to Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and now Vermont, placing more than 460 clients with attorneys and leveraging more than $3 million in pro bono legal assistance.
As primary administrator of the Vermont hub, CAFS conducts client intake before placing clients with volunteer attorneys in our network. Some cases are placed with our in-house Food and Agriculture Clinic, which offers students the chance to work under the supervision of licensed attorneys on real-world cases that support Vermont’s local food system. Meanwhile, attorneys and law firms who join the program gain access to and expertise in a quickly growing practice area. In addition to operating the Vermont hub, CAFS also offers educational resources and programming for attorneys and food system stakeholders on relevant legal topics.
The Vermont hub is currently recruiting additional attorneys and accepting applications for legal assistance from Vermont farmers, food entrepreneurs, and related organizations. For more information, visit legalfoodhub.org and submit an intake form, or contact Whitney Shields, program coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-831-1307.