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Program to offer free legal services for farmers, small businesses at VLS

Staff Report
Published: 1/27/2020 9:19:59 PM
Modified: 1/27/2020 9:54:19 PM

SOUTH ROYALTON – Vermont Law School is introducing the state’s first nonprofit program to bring free legal services to farmers and small business owners, according to a news release from the school. 

The program, called the Vermont Legal Food Hub, operates out of the school’s Center for Agriculture and Food Systems in South Royalton, and it’s funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They’ve already recruited attorneys from 10 firms to work on two pilot cases, according to the release.

It’s being led by Jennifer Rushlow, the director of VLS’s Environmental Law Center, who started the first food hub program in Massachusetts in 2014.  VLS said the nonprofit fills a need for farmers and food-related small business owners, who often need legal help with transferring land or signing contracts.

Only around 10% of farmers currently use legal services, according to a study referenced in the news release. 

“Farmers or food entrepreneurs sometimes go without legal services or pay more than they can afford. In the worst-case scenario, they may leave the profession due to these hurdles,” the release said. The hub also aims to help law school students gain experience, and helps “law firms gain access to a quickly growing practice area.”

The Hub is still recruiting lawyers and taking applications from local farms and food related-businesses, who can find more information at legalfoodhub.org


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