CLF's Legal Food Hub has been matching low-income farmers and food businesses with free legal help since 2014 when it first launched in Massachusetts. Maine and Rhode Island soon followed, with the Hub leveraging more than $1.5 million in pro bono legal services in its first few years alone.
With a goal to have a Legal Food Hub in every New England state, in 2017, CLF began thinking about where to focus next. Connecticut soon emerged as the top candidate.
"Connecticut has a vibrant farm and food community, but it needs more in terms of technical assistance and support that exist in the other New England states," says Sara Dewey, director of CLF's Farm and Food program. "We realized there was an opportunity to serve farmers and food entrepreneurs while helping to build the local food system."
At the same time, says Dewey, "We knew we would be most effective if we partnered with an organization that already had deep ties to local communities."
Just as CLF began scouting for a Connecticut partner, Yale Law School professor Joshua Galperin was hearing from students who wanted to learn about food law and policy.
Galperin directed Yale's Environmental Protection Clinic, but food and agricultural law were not on the list of issues the clinic usually addressed. So he started looking for ways to bring food law into his clinic and class. "When I got the call from the Legal Food Hub, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to help an organization that could use some eyes and ears on the ground in Connecticut, while giving my students valuable experience right in their hometown that I otherwise hadn't been able to provide them."
The initial work of the Legal Food Hub in any state is always two-fold: First, there's developing relationships with local farmers and food businesses to understand their unique needs. And, second, there's nurturing the community of volunteer lawyers who will work with the varied pro bono clients the Hub refers to them.
By the fall of 2017, Galperin and Yale Legal Fellow Brian Fink had started reaching out to existing nonprofit food and agriculture organizations, as well as the land grant college at the University of Connecticut to network and introduce themselves to the community.
At the same time, Anika Singh Lemar was bringing her unique perspective to the partnership. Lemar oversees Yale's Ludwig Center for Community and Economic Development, which provides transactional legal services to clients seeking economic opportunity...