“Losing a home is traumatic. Losing a farm is even more so. For family farmers, everything was at stake: their livelihood, their heritage, their standing in the community, their school, their church, their legacy, their identity.” Sarah Vogel, "The Farmer's Lawyer"
Dear Listener, The other day I was sitting at a bar in Sandpoint, Idaho awaiting a burger after a full day of interviews for a later season three episode. While I waited, I opened my journal and reflected on the day, the post-work week crowd that filtered into the below ground bar and my work. Work that leads me to such locations, to write and reflect, make friends with locals and to deeply study books and subjects from labor history to the ‘80s farm crisis. In between my musings I messaged Reframing Rural’s new story editor, Mary Auld “I love my job!” After interviewing Sarah Vogel, a true hero for family farmers and rural advocates, I had the same exact feeling. It has been one of the greatest joys of my career, and life, to speak to people like Sarah who have made deep and lasting impacts on the family farm system of agriculture. Sarah Vogel was born in North Dakota to a family of dedicated Nonpartisan Leaguers, a party that started during the Great Depression to protect farmers. Inheriting a strong sense of justice, Sarah went on to graduate from the New York University School of Law and work for the Federal Trade Commission enforcing the Equal Credit Opportunity Act before taking on the landmark class action lawsuit, Coleman v. Block. She brought this case against the USDA when she was a young lawyer and a single mother, on behalf of 240,000 family farmers facing foreclosure during the 1980s farm crisis. Foreseeing another farm crisis on the horizon, Sarah wrote “The Farmer’s Lawyer: the North Dakota Nine and the Fight to Save the Family Farm,” a memoir and legal thriller that details the histories of the ‘30s and ‘80s farm crises, imparting to readers what we can learn from the past to ensure future success for farmers who are experiencing a “cost-price squeeze" today. As Sarah mentioned in our interview, “the pandemic reminded us that food is as important to our national security as any other factor. And who grows food? Farmers.” That means whether you know and love a farmer, or not, the state of family farming matters to everyone. Getting this message out there is a driving force of my third season “Groundwork.” I hope you enjoy "Groundwork" Episode 1: An interview with the "farmer's lawyer," Sarah Vogel, and get involved or donate to organizations like Montana Farmers Union, Farmers' Legal Action Group or Native American Agriculture Fund, that are mentioned in this interview and listed on the episode webpage. Yours, Megan Torgerson