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Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund

 
Thekla McDaniels
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Anybody else had any dealings with these people? I thought they looked good, and I needed a dairy herd share agreement. I've been recommending them as akin to the ACLU and Amnesty International: good to support because we need people specializing in this kind of law, and watching the regulatory agencies. It's been more than 2 weeks since they agreed to write the contract for me. The contract was to be to me by late last week or early this week. I checked with them Monday, email, a reminder. I called Tuesday, "Is there anything else you need from me?" They said no, and that the contract would be there by first thing in the morning on "Wednesday at the vary latest, if not late Tuesday night".

I talked to them a few minutes ago. "Oh we are just writing it now, we have a few questions for you".

Then there is their ongoing insistence that I figure the agistment fee on a whole year, then charge share holders double in the summer when the minor shareholders are receiving dairy products, if I am not going to charge them through the winter, when I dry the goats up. The lawyer thinks this makes it look less like I am "selling milk".

I say the goats provide four different services. Soil building services / pasture management services, which is also a form of climatological services, they grow new goats, and they make milk. As the major shareholder, I am getting all benefits all year round, the dairy when it is available. The minor share holders only get the dairy products, and only part of the year. The minor shareholders, and everyone else on earth receive the benefits of the climatological services, so count that one out. It is our donation. The FCLDF assistant kept saying it had to be written the way she said, and then I could make a verbal agreement with the shareholders to do different than the contract says.... Oh THAT doesn't look like funny business at ALL.

It was when I said lawyers are narrow minded and stubborn people who can't hear the logic of anything beyond what's in their own minds, the principle lawyer, (and I suspect the ONLY one) Pete Kennedy, came on the line. Oh, methinks he let the assistant answer because he knew he was late in performing his part of the agreement....

Anyhow, at that point the lawyer said that since the laws of Colorado made it explicitly legal to have herdshare, then it was fine to do it the way I wanted. When I asked him to just make sure he included in the contract the other valuable services the goats performed, he assured me it was not necessary, since the whole thing was legal in the state of Colorado.

Not a word why they are so disrespectful of the farmer's needs for timely performance of agreed upon services. Only that they've been "really busy".

The contract arrived at 10:30 eastern time zone, while I was writing this.

So that's my rant. Maybe it's a one time "failure to perform as agreed", but it looks to me more like they are not what they would have you believe. Here is a chance to exonerate them if they are worthy of support. And if you decide to join for the services provided producer members, be warned. They don't respond to courtesy. Give them the smallest time frame to provide you with what you need, be prepared to have to wait for them, be prepared to be brusque and insistent. Be prepared for the run around. (is that what you want in a lawyer?)

Thekla
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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I know where they got their original operating model, it is good and well tested. I know how thin their startup staff was. I know how much exposure they have gotten in the last year (although I don't know how that translated into paying members). I don't know if they staffed up, but if they grew like I think they did--they couldn't staff up fast enough.

Having been through too much of the legal system, I completely understand the wanting to do it the same way it has been done--there is HUGE benefits to keeping with "precedents" in law. If you write it following the precedent, then it is the other lawyer's job to prove the precedent needs to be overturned.

and for what its worth, I have NEVER had a lawyer worth half their pay get something done early. They will meet court mandated deadlines, not customer imposed ones. If a lawyer does, they aren't good enough to be busy.

 
Thekla McDaniels
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Thanks, R Scott, your points are well taken, lawyers do love precents, but if all they are going to do is follow precedent, and if FCLDF has grown really fast, then a competent organization interested in efficiency, results, performance and low operating costs -maximized results for smallest effort- would have templates for the various situations in the 50 states. They could just plug in the specifics of each herdshare owner, stream line their whole process. It could be done in half an hour, they could spend their time on what ever they thought was more important.

Or, rather than offering an owner specific contract, they could have state specific templates available once a producer had paid the annual fee, then the new herd owner members could use the templates to make their own contracts. Instead they choose to offer an owner specific contract as a member service, but they do not choose to perform in a timely manner.

As for "customer imposed" deadlines, that's not really how it played out. He could have said he'd have it done any time he wanted. He could have named his timeframe, but did not. He asked me when I wanted it done, and I thought a week was fair, so I said a week, and again, he did not say he could not or would not. He agreed. That's a verbal contract between two parties. A verbal contract is binding until replaced by a written one. This lawyer is not one with enough integrity to keep his own verbal contract if the other party has no leverage. He already had my money.

He offered the contract as a member service, he did not readily provide the service. Three times he mislead me as to the progress of the process of writing my contract.

He did not start the thing until it was past due. He did not start the thing until I'd been through the neutral, the mild, then the leveraged reminders. That's more like a personality disorder than acceptable business practice, making others make you do something. Or, it's like a mother who has to keep up constant reminders to keep a young child on task. Theretically, the maturation process includes the internalization of responsibility, such that an individual does not need constant reminders from others to keep his word. Nor does he need lame excuses for shirking responsibilities.
.
It was not til I was downright insulting that there was any action.

So, though this may sound like I'm arguing, I am interested in an accurate portrayal of what was required of me, to receive what was freely offered, and posted as available at an advertised price.

It is very hard on me personally to have to engage in this kind of tactics. I'd prefer to avoid situations where another party lacks personal ethics and moral fiber. I could have written the contract myself, in less time with less aggravation. I found them, and joined as much to support them as to get the contract, then devoted my time to other things. Now, I regret the whole business, and regret the recommendations I gave out about this "wonderful organization", worth supporting whether you need a herdshare contract or not.

I think it is dangerous to accept this kind of non-performance as SOP for lawyers, even the ones who publicly champion a worthy cause. IMO, to accept substandard performance as "normal" is to contribute to the erosion of the foundations of our human community. IMO it's a community member's responsibility to hold others to moral and ethical standards.

And I am still interested in finding out if there are other herdshare owners who received different treatment. If FCLDF is a decent organization I'd like to know, if they are NOT, I want everyone else to know. If what you have to do to get the contract when you need it is to demand it early, and begin to harass the second it is past due, then again, I think that is something others might benefit by knowing.

Thanks for reading

Thekla

 
Paul Ewing
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Location: Boyd, Texas
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I am guessing that they did it as part of your membership and not an extra paid for item. If this is so, then I would be thrilled if they got you a semi-personalized contract that quickly. You would have spent at least $500 to get a lawyer to write up something like that. Herdshares are tricky even where there are explicit laws allowing them. You don't want to have to use their other legal services because your additions of not really relevant stuff in the contract opened holes that an overzealous bureaucrat decides to harass you on. If I remember right Colorado is where a county health inspector did an armed raid on a farm's customer application dinner and made them dump all the food. Not a place I would like to take chances.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hi Paul,

I appreciate your comments. Have you had any experience with the organization?

Thekla
 
Adam Klaus
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I posted about my experience with FTCLDF some months back. It was deleted, FWIW.

My experience was that the Crested Butte Farmers Market, of which I am a participant, sought council with the FTCLDF regarding distribution (NOT sales) of herdshare-owned raw milk at the weekly farmers market. The lawyers at the FTCLDF opined that there was no legal way to allow any raw milk on the premises of the farmers market, under any circumstance. Our board accepted this council, and prohibited all farmers from distributing milk to their herdshare owners at the farmers market.

So okay, technically, by the minute letter of the law, FTCLDF was 'right'. I dont really think the market board needed 'professional' legal council to read that.

My frustration was that the FTCLDF did not seek to find a way to legitimize the "FARM TO CONSUMER" transaction. Rather they consented to the fear and persecution mentaility that has deprived consumers of access to farm foods. In other words, they did the devil's work for him. My feeling is that FTCLDF could have done a better job of working with the farm market board, to find an appropriate loophole or mechanism through which to justify allowing consumer access to raw milk, through the existing and legal framework of the Colorado raw milk shares program.

My experience, from the cuff...
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Ah, interesting on several counts, that citizens could not legally transfer possession of raw milk at the public farmers market, that the FCLDF saw it the way they did, and interesting that someone found it appropriate to delete the information from this site . I wonder about all of it. Maybe this thread will disappear too.

You just never know what's going to happen next!

Thanks for your input, Adam.

"Thekla"
 
Thekla McDaniels
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And pondering further, I think I'll go read the Colorado herdshare law which is fairly simple as statutes go. I know it says something about farmers markets but now I want to see for myself.

Cut and pasted from the statute: "Retail sales of raw, unpasteurized milk shall not be allowed. Resale of raw milk obtained from a cow share or goat share is strictly prohibited. raw milk that is not intended for pasteurization shall not be sold to, or offered for sale at, farmers' markets, educational institutions, health care facilities, nursing homes, governmental organizations, or any food establishment."

I'm just shaking my head over that language being being interpreted as you've noted. I would have expected otherwise from FCLDF. It seems a perfect test case situation which could have been easily been argued for herdshare to gain access to the farmers market venue, not to buy, but just to be able to do more of their food acquisition on that one outing. "one stop food procurement".

This is exactly the kind of information I am curious about after my interactions with them.... the "who are they really?" info, as opposed to who their name says they are.

But you know what I like about our herd share law?

Here it is:

"SECTION 2. Safety clause. The general assembly hereby finds, determines, and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety."

the dear state legislature putting it in writing that they had to write the law because the citizens were insisting on it, that there was more danger created by trying to obstruct our access to the food we want than the dangers they say exist from raw milk. More danger in trying to restrict agreements that consenting adults make with one another, than in the non industrialized food itself. We have that on the cottage food law too. It makes me happy every time I read it.

BTW, I did my first distributions from my goat share operation (currently milking one goat, getting one gallon a day.) I feel like I have really accomplished something. From here it is just fine tuning.

My share holders are so grateful that I am interested in providing the product, so excited to begin, so supportive of my evolution as an agister.

Thekla
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Thank you apple fairy, who ever you are. The feed back is precious to me. Now that I've heard about the three ethics that permaculture is formally founded upon, I am a little braver in posting about things that appear to me to be "wrong". If we are to be for the earth and non living parts of the earth that is our home, and for all living organisms, including humanity and our biological imperative to be in community with the whole population, then I often feel the need to speak up about issues that to me clearly do not contribute to the support and protection of the human community.

Often times it is easier to just not point out where there is a breakdown, just not get involved with negativity because, you know, life is too short. Just say I was lucky to get anything at all out of the lawyer, because, you know, lawyers are a breed apart, and we don't require integrity from them anyway, and who wants to spend any more time than necessary with all that. But, it just seems to me that when we pass on by without doing any maintenance on what is broken, or warning others of a possible haazard, then we are not valuing the community itself, and the effort that goes into maintaining community.

And when we have an experience that puts us in possession of information that might be valuable to others, then as I have posted, I think it is responsible to act in positive ways to clarify, to share, to protect others from having a similar experience. To maybe begin to steer the community away from such a practice.

Green washing is an ugly phenomenon that is increasingly ubiquitous. I want to know if FCLDF is a green washed parasite marching under a false banner, or if I got a bad sample.

The apple tells me I'm not outside the realm of acceptability here on permies.com-- which site belongs to Paul Wheaton, and to him I am very grateful for having provided this free for all forum. So, thanks again to the apple fairy and thank you Paul.

Thekla

 
Paul Ewing
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Location: Boyd, Texas
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:Green washing is an ugly phenomenon that is increasingly ubiquitous. I want to know if FCLDF is a green washed parasite marching under a false banner, or if I got a bad sample.


That is rich. You got several hundred dollars worth of legal services from then in a very short time (maybe not as fast as you wanted but still very short compared to standard lawyers) for next to nothing and they will still be there for you if something goes wrong for the next year. I look at my $125 as cheap insurance in case I miss some law or regulation or something gets put in place I need to try to work out. They are not there to tell you how to break the law and I would be leery of them if they had tries to be too aggressive with looking for loopholes. I have dealt with lawyers and accountants before on things and prices get high fast. The yearly membership wouldn't cover an hour of their time in most cases so to have an organization like FCLDF is great.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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I just don't see it the way you do Paul.
 
Kelly Smith
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Thelka,

let me first say i did not read the entire thread, but i did read your first post and scanned the rest.

if a standard contract for CO herdshares is what you are after, Colorado raw milk Association has a version that is CO specific. they are located here: www.rawmilkcolorado.org/

we are using a modified version of their paperwork.
i also sent you a PM


 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hi Kelly,

Thanks. I read your PM, and appreciate your offer. If I had found them first, I would have skipped the FCLDF, but I am all set and do have a contract in place. Maybe we could start a thread of template herd share agreements. I did search permies.com when I was looking for templates, and trying to get into the language of specificity that is best in contracts. If a person could find it here on permies, they might not need to go further.

Thekla
 
Ray Star
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Location: twin tiers of WNY zone 5A
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FWIW, I'm a member. Though not at a farmer level. My goal is to be able to upgrade, soon I hope My point is that I donated because I support the work they've already done, and hope I can help them continue. Kinda like how I've supported United Way through my various jobs for close to 19 years now. Thank god I've never needed them, nice to know they are there if I ever did. Which kinda brings up my other point. I look at FCLDF as a relief agency, a UW or RedCross for the farmer. Someone to go to battle against the giants of big agro and or the departments of sad, on behalf of the little guy. You paid your dues, and received what you were "entitled" to. I don't begrudge you that. I just can't help feeling you wasted a valuable resource on something you could have received elsewhere, had you looked alittle longer, or asked around more (like in here). All that aside, I'm sorry your experience was so frustrating. We all could use less of that in our lives. Ray
 
John Polk
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For some good legal background, the Drake Agricultural Law Center (Drake University, Des Moines, IA) has put together a free online guide book, and forum.
See: The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing
While it is not State/County specific, it gets to the nuts & bolts of most farmer legalities. They do have multiple listings of specific rulings in various jurisdictions. It is a great reference to begin with. Quite extensive, and any direct marketer would benefit from bookmarking the link. Browse through it to begin with, then link back whenever you need more info.

Very worthwhile reading to get an idea of what you are up against when you put your product up for sale.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Ray and John, Thank you both! I'll take a look at the link, John, and thanks for the empathy, Ray. I am still hoping I just got them on a bad day, and that indeed they are deserving of our support. If you've read the whole thread then you already know that. No one needs added frustration these days.

again, thanks
Thekla
 
The permaculture playing cards make great stocking stuffers: http://richsoil.com/cards
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