Bismarck Tribune

The Bismarck Tribune:


An excerpt:

Late at night buried in legal briefs, Sarah Vogel occasionally took a moment to contemplate the magnitude of the lawsuit she had filed seeking to help farmers facing foreclosure.

“I should be keeping a diary,” she thought.

But she had no time, especially as more and more farmers added their names to the 1983 class action suit. In all, 240,000 joined from across the country.

Instead of a diary, Vogel hung onto every slip of paper related to the case: notes from phone calls, bills she needed to pay and drafts of court documents she planned to file. She revisited them over the past few years to write a book, “The Farmer’s Lawyer: The North Dakota Nine and the Fight to Save the Family Farm,” which comes out Tuesday.

Vogel used to store the records in her attic in Bismarck, but she donated them about 20 years ago for the public’s use.

“I thought a historian would go over to the State Archives one day and write a book about the ’80s farm depression, and no one did,” she said.

So, Vogel decided to write the book herself.

Read the full feature on Sarah and The Farmer’s Lawyer here.

LIbrary Journal review

August 16, 2021 | Library Journal

In this engaging work, lawyer Vogel recounts her battle against Farmers Home Administration (FHA) that began with representing a group of local plaintiffs and morphed into a national class action lawsuit involving the ACLU. Vogel had occupied several prestigious positions after law school when she decided to move back to North Dakota in the early 1980s. There she stumbled across unfair practices by the FHA, the U.S. agriculture agency that extended credit and gave loans and grants to individual farmers and low-income rural American. She learned that the FHA was freezing personal accounts of farmers when their loans lapsed, without offering the deferral they were legally entitled to. Hundreds of farmers began calling Vogel at all hours of the day, hoping for legal assistance. Vogel eventually filed a class-action suit on behalf of 240,000 farmers, Coleman v. Block, whose result was preventing tens of thousands of farm foreclosures. Vogel’s memoir approaches the case with a sense of history, giving in-depth insight on what happened within the farming community and the procedures and institutions put in place to prevent it from happening again. She recounts the personal stories of her plaintiffs with heart and discusses her own involvement as a non-trial lawyer with self-deprecating humor while also showing her intense dedication to her clients.

VERDICT An enjoyable true-life legal drama on par with Erin Brockovich. Vogel uses only the occasional legalese, and her story will appeal to readers who enjoy a good underdog legal story.

Publisher's Weekly review

Publisher’s Weekly


A lawyer recalls her battle to prevent the Reagan administration from running indebted farmers off their land in this feisty debut. Vogel, a former North Dakota agriculture commissioner, was lead counsel in Coleman v. Block, an early 1980s class-action lawsuit against the Farmers Home Administration, a federal agency that made loans to farmers. Prodded by the Reagan administration’s ideological opposition to handouts to farmers, the agency cracked down on borrowers who fell behind on loan payments, and pressured them to sell their farms to repay loans (and foreclosed if they refused); cut off credit for basics like livestock feed; seized farmers’ income and froze their bank accounts; and violated laws in denying loan-payment deferrals. Read the full review of The Farmer’s Lawyer here.

June 2, 2021 | KFYR

Sarah and The Farmer’s Lawyer were featured on KFYR News! See the full feature:

Dec. 2, 2019 | Union Farmer

Sarah is the cover story in this issue of North Dakota Farmers Union magazine! Click to read: Former ag commish Vogel speaks about 1980’s farm crisis at law symposium.