Review: ‘The Farmer’s Lawyer,’ by Sarah Vogel (Star Tribune)
The Star Tribune:
Farming has never been an easy profession. The work is physically demanding and at times dangerous, commodity prices are capricious, agribusiness giants control the market, and the whims of Mother Nature are often cruel. Also, the hours suck.
That’s all to say it’s always required hardy souls to make a living working the land. And, at least in recent history, that was perhaps never truer than in the early 1980s, when low prices and widespread debt drove thousands of family farmers across the U.S. and particularly in the Midwest out of business. More than a full generation later, the ’80s farm crisis still echoes across rural America.
Sarah Vogel returns to that grim era in “The Farmer’s Lawyer,” which recounts her work as the lead attorney for a group of North Dakota farmers whose lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture led to a nationwide class action that eventually overturned the heavy-handed lending practices that drove rampant farm foreclosures. Part memoir, part populist political history and part courtroom drama, Vogel’s book is a charming, at times compelling recollection of a singular time in U.S. agriculture.