The Farmer’s Lawyer: The North Dakota Nine and the Fight to Save the Family Farm (Civil Eats)

Excerpt from: Civil Eats

In a true-life David and Goliath fight, lawyer and former North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Sarah Vogel won a remarkable victory in the class action lawsuit she brought against the federal government on behalf of struggling North Dakota farmers facing foreclosure in the 1980s. Amid high interest rates and low crop prices, farmers were experiencing the worst crisis since the Great Depression, and many who had borrowed money through the federal Farmers Home Administration faced foreclosure. In her new memoir, The Farmer’s Lawyer, Vogel recounts the story of the hard-won battle. Her first-ever trial was fought despite much personal hardship—Vogel was a single mother who faced foreclosure of her own home and, serving financially struggling farmers, she was often paid in baked goods and frozen fish. Nevertheless, the trial drew national attention to the farm crisis, and Vogel’s striking success shaped her career. After she won, she became assistant attorney general, and later, North Dakota’s agriculture commissioner, the first woman elected to the office in the nation. Vogel’s inspiring legal battle is a call to action to fight for the injustices faced by many American farmers, and it also ensures her legacy: Congress later passed a law enacting some of the reforms she and the farmers she represented sought, including fairer appeal procedures.

—Naomi Starkman

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