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Social Entrepreneur

290 EpisodesProduced by Tony Loyd: Business executive and mentor to social entrepreneursWebsite

Social Entrepreneur exists at the intersection of profit and purpose. We tell positive stories from underrepresented voices, focused on solutions.

24:05

Create a Better World through…Paperwork? Rachel Armstrong, Farm Commons

Farm Commons empowers farmers to rewrite farm law by and for themselves.

Rachel Armstrong knew exactly what she wanted to do when she grew up. She wanted to be a farmer, just like her father and her grandfather. “Respecting where food comes from was part and parcel to my childhood, Rachel explains. But she received some important advice. “I changed my mind a little bit when my mother said, ‘That’s a terrible idea.’” Rachel knew the realities of agriculture. “The farming life is very difficult…Rural people are disadvantaged in so many ways.” So, she did as so many farm kids did. She went away to college.

But a funny thing happened at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She found an incredible farming community. “There were folks selling directly to consumers,” Rachel says. “Folks farming in a way that respected the environment. And they were making money. That, to me, was everything I had hoped for.”

Rachel became deeply involved in the sustainable agricultural community. She managed a community garden. She worked on farms. She started a catering company that used local foods. “I’m very much a self-motivated person,” she says with a laugh.

Though she was involved in many aspects of sustainable farming, Rachel was still looking for her niche. She wondered, “How was I going to foster this community that I love so much?” It did not take long for Rachel to realize that the community needed legal information. “There were sneaky problems creeping up in our community that we didn’t know how to deal with. There were questions we didn’t know how to answer. So, I figured, how hard can it be? I better go to law school,” she says with a laugh.

During her three years at law school, Rachel formed the business plan for what would become Farm Commons. In 2012, Rachel applied for and became an Echoing Green fellow. This provided her with the working capital, mentoring and support she needed to launch Farm Commons.

The Problem Farm Commons is Solving

Sustainable farmers grow food in a way that respects the environment and the communities in which they live. But that means that their business models don’t fit the legal mold which was developed for the conventional, commodity-style farm. Farm Commons creates educational forums and cultivates the leadership of individual farmers.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Rachel Armstrong

“It isn’t necessarily about the rules and regulations. It’s about our relationships.”

“When farmers write good paperwork, they’re creating solutions that helps them go forward.”

“Paperwork can be revolutionary.”

“Those leases matter.”

“Sustainable farmers need to protect themselves.”

“Education is not enough.”

“We need farmers to go beyond knowing things, to doing things.”

“We want sustainable farm law to be written by and for sustainable farmers.”

“I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be an attorney.”

“I wanted to be a farmer when I grew up.”

“Respecting where food comes from was part and parcel to my childhood.”

“I changed my mind a little bit when my mother said, ‘That’s a terrible idea.’”

“The farming life is very difficult.”

“Rural people are disadvantaged in so many ways.”

“In Madison, Wisconsin I found an incredible farming community.”

“I dove right into the sustainable agriculture community.”

“I’m very much a self-motivated person.”

“How am I going to foster this community that I love so much?”

“The very first money that I received was a fellowship from Echoing Green.”

“We want to create a model for a legal commons that goes beyond just sustainable farming.”

“Everyone deserves the ability to shape their community’s legal destiny.”

“89% of the farmers that we reach, make a change to their business within three months.”

“We reach about 2,000 farmers per year, and that’s growing.”

“Listen to the community that you serve.”

“The community knows what the community needs. We make it possible.”

“My job as the Director of Farm Commons is to figure out how to meet the need in a way that they prefer.”

“You haven’t solved their problems if you don’t listen to them.”

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