As the second recipient of the Law School's Frank H.T. Rhodes Public Interest Law Fellowship, Ben Tettlebaum'12 put his education to work for urban communities and the environment. Since 2013, he has been working for the Farm and Food Initiative of the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) in Maine. On May 18, Tettlebaum helped launch Maine's Legal Services Food Hub, a CLF project.
The Legal Services Food Hub provides pro bono legal assistance by matching farmers, food entrepreneurs, and related organizations with qualified attorneys in the CLF network. "Ensuring that our local food producers not only survive but also thrive will strengthen our environment, our communities, and our economy," wrote Tettlebaum in a post for the organization's blog.
The launch of the project took place at the law offices of Verrill Dana in Portland, Maine. U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree, herself a farmer, gave the keynote speech in a program that also included the executive director of the Organic Fruit Grower's Association, the director of the immigrant and refugee farmer program at Cultivating Compassion, the dean of the University of Maine School of Law, and many others. The Hub also released a legal guide for network attorneys created through a collaboration among Tettlebaum and students and professors at Maine Law. The Hub has already received coverage from a variety of media outlets, including a radio spot on MPBN, Maine's NPR network, and a front-page article in the Portland Press Herald.
“The attorney network around the state already includes most of the largest firms in Maine down to solo practitioners spread across many counties,” Tettlebaum reports. “Just this week I received two requests for cases from refugee farmers, one group hoping to form a producer cooperative. Our collaboration with several NGOs has made much of this work possible. It’s great to see those partnerships bearing fruit on behalf of low-income farmers in Maine.”
Tettlebaum is also spearheading discussion at the Mayor’s Initiative on structuring Portland’s Food Policy Council. He continues to work on a food policy assessment and plans to build his collaboration with Maine Law by providing ongoing work on the assessment for law students.