BCM Environmental & Land Law, PLLC, NH, VT, MA
“I don’t do what [farmers] do, so I need to ask.”
Amy Manzelli has been using her law license to advocate on behalf of farmers for her entire career. While an undergraduate at the University of New Hampshire, she worked at a dairy farm and at a berry farm, and then she lived in a subsistence agricultural society in Vanuatu as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Amy enjoyed those experiences, and ultimately chose to work toward being a professional supportive to farmers. She is now the managing attorney at BCM Environmental & Land Law, PLLC, where her firm concentrates on environmental, conservation, and land law throughout New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. Her clients include farmers, food and beverage entrepreneurs, land trusts, and landowners.
When asked how she developed the necessary expertise to serve her particular client population, Amy notes that as an attorney, she is continuously developing her expertise. Key to this development is acknowledging and recognizing that, regarding whatever producer she is working with, “I don’t do what they do, so I need to ask.” Amy’s work schedule often revolves around the work schedules of her farming clients.
For attorneys who are new to practicing in this area, Amy advises with a laugh, “don’t wear a suit all the time.” She also recommends making sure attorneys understand their clients’ business by doing site visits, going on farm tours, and getting a sense of what actually happens inside the farm enterprise. The attorney’s job is to anticipate problems that could arise in a farm or food venture when clients may not be aware of these potential pitfalls. For farmers or food entrepreneurs looking to start or expand an operation, Amy recommends budgeting legal fees into the anticipated costs. She cautions, “The absence of legal considerations is a primary reason why many new businesses fail—you can’t afford to not do it.”
The Center for Agriculture and Food Systems is an initiative of Vermont Law School, and this toolkit provides general legal information for educational purposes only. It is not meant to substitute, and should not be relied upon, for legal advice. Each farmer’s circumstances are unique, state laws vary, and the information contained herein is specific to the time of publication. Accordingly, for legal advice, please consult an attorney licensed in your state.