Handy Law, LLC, RI
“It all goes back to what you care about.”
Seth Handy is relatively new to the food field. After college, Seth worked as an environmental consultant for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before returning to school to earn his JD and Master of Studies in Environmental Law degrees from Vermont Law School. He practiced at large and mid-sized firms for over a decade, building expertise and relationships in environmental law, energy law and regulation, land use, and real estate, as well as general business and commercial law. Since founding Handy Law, LLC, in 2010, Seth has expanded the area of his practice from environmental law to include energy law and, recently, food and agriculture law.
Handy Law, LLC's vision is “true stewardship," and the practice has evolved in the direction of its attorneys' expertise and passion. Seth sees commonalities in the policies and tools used for “encouraging our local energy supply and encouraging our local food supply," and his practice “looks for innovative ways to support new economies that are better for our communities." Food law was a natural evolution of the practice. Seth focuses primarily on economic sustainability – “how [to] value local production," for example, and how to make sure that farmers and producers operate viable businesses so that they can continue to produce food.
Currently, Seth is working with several new or nascent organizations—beginning farmers and producers can especially benefit from an attorney's help. One client, Hope & Main, is a production facility that leases commercial kitchen space to small businesses in an incubator program, and offers classes, meeting areas, and storage. Handy Law helped Hope & Main find space for their facility and incorporate their business, and write leases, policies, and agreements with the member-producers that use their shared kitchens. Handy Law also helped establish a flower farm on a former industrial property in Providence, Rhode Island. Seth is volunteering with the Legal Food Hub, a project of the Conservation Law Foundation, to provide free legal support to starting farmers and food entrepreneurs, and to work on policy issues. One issue under consideration is federal pricing constraints on milk that create financial barriers for local dairy farms.
Seth's experience in environmental, commercial, contract, and real estate law prepared him well to work with farmers and food producers who need help with business formation, finding land, or formalizing relationships with landlords, co-owners, or members in a farming collaborative. He's worked with nonprofit organizations and in municipal and regulatory law for many years. He also credits his time with the EPA with providing a policy foundation: “A lot of the controlling policies are federal" when it comes to agriculture. He would counsel new attorneys who want to practice in this area to spend some time in Washington, DC, to develop “baseline experience" in agricultural policy and regulation. He also suggests asking questions, getting to know people in the field, and looking for mentors: “There's no limit to what you can learn by reaching out."
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.