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Former ND ag commissioner Sarah Vogel’s memoir tells the story of ‘The Farmer’s Lawyer’

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 6:20 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Most people don’t associate attorneys with agriculture, but in this case, a North Dakota lawyer and farmers go together like two peas in a pod.

Bloomsbury Publishing will release the book, “The Farmer’s Lawyer: The North Dakota Nine and the Fight to Save the Family Farm” in October.

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

It’s written by former North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Sarah Vogel, who recalls the first and biggest case of her career.

Vogel still can’t believe she’s reading pages of a book she wrote. It’s taken years to get this story on paper. It was something she knew she had to do.

“It’s a memoir, written from my perspective,” Vogel explained. “It was my first case; it was an impossible case and yet we won.”

The case was Coleman versus Block,  a 1983 national class-action case.

“I had 240,000 clients. It was an enormous case,” she recalled.

After a three-day trial, Judge Bruce Van Sickle granted an injunction prohibiting USDA from foreclosing on nearly 80,000 farm families. It was a case that caught the nation’s attention; Life magazine dedicated several pages to the story. Vogel says the case shaped her career.

“After that case I became an assistant attorney general,” she said.

In 1989 she became North Dakota’s ag commissioner.

“I was the first woman in U.S. history to be elected as Commissioner of Ag in any state,” Vogel said.

She held that job until 1997, then opened her own law firm, specializing in helping farmers.

For the past several years, she’s been digging through boxes of her notes from Coleman vs. Block. She spent the past three years writing.

She hopes those who read this book will learn more about the farm crisis of the 80s and gain an appreciation for today’s farmers as well.

“The Farmer’s Lawyer” will be released on October 19.

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