"The Farmer's Lawyer" explains some of North Dakota's history and why its people are who they are

The check is in the mail.

Nobody’ll notice. Don’t worry; that’ll come out with soap and water. You don’t need to count, everything’s there. When we think we have reason to trust someone, little white lies sting. And, in the new book, “The Farmer’s Lawyer” by Sarah Vogel, big lies truly hurt when they come from someone hired to help you.

Everybody in Garrison, North Dakota, admired Sarah Vogel’s father.

He was a lawyer, and when Sarah was small and he opened an office in town, it was cause for celebration. Before Robert Vogel got there, Garrison’s citizens had to drive hours to get legal advice and court counsel.

Sarah likewise admired her father but she preferred research rather than courtroom, so upon graduating from lawschool in the late 1970s, she went to work for the government. Alas, she lost her job after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated but it was okay; by then, she missed home, where there were no beltways and statewide politics made sense. Wanting to raise her young son in a small city, she put money down on a dream house near Bismarck.

An old friend told her that she should hang out her own shingle, “specializing in farmers,” and that didn’t sound like a bad idea. Farmers, at that point, were struggling.

For decades, the Farmer’s Home Administration (FmHA) had been assisting farmers around the country by loaning money for equipment, land, and livestock but the Reagan Administration changed how the FmHA operated. Suddenly, farmers weren’t just having minor troubles; they were being foreclosed on. Vogel knew that laws and lives were both being broken, and though none of her clients could pay her, they needed her. Picking nine of them with the most impact, Vogel launched a class-action suit that would ultimately make history.

“Nine broke farmers against the mighty power of the federal government,” Vogel says. “A David and Goliath fight if ever there was one.”

The thing about books is that some entertain you, some are informative, some may confound you, while others might outrage you. “The Farmer’s Lawyer” does all.

The entertainment comes as author Sarah Vogel writes about her home state: lush and beautiful, Vogel makes readers want to book a flight this weekend. That aspect of this tale slides into the informative side, as she explains some of North Dakota’s history and why its people are who they are – which just leaves the rest, much of which consists of legal wrangling with an alphabet soup of government programs, and her quite exciting account of the trial. Vogel helps with explanations, but it can nonetheless be hard to follow if you’re not well-versed in law or Washington, though what you will understand will get your dander up and it’ll make legal-drama fans swoon.

Vogel follows this slice-of-history story with advice for the future, but you’ll be tattered by then. Even so, the national importance of this case is such that anyone who isn’t familiar deserves to know what happened, so grab “The Farmer’s Lawyer.” It’s worth checking out.

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