Empowering Homeless Individuals Through Urban Farming and Cooking

Client: Farming Hope
Firms: Morrison & Foerster LLP
Sector: Homelessness and Health
Legal Area: Labor & Employment, Tax

Farming Hope is a social enterprise that employs and empowers individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area out of homelessness. Conceived out of Stanford University’s FEED Design School Incubator in June 2016, Farming Hope hires people trying to get off the streets and out of shelters, to work in urban gardens and pop up restaurants. This creates a sense of being needed in the community again, as well as income, a supportive team, and job skills.

Co-founder Jamie Stark first conceived of the idea while serving for two years in vocational therapy with homeless individuals on a farm in El Salvador. He and his Co-Founders seek to operate from a shared vision of welcoming, accessible community gardens with programs, work and food for those who want it most, rather than from a sense of pity or do-gooder impatience to solve crises more complicated than fixable. 

Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation collaborator, Emerson Collective, introduced the Foundation to Farming Hope and we have since had the honor of supporting their work. Farming Hope came to the Foundation seeking advice on how best to structure its employment relationships in light of the fact that they employ many unhoused individuals part-time and needed guidance on tax and insurance issues. 

By connecting Farming Hope with Lex Mundi member firm for California, Morrison & Foerster LLP, the Foundation was able to secure critical pro bono legal support for Farming Hope at a pivotal juncture. Nicole Eleman, the attorney at Morrison Foerster leading the firm’s efforts to assist Farming Hope, has been eager to assist. 

“As a native of the Bay Area, I have seen homelessness increase as housing costs have skyrocketed,” Eleman said. “It has been gratifying to support Farming Hope’s mission of employing individuals as a pathway out of homelessness, particularly because it is clear that employing homeless individuals in Farming Hope’s urban gardens and pop-up restaurants not only helps them financially but also provides stability and a sense of purpose.   As an employment lawyer, I have enjoyed brainstorming with Jamie to come up with creative and flexible solutions for Farming Hope that fit with their non-traditional workforce.”

“Nicole from Morrison Forrester is so helpful and dedicated (and efficient),” Stark said of Eleman’s assistance. “I am extremely grateful for her time and energy, for her firm supporting her pro bono work, and for the Foundation's efforts connecting us. Nicole's guidance has been invaluable!”