September 12, 2018
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Her family’s own loss spurred this social entrepreneur to advocate for aging farmers

Jillian Hishaw became a lawyer and founded the nonprofit F.A.R.M.S. to fight for the families that feed the nation

Jillian Hishaw founded the nonprofit F.A.R.M.S. to advocate for aging farmers. Photo by Meg Haywood Sullivan

EDITOR'S NOTE

F.A.R.M.S. was one of 10 recipients of this year’s Renewal Awards, a project of The Atlantic and Allstate that recognizes nonprofits driving positive change in their communities. Throughout the year, we will be following up with the winners to see how they are continuing to serve their communities.

“I thought you were in your 60s,” a fellow panelist and presenter said to me at a recent conference where I was presenting my work. After 12 years of professional experience, 14 internships, and residences in numerous cities, I feel like I have lived 90 lives—do the math, that’s 10 cats.

Despite all of these accomplishments, time doesn’t slow down for you. Once you know your mission in life, you must move full steam ahead with focus and conviction. My mission of farmer advocacy, eldercare, and hunger relief are constantly evolving, and they are based on my personal experience. My family lost its farm due to a dishonest lawyer and an accountant who took advantage of my aging great-grandmother. This motivated me to start Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.), a national nonprofit that provides legal services to aging farmers while reducing hunger in the farmer’s community. We have a network of attorneys who offer estate planning, land protection, and hemp technical services along with our food bank program.

Knowing that our clientele is an aging demographic motivates me to not waste time and to offer services that are immediate and efficient. I witnessed the challenges my grandmother faced while living in a nursing home. Rooted in this memory, I am focused on protecting aging farmers from predatory abuse.

It wasn’t easy to get here. When I began F.A.R.M.S., I had been laid off and was working a temp job. For the first year and half, the operation was self-funded, which is often the case now, since few foundations fund legal services.

Each person’s entrepreneurial story is their own. Mistakes are inevitable, but learning is not.

F.A.R.M.S. was not my first attempt at creating something. Along the way, I’ve had to quit, learn, and start over. But learning from my experiences has paid off. Over the last five years I’ve been able to save a farm from foreclosure, publish the booklet “Don’t Bet the Farm on Medicaid,” donate nearly 300,000 lbs. of produce in eight states and Haiti, offer legal support services and more! “Don’t Bet the Farm on Medicaid” helps landowners understand Medicaid liens when passing down their farms to the next generation.

I’ve learned along that way that not everyone will like you, but you must stay focused on your mission. At times I have not handled my entrepreneurial journey with grace and resilience. I know the areas where I need to improve. But I know I have the power to improve. Perfection is unattainable but we can all become a better person. Each person’s entrepreneurial story is their own. Mistakes are inevitable, but learning is not.

As I go into my fifth year of being a founder, I have learned to compare myself less to others and stay focused on the mission. I’ve also learned to accept that owning a business will be met with challenges—failure, bad partnerships, people taking advantage of you. It’s all part of the learning process. I look forward to continuing to right the wrongs my family experienced while positively evolving in the process.

To learn more information about F.A.R.M.S., please visit www.30000acres.org and to learn more about Jillian Hishaw please visit www.jillianhishaw.com.

The nomination period for the 2019 Renewal Awards is now open. Nominate a nonprofit in your community for a chance to win $20,000 from The Atlantic and Allstate:

Nominate

Jillian Hishaw

F.A.R.M.S.

Jillian Hishaw, Esq., is the author of “Don’t Bet the Farm on Medicaid,” a Midwest native, former U.S. Department of Agriculture Adjudicator in the Office of Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights, Agricultural Attorney, and Founding Director of Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.), a national nonprofit that provides technical and legal services to farmers. Hishaw has a Juris Doctorate and Legal Masters in Agricultural Law from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville Law School. She also has a degree in biology from Tuskegee University.