The Nerdery - Overnight Website Challenge

Minneapolis 2013,

Farmers' Legal Action Group (FLAG)

Founded with start-up funding from Willie Nelson and Farm Aid in the farm crisis of the mid-1980s, FLAG is a nonprofit law center in St. Paul that has helped tens of thousands of family farmers avoid foreclosure, rebuild after disasters, and keep their land; and trained scores of the farm advocates across the country.

America needs an agriculture that supports healthy communities, protects the environment, and promotes a safe, diverse, and stable food supply. To achieve these goals, America needs a healthy family farm-based system of agriculture. Targeted, top-notch legal information and advocacy are indispensable in the struggle to defend family-based agriculture and secure social and economic justice for farmers. FLAG exists to provide those legal services because, these days, about 70 percent of the nation’s farm income goes to about 5 percent of the farmers. FLAG works for the other 95 percent.

We request the Nerdery’s help so we can better serve people like the struggling Minnesota farmer who emailed us asking for help delaying debt payments until a federal disaster relief payment arrived. He was familiar with FLAG’s work. “I have to commend the group (FLAG),” he wrote. “I remember the 1980s and a lot of farmers wouldn’t be in business without FLAG, and I’m probably one of them.”

What new functionality we are looking for

Our current website has devolved and stagnated into a near-disaster: unattractive, disorganized and difficult to navigate. A hodgepodge. We would strongly encourage the committee to review the site ( We currently use Dreamweaver software, and one part-time member of our staff has some experience with basic html language, Google Analytics and other Google apps.

We hope to replace our website with a site that reflects the professionalism, mission, resources, and humanity of FLAG in a clean, contemporary way that serves farmers, lawyers, collaborators, clients, and funders. Overall goal: Strengthen FLAG’s ability to keep family farmers on their land. Operational goals: Convey information in easy, compelling ways that meet the needs of our key audiences. We would like to have the ability to easily post fresh video and update news and links. We also need some interactive features that allow users to download information, order publications, and donate.

We would in theory like to add icons for printing, emailing, and posting of individual pages; a password-protected intranet; mobile accessibility; a site map; and video. The reality is that we have a small staff. We need complete in-house management and as much flexibility as possible to edit copy, and add and alter content. Our social media tools and skills are rudimentary.

We envision seven main sections beyond the home page: About FLAG; Publications; FLAG News; Support FLAG; Help for Family Farmers; Calendar/Events; and Litigation.

How the new functionality will help

FLAG is a small, singular organization, based in Minnesota, that provides unduplicated services here at home and across the country. For the people and organizations we serve, their experience with FLAG often begins, and often ends, at our website. More than 62 percent of the nation’s farms have internet access; even more have access elsewhere in their communities. We get about 10,000 visits a year to our site from farmers, lawyers, farm advocates, farm organizations, public officials, farmers market managers, journalists—anyone in search of an independent source of legal information that supports family farming, sustainable agriculture and the production of good food. (Almost all other agricultural lawyers work for corporations or the government.) The feedback we get suggests that many of those visits to our website do not begin or end well.

The complexity and awkwardness of our site’s management means that we are tardy to update it. Or we don’t update it at all. The site does not adequately serve farmers who visit to find our library of free publications (some translated into Hmong and Spanish) that exist nowhere else; publications on disaster recovery, debt management, organic certification, civil rights, farm labor law, biotech and GMOs, farmland preservation, and much more. Our site does not reflect FLAG’s accomplishment and dynamism when funders or individual donors visit to asses our prospects for financial support. Our website not only impedes our ability to serve our mission, it is also something of an existential threat to the organization.

Why should anyone care? Because FLAG, in downtown St. Paul, affects the prospects of family farmers across our state and the country. Consider this email we received from an upstate New York lawyer. He said he was “out of my league” dealing with a bank trying to foreclose on a farmer client. He said, “If FLAG can direct, I may be able to offer assistance” to the farmer. The lawyer added, “(T)he best advice I got was to contact FLAG.” With our counsel and online publications, we made that lawyer a better advocate for that first farmer, and every family farmer he helps in the years ahead. That lawyer, like thousands of farmers and other lawyers, emailed FLAG because there was nowhere else to go for help.

How our organization will use the technology

Who will use the technology

Before & After Snapshots

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28 Messages from Supporters

2013-02-08 20:42:33 UTC
Glen Hill, Minnesota Food Association

This would be great for FLAG! We work with FLAG all the time and refer farmers to FLAG regularly. An upgraded website will help this greatly. Thank you


2013-02-08 16:47:25 UTC
Lisa Carey

I am writing to state my support of the overhaul the FLAG webiste. I understand that FLAG has applied to Nerdery to receive a free website overhaul. FLAG's work is crucial to the success of family farming and sustainable agriculture in Minnesota and the country. The upgrade of their website would do a lot for many, including farmers, who we rely on to eat.


Lisa Carey

2013-02-08 16:58:26 UTC
Brian Stephany

I'm a supporter of Farmer's Legal Action Group (FLAG) and wanted to share their compelling mission with you:

FLAG is a nonprofit law center dedicated to providing legal services and support to family farmers and their communities in order to help keep family farmers on the land. America needs agriculture that supports healthy communities, protects the environment, and promotes a safe, diverse, and stable food supply. To achieve these goals, America needs a healthy family farm-based system of agriculture. Targeted, top-notch legal information and advocacy are indispensable in the struggle to defend family-based agriculture and secure social and economic justice for farmers. FLAG exists to provide those legal services.

The nonprofit funding environment today is tighter than ever. The support, expertise, and web site services of The Nerdery would be instrumental in enabling the expansion of FLAG's online creditability, communications, and content for funders and farmers across the country. These enhanced qualities directly lead to impact which empowers family and minority farmers, enables a healthier food supply, and improves rural communities across America.

Thank you for your kind consideration.
Brian D. Stephany, CPA (inactive)
Principal and Consultant
Emerge Financial Consulting, LLC


Enhance your finances; Empower your decisions; Emerge your non-profit!

2013-02-08 16:58:38 UTC
Kristina Geiger

I would love it if the Nerdery could help FLAG update its website! It's a great organization but their website could definitely use some work. It's especially important to make it user-friendly because they work with a lot of different folks with a wide range of tech-savviness.
Kristina Geiger

2013-02-08 17:21:41 UTC
Connie Nelson

Supporting America's family farms is essential work, critical to the fabric of life, especially in the heartland. Sustainable agriculture is not a a fad; if supported, it could help build a healthier country and stronger communities. And updated website would allow FLAG to improve and expand its outreach. Please give it your consideration.
Thank you,
Connie Nelson
Minneapolis MN

2013-02-08 17:57:30 UTC
Fletcher Brown

FLAG is an incredibly important organization that provides legal services and support to family farmers and their communities in order to help keep family farmers on the land. Enhancing their web presence through an improved web page would go a long way in helping them meet their mission to support healthy communities, protect the environment, and promote a safe, diverse, and stable food supply. I would strongly encourage Nerdery to help FLAG in overhauling their website, it needs help.

2013-02-08 18:14:37 UTC
Josephine Marcotty

FLAG does so much for people who don't get a lot from the big players in our country. They work for immigrant farmers -- the Hmong and Mexican farmers who provide so much of our locally produced food. They help the few remaining small family farmers, often those that are organic or steer clear of chemically intensive agriculture. They have transformed some of the generation-long disparities in agricultural support for black and Hispanic farmers. And they do it all too quietly. They badly need a new portal -- a web page -- for the public to see what they do, and for whom they do it. The FLAG staff are lawyers, NOT designers! Nerdery, give them a hand!!

2013-02-08 19:38:12 UTC
Lois Wood

I am the President of FLAG's Board of Directors.
When I was representing small family farmers in the 1980s and 1990s who were being crushed by exorbitant interest rates and an indifferent Farmers Home Administration bureaucracy, FLAG provided me with the training, technical assistance and support to help those small farmers stay in business. More recently, when the non-profit I work for began to help small farmers develop their local foods capacity, it was again FLAG that we turned to for technical assistance and support.
FLAG collaborates with farm groups from around the country to support minority and immigrant farmers. Many large farmers are doing very well right now. But small farmers who are producing local foods struggle to make their way through the maze of regulations governing their work. African-American, Hispanic, Native American and immigrant farmers still face an uphill battle to survive. FLAG is there to help.
FLAG's mission is huge. Its staff and resources are very small. One way it has extended assistance to a much, much greater number of farmers than it can represent is to produce thorough, accurate plain language guides for use by farmers and their advocates. One of the benefits of an improved website would be that many more farmers could become aware of and easily access these guides. I hope Nerdery can help FLAG with the extremely important task of upgrading their website.

2013-02-08 19:45:36 UTC
John Sherman

I will keep it short. I go to the Saint Paul Farmers market for food and produce. A good number of of the farmer's who sell there are HMONG families who famr small, often rented garden plots, FLAG is their defender in the courts protecting their ability to support their families and provide food for mine.

2013-02-08 22:28:52 UTC

I strongly support the legal advocacy work of Flag. Currently they are in need of an overhaul of their website. An assist with this would greatly boost the important work they do on behalf of small farmers.

Ruth Halvorson

2013-02-08 22:38:41 UTC
Brian Boysen

I have accessed the FLAG website on many occasions and have recommended it to others. I support the effort to make it more effective and accessible. Information management has become a great challenge. I urge you to help FLAG achieve its website goals.

Thank you
Brian Boysen

2013-02-08 23:22:11 UTC
Poppy Davis

FLAG's work has national as well as local significance. I work with small farmers all over the country, and they could all use a FLAG in their home state. An updated website will benefit the clients FLAG currently serves, it will help the community understand the vital role farmers (and their advocates) play in the local culture and economy, and - as and added bonus - it will help the rest of the country to learn more about the great work FLAG is doing. As a final note of endorsement; even though I already had years of experience working with small and socially disadvantaged farmers I am now a full time law student in no small part because of how much I have been inspired by FLAG's work.

If you eat, thank a farmer. A good way to thank a farmer? Support FLAG.

2013-02-08 23:24:30 UTC
Arnold Lanehart

I hope the Nerdery will give FLAG the help it needs to create a website equal to the organization's mission. A fresh, intuitive, socially-connected, user-friendly, information-rich website can draw a crowd and change the world, but you at the Nerdery know that. You'll juice the exchange of information in three dimensions -- between FLAG and the farmers, between the farmers to their adversaries, and from the public to everyone who counts. I hope you'll give FLAG a hand.

2013-02-09 01:28:56 UTC
Cheryl Crosby

There is no better place for you to focus your talents than The Farmers' Legal Action Group. FLAG provides essential resources for the support of our nation's farmers in its dedication to the mission of advocating for strong agricultural communities, ensuring just legal representation, and seeking appropriate connections between those who struggle and those who can help.

Sadly,the FLAG website does not reflect the energy and sense of possibility of the FLAG organization. A makeover is in order to turn a rather obligatory web presence into a clear and contemporary resource destination. Your expertise will create very tangible benefits for a very deserving cause. Choose FLAG!

2013-02-09 03:05:39 UTC
Susan Schneider

FLAG deserves a website that matches the quality of the work it does. Professional, straight forward, and designed to provide good, solid legal information for those who need it. While the work they do is current, the website is not. Please help them to get their important message out. Our food system depends on it.

I proudly serve on the FLAG Board, and we have been trying to get this done for years. We just need some help. The FLAG attorneys and the FLAG board all do lots of pro bono work - donating their time, energy and expertise to the causes they believe in. Now, let's see them on the receiving end of that kind of generosity.

Thank you -

2013-02-09 17:24:40 UTC

The family farm is essential to our economy and the heart of our way of life. FLAG is like the pacemaker that keeps that heart beating. Nerdery, please help them with their website. Their Executive Director, Susan Stokes, is one of the hardest working, most compassionate women I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Her commitment to family farmers and immigrant farmers is unparalleled. I can't imagine a more worthy cause and I know she'd let you run creatively with the new design.

2013-02-09 18:45:40 UTC

I write in support of FLAG's website overhaul. I have experienced first hand the solid work of the staff of the Farmers Legal Action Group (FLAG)for many years both here in Minnesota and on the national level. We never could have accomplished all we did for farmers without their expert and persistent hard work. To enhance and strengthen their efforts, they truly need to improve their website so that ordinary folks can easily access it. They need this help now. I can't think of another organization that needs an excellent website more than Flag. And I can't imagine one that would find numerous ways to put such an improved web to better use in their on-going fight for the needs and rights of those who use land to grow safe food for others. Most of these farmers could never afford that kind of expert assistance. In addition, FLAG's work is also all about educating those with whom they work. FLAG is a most worthy group for your assistance. Thanks much. Mary Tacheny, SSND

2013-02-09 18:54:31 UTC
Renee Christine

I enthusiastically support FLAG in their endeavor to update their website and continue to serve the farming communities of the heart of our nation. Without good food, farmers, and legal support, our food system as we have known it, will cease to exist. A website is the first place that many people go to in search of information. If FLAG receives a new website, they will be able to disseminate more information to our communities quickly and clearly. I truly hope that you choose FLAG as the organization whose website you choose to update!

2013-02-10 02:17:26 UTC
Rose Wilson

I also have experienced first hand FLAG's work. Please help them with a new website that reflects their work and makes it easy for them to maintain it. It would be great to enable them to add events and set a date for web page expiration, so they can focus on getting out information to farmers who need it rather editing their website to remove expired information. Help them in to the 21st century so they can continue their 21st century advocacy.

2013-02-10 02:18:23 UTC
Rose Wilson

P.S. Nerdery folks you are terrific for helping nonprofits!

2013-02-11 16:45:16 UTC
Thomas Mitchell

Farmers' Legal Action Group has provided amazing legal assistance to family farmers located not just in Minnesota but throughout the country. As a member of FLAG's Board, I constantly observe how FLAG's exceptionally committed staff selflessly provides a full range of services to farmers from many different types of backgrounds. Not only does FLAG provide direct services in some cases, but it also develops cutting-edge, easy to read educational materials that have benefited large numbers of farmers throughout the country. The small organization could do much more to help family farmers survive and prosper and to promote an environmentally sustainable food system if its public relations materials including its web page were updated and easier for farmers to access.

Thank you for considering FLAG's application and thank you for providing such needed web page assistance to worthy organizations in need of such assistance.

2013-02-11 18:01:29 UTC
Pa Lee Yang, University of Minnesota

Farmers' Legal Action Group (FLAG)is the only ogranization that many Hmong farmers relied on for legal assistances and resources. It is a well known community organization, as staff are constantly bringing resources to the community. The upgrade will not only improve FLAG's website, but also increase farmer's access to resources. I strongly support the website upgrade and thank you for helping FLAG and others to improve access to our communities.

2013-02-11 19:10:41 UTC

Flag is one of the few organizations in our nation providing legal aid services to farmers. They help level the playing field by deciphering the byzantine rules and regulations of myriad government agencies that were created by and for agribusiness. They use the internet to disseminate this information and to connect with local farmers everywhere. These are fantastic non-profit lawyers, but really lousy internet marketers – Help these guys out!

2013-02-11 19:24:26 UTC
Allen Brown

FLAG provides unique support for family farming, immigrant farmers, and sustainable agriculture, and is an exemplary not-for-profit organization that would be greatly served by a fix of its web site by Nerdery.

2013-02-11 20:49:23 UTC
Phil Baird

Technology applications and social media are important tools in today's society. And these are ever-changing. The work of the Farmers Legal Action Group is critical in addressing the future of our natural resources and by-products which sustain life. Technical communications are important in terms of communicating FLAG's mission and the ability to network throughout the world. Food resources, food production and food safety are life-changing issues facing all communities in the world. Assisting FLAG with making the necessary technology advances is a very worthy task. Please help.

2013-02-12 18:44:43 UTC

OMG these people need a website overhaul STAT. Right now it is just one big PLOTZ of information. I'm not sure anyone can get it organized in any amount of time. But if you can help PLEASE do.

2013-02-12 19:36:33 UTC
Therese Sherman

Hi Nerdery, I hope that you will sprinkle fairy dust on the FLAG website. I'm a Director of Photography on TV shows and I will set up a professional timelapse of the 24 hour leviathan effort for you to use on your own website. Godspeed Nerds.

2013-02-14 20:59:16 UTC

FLAG is a wonderful organization and deserves support. A better website would faciliate FLAG in getting its message out about how family farmers can advocate for their rights as well as improve communities.

Our Mission

Farmers’ Legal Action Group, Inc. (FLAG) is a 27-year-old nonprofit law center dedicated to providing legal services and support to family farmers and their communities to help keep family farmers on the land. FLAG, a quiet icon among Minnesota nonprofits, has: (a) conducted hundreds of training events in 41 states, attended by more than 33,500 farmers, lawyers, and farm advocates; (b) published more than 100,000 copies of numerous accessible books; and (c) fought for family farmers’ rights in local, state, and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. In recent years FLAG has undertaken a Campaign to Promote Thriving Minority and Immigrant Farm Families, an effort for full enforcement of civil rights protections for and concentrated legal assistance and information to immigrant farmers and ranchers, and farmers and ranchers of color. FLAG’s commitment acknowledges the growing disparity in agriculture between those who are thriving financially and those who are struggling. FLAG’s services have supported African American farmers in the South; Native American farmers and ranchers in Minnesota and the Dakotas; Hmong American farmers in the Upper Midwest; and Latino ranchers in the Southwest.