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Last April, a contract was signed by a handful of South Valley farmers and Mesa del Sol representatives, providing for the landscaping of the grounds at the new development south of Albuquerque.
Standing proudly to the side was UNM law student Kristina Fisher, who, with classmate Stephen Cash, put together the operating agreement and additional contracts as part of a project in the Business and Tax Clinic.
The Rio Grande Growers Association is made up of four South Valley landscape growers and greenhouse operators who came together as a group in order to provide the landscaping plants to Mesa del Sol. The association was organized and is managed by the South Valley Economic Development Center (SVEDC), which filed articles of incorporation before seeking the assistance of the UNM clinical program.
The operating agreement that created the growers' new LLC was produced by Fisher and Cash under the supervision of Professor Nathalie Martin. The agreement with Mesa del Sol provides $100,000 for the SVEDC's administrative costs, along with startup costs for the growers. Mesa del Sol will require its landscapers to purchase about 50 percent of all plants going in at the development from the association. That money then goes straight to the growers.
As she delved into her research, Fisher, who didn't even know what an LLC was before the project, learned how to tailor the contract to best meet everyone's needs.
"We gave the SVEDC a lot of control for the first few years, after which they will hand over the operation to the growers association," she says.
She and Cash also wrote contracts that spelled out how the LLC would purchase plants from the individual greenhouses for sale to Mesa del Sol. This summer, clinic students will continue with the project, writing contracts between the growers and the LLC and between the LLC and Mesa del Sol.
"Before my clinical rotation, I was totally intimidated by the practice of law," says Fisher, who graduated first in her class last May. "Now I feel like I could do these things, that there is nothing magical about it.
"It was a huge amount of work, but so rewarding and worthwhile with clients who were responsive and appreciative of our work. It made me feel like I was making a difference," she added.
Fisher is now associate director of Think New Mexico, a results-oriented think tank in Santa Fe, her hometown.
In the photo (l-r): Bernalillo County Commissioner Teresa Cordova, SVEDC Executive Director Tony Gallegos and Harry Relkin, director of land development for Mesa del Sol at the signing ceremony.