Alia Ornstein is a lawyer-turned farmer-turned lawyer. The daughter of a Polish immigrant and a high school Science teacher, grand daughter of Old World farmers, and mother to two dirt-loving young Brooklynites, Alia is all about the respectful reinterpretation of traditions in the service of building a better world.
So how does one go from eating fresh-picked malinka in her grandparents’ garden to litigating federal cases for a high-powered law firm–then come full circle back to the soil? For Alia, it all comes down to advocacy, and her training as a representative began early. Her father was an environmentalist before it was cool, and instilled in Alia a deep respect for the planet. Her mother, immigrating from Eastern Europe, made sure Alia did not forget her heritage, sharing with her daughter the importance of family and community. They raised their daughter to believe that we all share a duty to take care of the world around us. And so, Alia set out to do just that–beginning with her fellow high school classmates, as the first female class president–and the only girl to run.
From there, it was on to Harvard as a Stride Rite Scholar–a recognition of her commitment to community service–where she majored in Government, and then on to USC Gould School of Law, again on a scholarship, this time academic. While at USC, she served on the Board of the Public Interest Law Foundation and raised a record amount of scholarship funds for students to work as public interest lawyers. Upon passing the bar, Alia was quickly snapped up by Winston & Strawn, LLP as a Labor and Employment Attorney, with an expertise in equal employment opportunity matters and non-competes.
But after years spent practicing corporate law, Alia began to long for a sense of community that didn’t expire at the end of a case, and the feeling of her hands in the soil. And so, in 2012, she gave her notice and joined the team at Brooklyn Grange as part of the farm crew.
In the intervening years, Alia vied for the title of fastest bed prepper, and upon taking over wholesales in 2013, crushed previous sales records. But as the business grew, so did Alia’s family. With two kids at home, the long hours of physically challenging work began to feel even longer. So, it was kismet when the farm’s co-founders approached her about shifting focus–and donning the legal hat she’d hung up a few years prior.
As General Counsel at Brooklyn Grange, Alia is able to marry her instinct for advocacy with her sharp legal prowess, supporting a community of colleagues she loves and a company whose mission speaks to the values with which she was raised. Amongst her duties, she handles all contract matters–from drafting department-specific agreements to negotiating and revising external documents, to navigating complex commercial transactions . She co-manages our HR department with CFO, Melissa Kuzoian, fostering trainings and growth opportunities across the team. Alia manages risk and liability, from regulatory audits to food safety oversight and OSHA compliance. She contributes strategic counsel at the executive level on how to align Brooklyn Grange’s mission with its business needs, and simultaneously provides moral support to the whole crew on the hardest and hottest harvest days.
When she’s not at work, Alia is with her family. You can find them getting their hands covered in dirt, bellies full of fresh-picked tomatoes and buckets full of weeds, taking joy in the world they were raised to serve.