The Food and Agriculture Clinic equips students with practical skills to be sustainable food and agriculture advocates and entrepreneurs. Student clinicians work with VLS faculty and local, regional, and national partners to develop and disseminate legal resources for food system stakeholders, including farmers, food producers, food entrepreneurs, consumers, laborers, health care professionals, legislators, and advocates.
We are unique. Only a handful of law clinics nationwide are exclusively dedicated to food & agriculture. Distinctively, we focus on creating legal resources that are meant to put the law in the hands of food system constituencies so that they may achieve their law, policy, and business goals, including:
- Understanding how to affordably access farmland;
- Developing sustainable food and farm businesses;
- Managing food production, labeling and waste;
- Asserting rights as laborers;
- Protecting animal welfare;
- Strengthening local food markets;
- Making fresh, healthy food affordable to low-income communities;
- Leveraging legislation to create new food system initiatives, like farm to school programs;
- Promoting environmental sustainability and social justice across the food system.
Emphasis on Collaboration & Design. Further, we are perhaps the only clinic nationally that engages in, and teaches, "design thinking" to accomplish the task of reverse-engineering our project deliverables from our target audience's specific law and policy goals. We collaborate with organizations representing our target audiences' interests (like nonprofit organizations and law firms) to ensure that the resources we create are needed and are user-friendly for the communities we aim to support.
Our hope is that by teaching students to thoughtfully and inclusively design and disseminate law and policy resources, we are preparing them to serve local and global communities.
Example Clinic Projects
- Farmers Market Legal Toolkit. Funded by a four-year USDA grant, we collaborated with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of VT and the national Farmers Market Coalition to create a Farmers Market Legal Toolkit meant to help farmers market leaders nationally identify and navigate key legal issues that arise in starting and operating farmers markets, including governance (business entity selection), accepting SNAP/EBT benefits, and risk management. Through this project, we aim to support the growth of local food systems, and to promote food security and the public health.
- Farmland Access Legal Toolkit. With USDA support, we are collaborating with BCM Environmental & Land Law, PLLC and Heyman Legal to create and disseminate a Farmland Access Legal Toolkit meant to help farmers understand the legal architecture of farmland access arrangements that are uniquely affordable and equitable, and to help landowners balance earning needed income for retirement with making their land affordable to the next generation of farmers. Through this project, we again aim to support the growth of local and regional food and agriculture systems.
- Farm to School Guide. Supported by a grant from Newman's Own, we collaborated with the Washington, D.C.-based National Farm to School Network to develop a guide meant to help legislators, school administrators, and farm to school advocates understand how to use state legislation to create and support robust farm to school programs. This project promotes local and regional food and agriculture systems, food security, and the public health.
To learn more, please contact Assistant Professor Emily Spiegel at firstname.lastname@example.org.