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 that provide support and solutions for legal, business and policy initiatives of new food movement stakeholders, including farmers, food producers, food entrepreneurs, consumers, health care professionals, legislators and advocates.
We are unique. Only a handful of law clinics nation-wide 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 (farmers, laborers, food entrepreneurs, consumers, legislators, advocates, etc.) 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;
- Exerting 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" (with an in-house designer) to accomplish the task of reverse-engineering our project deliverables from our target-audience's specific law, policy and business goals. We collaborate with organizations representing our target-audiences interests (like nonprofits organizations and law firms) to ensure that the resources we create are needed and user-friendly to the communities we aim to support.
We see non-profit organizations, governments, and businesses locally, nationally and internationally engaged in disseminating legal information to targeted groups for education and advocacy purposes. Likewise, we see advocates using technology to convey information in widespread and compelling ways. Our hope is that by teaching students to thoughtfully and inclusively design and disseminate law and policy resources, we are preparing them to serve higher causes worldwide.
Example Clinic Projects
- Farmers Market Toolkit. Driven by a four-year USDA grant, we are collaborating with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of VT and the national Farmers Market Coalition to create and disseminate a Farmers Market Legal Toolkit (website) 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), the acceptance of federal 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 Guide. With USDA support, we are collaborating with BCM Environmental & Land Law PLLC and Jambor Heyman Lawyers for Good Food to create and disseminate a Farmland Access Legal Guide (website) meant to help farmers understand the legal architecture of farmland access arrangements that are uniquely affordably 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.
For more information, please contact Clinic Director Aurora Moses at AMoses@vermontlaw.edu.