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Food and Agriculture Clinic

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Who We Are

The Food and Agriculture Clinic is one of the only law school clinics in the United States exclusively devoted to the food system.   

Our student clinicians are JD, Master’s and LLM candidates in Vermont Law School’s top-ranking environmental law program. They represent the next generation of law and policy leaders, committed to advancing a more just, sustainable, and humane food system. Student clinicians work under the close supervision of licensed attorneys, including Food and Agriculture Clinic Director Sophia Kruszewski and the faculty and staff at the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, including Director Laurie Beyranevand, Professor Emily Spiegel, and Senior Legal Fellow Francine Miller.

Students in the Food and Agriculture Clinic work on practical projects with real-world implications. We collaborate with local, regional, national, and international partners, and engage in law and policy work that addresses challenges related to food and land justice, public health, the economy, food security, and animal welfare. Distinctively, our clinic has developed law and policy resources focused on: farmland access and stewardship; food and farm business organization and structure; food security; labor laws affecting the food and agricultural sectors; animal welfare; public health; plant breeding; local and regional food system development; and compliance with complex federal and state laws affecting the food system. Through this work, student clinicians apply and refine their skills in legal research and writing while gaining experience in communications, project management, advocacy, and leadership.  

 

FROM OUR STUDENT CLINICIANS:


"Not only has the experience given me something of substance to put on my resume, but it has also broadened my interests in agriculture law and has given me many networking opportunities.”

–Sedona Chavez JD'20


"[The Clinic] provided an invaluable experience to gain additional skills and work experience while maintaining the security of an engaged support system.”

–Alyssa Hartman MFALP’19, Executive Director, Artisan Grain Collaborative


"To be involved in this clinic is a unique and powerful experience, and I will be a better lawyer for it.”

–Lauren Wustenberg JD/MFALP'21

WHAT WE DO

The Food and Agriculture Clinic offers the following law and policy services: (1) development of legal tools and resources; (2) policy counsel; and (3) direct legal services for farmers, food enterprises, and related organizations, largely through the Vermont Legal Food Hub.

LEGAL TOOLS AND RESOURCES

A laptop on a table open with a document titled Fiid Safety Modernization Act.


We partner with nonprofit and community-based organizations to develop legal tools and educational materials that help food system stakeholders navigate various legal topics. For example:

▶ The clinic works with the Farmers Market Coalition and NOFA-VT to create legal resources for market managers nationwide through the Farmers Market Legal Toolkit.

▶ In collaboration with the Vermont-based nonprofit Migrant Justice, we created educational materials (published in English and in Spanish) that empower farmworkers to better understand their legal rights.

▶ We partnered with the Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety and University of Vermont Extension to answer farmers’ and food producers’ pressing legal questions about food safety compliance.

▶ Working with Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, we produced a guide to support plant breeders in preserving biodiversity by putting their innovations in the public domain.

POLICY COUNSEL

Food and Agriculture Clinic Director Sophia Kruszewski smiles while explaining a concept to students sitting around a table.


We help food system organizations engage in legislative and administrative advocacy. For example:

▶ On behalf of our client the State Innovation Exchange, we analyzed state laws that promote local farm products to create a menu of policy options for progressive legislators.

▶ We worked with regional organization Farm to Institution New England to identify policies that impact the prison food system.

▶ We wrote a public comment letter on behalf of a consortium of law schools called the Farm Bill Legal Enterprise to call attention to the incongruity between federal nutrition policy and agricultural policy.

▶ We also assist organizations in the nuts and bolts of advocacy campaigns: from drafting policy recommendations and legislative language, to conducting legal research for public comment letters and amicus briefs, to submitting FOIA requests and developing communications advocacy strategies (e.g. testimony, talking points, and press releases).

DIRECT LEGAL SERVICES

Icon of a person with a watering can, watering plants.


We provide business-related legal services to local farmers, food entrepreneurs, and related organizations in Vermont.

▶ We conducted a regulatory assessment for Food Connects, a nonprofit organization and food hub in Brattleboro.

▶ We reviewed a farm equipment use agreement for members of the Connecticut River Watershed Farmers Alliance.

▶ We assisted the Vermont Farmers Food Center in Rutland on an intellectual property matter.

Many of these clients come to the clinic through the Vermont Legal Food Hub, a joint initiative between CAFS and Conservation Law Foundation (CLF). The Vermont Legal Food Hub matches income-eligible food system stakeholders with free legal services. As primary administrator of the Vermont hub, CAFS places some clients with our growing network of volunteer attorneys, including the Food and Agriculture Clinic, which gives students an opportunity to work on real world cases that support Vermont’s local food system under the supervision of a licensed attorney.

WORK WITH US

Are you an organization interested in working with the Food and Agriculture Clinic on policy advocacy or to develop legal resources for your community?

If so, please email cafs@vermontlaw.edu with “Clinic” in the subject line, and include a few brief statements describing: your organization, the legal or policy issue and/or the goals of your project, the type of legal or policy assistance you’re seeking, and an anticipated timeline. Projects can run a single semester (generally August to December or January to April), though projects may span multiple semesters depending on scope and final product. It generally takes a few months from when we first receive an inquiry to finalize a client engagement letter outlining the scope of work, so we encourage you to submit inquiries early.


Are you a Vermont farmer, food entrepreneur, or food system organization seeking legal assistance for your business?

Please submit a request for assistance through the Vermont Legal Food Hub or the online intake form.

Three farmers planting a row of seedlings on a farm
CAFS Projects
Learn more about the projects we work on at the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems and the Food and Agriculture Clinic.
Students sitting around a table in the Food and Agriculture Clinic
Study with Us
Pursue a Vermont Law School degree while working in the Food and Agriculture Clinic.
Clinical Teaching Fellow Whitney Shields and Clinic Director Sophia Kruszewski stand outside a wooden barn door in South Royalton, Vermont.
Our Team
Lean more about Clinic Director Sophia Kruszewski and the team behind CAFS and the Food and Agriculture Clinic.