Emily M . Broad Leib and Amanda L . Kool Using Cross - practice Collaboration to Meet the Evolving Legal Needs of Local Food Entrepreneurs

  • Published 2013


Published in Natural Resources & Environment Volume 28, Number 2, Fall 2013. © 2013 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. R ecent years have seen a dramatic shift in consumer attitudes regarding where and how the food they purchase is produced. Responding to the consequences of the consolidated national food supply that occurred as a result of proindustrialization policies and a market driven primarily by cost-efficiency, buyers have grown increasingly aware of the hidden costs of inexpensive food. A growing number of shoppers prefer locally sourced, sustainably produced food and are willing to pay a premium for it. To see this shift in demand, one need only look at the increase in the number of farmers markets across the United States over the past decade: the USDA reports that 8,144 farmers markets are in operation in 2013, which is nearly double the number that existed in 2006. National Count of Farmers Market Directory Listings, USDA-AMS-Marketing Services Division, www.ams. usda.gov/AMSv1.0/ams.fetchTemplateData.do?template=Tem plateS&leftNav=WholesaleandFarmersMarkets&page=WFM FarmersMarketGrowth&description=Farmers%20Market%20 Growth (Aug. 3, 2013). The reasons for this shift are multifaceted. Some consumers seek to promote economic development in their communities and thus financially support local businesses by spending their “food dollars” on local food. Other shoppers “buy local” because they recognize that purchasing locally grown food can decrease the negative environmental impacts of food transportation by reducing the number of miles that food travels from the farm to the table. Some consumers seek to replace processed, packaged products in their diets with fresher, more nutritious foods. While the reasons for the change in consumer choices are varied, the cumulative effect is a demand for local foods that has outstripped the supply, thereby creating profitable opportunities for entrepreneurs to produce and sell locally sourced foods. Many urban farms must now employ seasonal labor to keep up with increased production. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) operations must expand operations or implement waitlists to manage growing customer interest. Likewise, artisanal baked goods and home-canned products are in high demand, as are the individuals possessing the skills to produce them. There is money to be made by entrepreneurs willing to enter local food markets. Unfortunately, as the U.S. food chain grew and consolidated, so did the legal and regulatory regime that governs the food system. The existing body of laws is intended to apply to massive food industries and is thus ill-equipped to govern small-scale, local food enterprises. While local and state governments have in some instances stepped in to encourage policy changes that would accommodate the shift in consumer demand toward local food by encouraging entrepreneurs to step into this field, there are still many legal barriers that stand between local food entrepreneurs and the customers they hope to serve. Even in places where local laws and policies are tailored to small-scale food enterprises, barriers to market entry still persist, especially for entrepreneurs who lack the resources to conduct legal research or retain counsel to assist in developing their enterprises. This article begins by highlighting several of the legal barriers commonly faced by local food businesses. The article then demonstrates that policy lawyers and transactional lawyers can effectively collaborate to improve the food system by providing synergistic feedback that informs each other’s practices, thereby improving service for food-related clients and enhancing the legal environment for future local food entrepreneurs. The article describes the methods that two clinics at Harvard Law School—the Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Community Enterprise Project of the Transactional Law Clinics—have used to provide comprehensive assistance to food truck entrepreneurs in support of a more robust local food system in Boston. The article concludes with examples of additional ways in which a cross-practice, cyclical model of client service can be applied by different legal teams to better serve food entrepreneurs and improve the success of local and alternative food systems. Although this article details a particular model of cross-practice work, it aims to encourage proliferation of this model through tailored, cross-practice collaboration among lawyers operating in a variety of settings to address a range of local food industry issues, or those issues inherent in other emerging industries.

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{2013EmilyM, title={Emily M . Broad Leib and Amanda L . Kool Using Cross - practice Collaboration to Meet the Evolving Legal Needs of Local Food Entrepreneurs}, author={}, year={2013} }