This fall, students at the WVU College of Law are putting their skills to work on a variety of local food policy issues facing West Virginia. How did this happen, and what are they working on? Alison Peck, law professor, thought her Agriculture & Food Law class would be a good opportunity to give the students a chance to do experiential work.
That’s where The West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition came in. Executive Director Elizabeth Spellman (a graduate of Vermont Law School) coordinated with Professor Peck to visit the class, providing a variety of project ideas to the class. With very few lawyers able to specialize in agricultural law, this was a great opportunity to introduce the students to the need for agriculture and food law practitioners.
Students have taken on a range of West Virginia local food projects. These projects include research on cottage foods laws, local procurement incentives, tax incentives for food donations, creating a toolkit for businesses wanting to use the newly updated cooperative law, and another toolkit for farmer landowners about their rights if they are only surface owners, and a guidance document on what counties can do, production wise, with FEMA buyout property. One student is even working to provide support to the future Greenbrier Valley Farm Incubator.
At this point the class has been going on for 6 weeks, and the projects are progressing. Students are in the first phase: talking to stakeholders and gathering information. Once they’re done, they’ll take some time teaching their fellow classmates about their project, so that everyone gets a sense of the research and existing literature. Then, each student will meet with Professor Peck and their project’s stakeholders, and define the scope of their project to be completed by the end of the class. These projects will be accompanied by final reports that will include potential next steps for stakeholders, which we’ll make available if possible.
So far, this collaboration between The West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition and the WVU College of Law has been a success. A number of the students are very excited about agriculture and food law, with several members planning on attending the American Agricultural Law Association Conference in Charleston, South Carolina.
It’s an exciting time for local food policy here in West Virginia!
A product of this course: FEMA Buyout Land is Packed With Opportunities for Agriculture, by Christopher Hogan, Student West Virginia University College of Law.FEMA-Buyout-Land-is-Packed-With-Opportunities-for-Agriculture