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February 6, 2014

Pushing 'Good Food' at Vermont Law School

LoquiturIt's no secret that food sells, especially when it comes to magazines. Yet the striking blueberry pie that appears on the cover of Vermont Law School's Loquitur — as well as the picture of dean Marc Mihaly sautéeing a veggie omelette — promise something different than recipes within. 

The entire Winter 2013 issue of Loquitur, VLS' alumni magazine, is devoted to food — "Good Food," as the cover promises — as well as the people who work to grow, make and protect it.

“We focused this issue of Loquitur on food for several reasons," writes Peter Glenshaw, VLS' director of communications, in an email. "Our faculty and alumni are actively engaged in this sector, and with the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at Vermont Law, we are now seeing a new generation of students express a deep interest in the topic."

Besides the usual alumni news, this Loquitur highlights VLS graduates who have become farmers or food producers; a piece about how the legal needs of the farmers and producers might create a new crop of law-related jobs (written by Ben Hewitt, author of The Town That Food Saved); and a profile of VLS' one-year-old Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, which is developing food-ag curriculum for students and advocacy and policy guidance for farmers and food producers.

"Food offers a good platform to convey the importance of legal education and the power that law has on something we do every day — eat!" adds Glenshaw.

At first glance, food and the law might not seem like natural companions. But they certainly are at South Royalton's VLS, which is physically surrounded by working landscape. "There is so much going on in the food movement, and I think that one of the benefits of having the Center [for Agriculture and Food Systems] at the law school is that we're watching the new food movement unfold here, and participating in it," says Laurie Ristino, who last year left her gig as a senior counsel at the USDA to become CAFS' director. "We want farmers to know that we're not in an ivory tower here."

Ristino and her staff have been dynamic in the Center's first year, setting up an expanded food-based curriculum; a website on food labeling; a legal clinic to provide expanded education and advocacy; and partnerships with organizations such as the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) with whom CAFS will set up a suite of tools for those who run farmers markets.

"[Farmers markets] don't always have advisory boards or governance boards to make sure that they run well," says Ristino. "We're going to provide a suite of user-friendly solutions and documents that can be used off-the-shelf, and stand the test of time — to make sure they have that infrastructure and backbone to stay robust."

These are the unsexy, wonky but necessary parts of a healthy food system. Through Loquitur, we get to read all about it. Hope VLS has plenty of pie at the ready. 


Loquitur cover photograph by Bob Rossi; pie baked by Lou's Restaurant in Hanover, N.H.

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