Using Cross-practice Collaboration to Meet the Evolving Legal Needs of Local Food Entrepreneurs

Vol. 28 No. 2

Ms. Broad Leib is a clinical instructor and lecturer on law, as well as director of the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic. Ms. Kool is an attorney and clinical fellow in the Harvard Law School Transactional Law Clinics.

Recent 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 (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.

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