Law school is intense. I knew this to be true from friends’ experiences, lawyers themselves, and the general associations law schools tend to have – but, you never really know the extent until you’re thrown into the gamut. I’m pursuing what is essentially a Master’s of Law degree, focused on food and agriculture. I’ve started in classes with 2Ls and 3Ls, which has made for a high-intensity crash course in law. I’m learning an enormous amount and having some of the most challenging conversations I’ve ever had about culture, governance, power, and the beliefs that brought us all to the small town of South Royalton, Vermont.
Though I’m immersing myself in the rigor of the law, my anthropological training from undergrad can’t seem to escape me (nor will I let it!). Since I am not chasing after the bar, I am able to be a participant observer with a unique vantage point of this new socio-cultural environment. Through class assignments, group work, and social interactions and organizations, we are being taught to think, write, speak, and interact like lawyers, and the habitus of it all tends toward strong leadership, hyper-critical and analytical thinking, a somewhat competitive disposition, but also a very discerning eye and a listening ear. In the midst of this juggling act of classes, clubs, the toils of cooking for one, exercising, and sleeping, I’ve felt a need, an urgent calling if you will, to balance this conditioning and the habitus of it all with times of checking in with myself and the reasons that inspired me to be here. Thankfully, I’ve managed to consistently create space in my mind and schedule for adventure, which, for me and my spirit, is absolutely essential.
Here are a few of my favorite trips from my first month in Vermont:
Farm to Ballet at Fable Farms
Fable Farm is a glorious landscape of floral and agricultural bounty, in the next town over of Barnard. The farm began as a CSA, but has since partnered with Heartwood Farm creating a larger collective farming effort. They have expanded their operations to include a fermentory, a venue, and a culinary company serving up farm fresh prepared foods with their partners at the Feast and Field Market each week.
I ventured over to Fable Farms to see the Farm to Ballet Project, intersecting agriculture and the arts in a way that I had never experienced before. Professional and beginning ballet dancers floated through the grass in costumes of tomatoes, lettuce, geese, bees, farmers, and a golden rooster weather vane, all for the sake of telling the story of a farming season. It began with the geese flying in and the planting season beginning, all the way through harvesting and CSA share pick ups, with the hiccups of drought and someone forgetting their tote bag at the market beautifully elaborated. It was wonderful to experience yet another innovative and meaningful way of spreading agricultural wisdom to wider communities.
The Intervale Center
This semester, I am working as a research associate with the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS). CAFS is one of the most comprehensive food policy organizations in the country, providing legal resource tool kits for those working in food systems on topics including gleaning, land tenure, farmers market structure, and food labeling. The CAFS team took a trip to the Intervale Center in Burlington, for a tour with Sam Smith, Intervale’s Farm Business Specialist. I was especially excited to visit the Intervale because one of my projects with Firsthand Foods was modeled after their Wallace Center case study.
The Invervale Center is located on 350 acres of bottomland along the Winooski River. They are a nonprofit organization working to strengthen community food systems. Since their founding in 1988, they’ve been dedicated to improving farm viability, promoting sustainable land use, and engaging the local community in the food system. They incubate new farmers and food businesses with the aim of helping them develop viable plans moving forward, through consultation, a robust mentorship program, and through the overall support of the Intervale community. A berry farm, juice bar business, and many food service and farm operations have successfully moved through the Intervale’s incubation program.
After a great tour with Sam of the grounds, community gardens, and work spaces, the group enjoyed the festivities of Summervale, Intervale’s weekly summer market and celebration. Live music, local food vendors (many of which work with or have been incubated by the Intervale!), community food organizations, and a clearly connected and supportive community conglomerated for a great evening. Before heading out, I met Gabrielle of TomGirl Juice Co., a beautiful and bright woman dedicated to providing women of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds with the best and most delicious nutrition possible. I tried a weekend juice cleanse, which was phenomenal. Her maple nut milk was seriously the best nut milk I’ve ever had in my life, and everything else was equally amazing.
Maine Sail Freight
I’ve been following the Greenhorns for some time, and earlier this year I hosted a screening of their documentary to get some other like-minded folks onto their mission. The Greenhorns are a kick-ass coalition dedicated to supporting, encouraging, and promoting the next generation of farmers. I ventured to Boston with my friend Sarah, an incredible farmer (Kearsarge Gore Farm, NH), artist, and activist, to welcome their latest project – an old school wooden schooner sailed down from Maine to Boston harbor loaded with 11 tons of Maine produce and food products. In response to the impact of the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a free trade agreement) on New England agriculture, the Maine Sail Freight was an elaborate artistic demonstration of the fact that regional producers can supply New England cities with their foods and other goods. The Greenhorns partnered with Fiddler’s Green Farm, Crown o’ Maine Organic Cooperative, Boston Public Market, Experience Maritime Maine, Penobscot Marine Museum, METRO Pedal Power and many others in the local and regional food scenes.
After battling Boston traffic (I’m getting anxiety thinking about it right now), we made it to Long Wharf and spent time with Severine and other young farmers and activists celebrating the bounty of Maine farmers and the values of the seas.The schooner’s bounty is available at the Boston Public Market throughout September.
Whatever your occupation, whatever your purpose – I hope that you too will find ways to create space for adventure, and a continual rekindling of inspiration and spirit.