By Richard Moore, University of New Mexico School of Law
Many of the attendees at the Food Law Student Leadership Summit shared the experience of telling fellow students and professors at their own law schools of their interest in food law and receiving confused responses asking what food law even is. Before attending the Summit I had more in common with those confused peers than with my fellow summit attendees. I first learned about food law as a distinct area of legal practice and study when I received notification about the Summit itself. However, as a law student interested in environmental and natural resources law who spent several years after undergrad operating a small farm, food law seemed like a perfect fit. As a result, unlike some of the students who attended to further an already developed interest, I went to the Food Law Student Leadership Summit to learn about an area of the law that I had just learned existed.
What I experienced at the Summit was a group of engaged students, presenters and organizers having important discussions about the ways in which the law affects and shapes our food systems. Although we weren’t all able to attend every seminar, what has really stuck with me is the breadth of legal disciplines involved in various ways in the food system. One particular panel, in which several attorneys spoke about their careers in food law, highlighted some of these disciplines. The panel had attorneys doing policy, transactional and litigation work in areas as diverse as labor law, business and tax law, and animal law. What tied these attorneys together was less the doctrinal aspects of their work and more their involvement in and dedication to improving our food system. It was encouraging to see the many ways in which it is possible to work in the general area of food law.
Although I didn’t know much about food law going into the Summit and I am uncertain where my legal career will take me, I left the Summit energized and excited about the possibilities in the practice of food law. By spending a weekend meeting likeminded students, engaging in discussions about pressing and difficult issues, and gaining insight from experts in the field, I learned a great deal about how food systems and the law interact. Having learned about food law and its possibilities, I can say that I now share that common experience of those interested in food law. After returning home to New Mexico I have had many conversations with fellow students about the Summit and had the pleasure of explaining food law, its importance, and its breadth to those who have never heard the term. These kinds of conversations are one of the great benefits of the Summit, sending students back to their schools all over the country to share what they learned with their peers and hopefully excite more people about the possibilities of food law.