Sustainable Economies Law Center Food Program

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"Our food system is not well served by today’s predominant food business models, which incentivize growth, shareholder profit maximization, absentee ownership, and exploitation of resources. The ownership and governance structures of an enterprise largely determine the motivations that drive it. Large, centralized food producers are usually driven by financial bottom lines, to the detriment of more important ends: the survival and sustainability of our food system and the provision of sustainable livelihoods to people working in the food system. The cornerstone of SELC’s work on sustainable food production is the belief that food enterprises should be owned and/or controlled by the local communities that depend on them.

Workshops, manuals and other resources

SELC partners with the Green Collar Communities Clinic (at the East Bay Community Law Center) and Students for Economic and Environmental Justice to put on workshops about legal topics related to start-up food justice enterprises."

Refugee Farmer Project

In and around Fresno, CA, approximately 1300 Hmong and Lao refugees operate small family farms. SELC worked with this community to address common employment law barriers encountered when the farmers engage in cooperative farming practices and involve family and friends in the labor of their farms. SELC prioritizes these employment law issues because they are key legal barriers in the creation of sustainable localized economies, and they impact communities far beyond Fresno. For more information on this project, see SELC’s Work in the New Economy Program.

Legalize Seeds

"At SELC, we want to live in a world where people can share resources with each other to promote our collective wellbeing, economic resilience, and sustainability. From housing to transportation to energy, our goal is to promote shared use and stewardship over the long term. Of all the things that people might share with each other, seeds are one of the most basic and most important resources to which everyone should have open and equitable access.After all, seeds are the source of all the food, and much of the fiber and fuel, that we use and need to survive.

For over 10,000 years, we collectively recognized the importance of seeds, and shared them with each other in order to sustain our communities. Today, people continue that tradition of sharing in a variety of ways, including through seed lending libraries where members can "check out" seeds, grow food for themselves, and "return" seeds to the library at the end of the season to share with others.

So when we heard that seed libraries were being shut down by state regulators back in June, 2014, we decided to do something about it. We researched these seed laws being applied by state departments of agriculture and found that, in some cases, these laws are being misapplied, and in other cases, that seed laws need to be changed to protect seed libraries' rights to share locally grown and saved seed."


California Homemade Food Act

SELC helped to draft the California Homemade Food Act, which passed in 2012. Click here to find out more. SELC has also conducted research on laws in many U.S. states that allow for the limited sale of homemade food .

California Neighborhood Food Act

SELC drafted and advocated for the passage of a law in California in 2014 that prevents landlords and homeowners associations from prohibiting urban agriculture within reasonable limits. Click here for more information.

More Resources