Detroit Mercy Law courses grow with the times

“It is very important that we, as future lawyers and advocates, be able to understand the communities we are helping and what areas of law are important to these community members,” said Emina Alic, a second-year student in Detroit Mercy Law’s evening program. 

That’s why she took part in an immersion course in urban agriculture. Through a series of guest speakers and site visits, students learned about the legal issues that face urban agricultural entities. Land acquisition, zoning for livestock and produce, insurance and liability for small farmer-retailers, water management, and green development were among the topics covered.

Taught by Professor Jacqueline Hand and Adjunct Professor Amanda Gregory, the weeklong summer course addressed pressing needs for a growing industry, not just in Detroit, but in urban areas across the country. It was created in response to the increase in the number of urban gardens in Detroit. Hundreds of lots formerly plagued by abandoned houses and crab grass are now home to chicken coops, flower and vegetable gardens, and large-scale drip irrigation fields blooming with crops of all kinds. While the majority of these urban gardens are the result of residential cooperatives, dozens of farms have also set up shop in Detroit.

Most of these small farms spring from a desire to put vacant land to use and provide healthy and sustainable resources to the surrounding community. However, actually starting and maintaining a thriving urban farm comes with significant legal considerations and challenges.

“This course opened up my eyes to the many different areas of law that are out there,” Alic said.

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