Law School graduates’ urban farming bill signed into law

Last weekend, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 551, which was initiated by the research of two Stanford Law School (SLS) graduates, Nicholas Reed ‘02 JD ‘12 and Juan Carlos Cancino ‘02 JD ‘08.

The bill enacts the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, which authorizes small-scale urban farming under the approval of state counties.

According to Reed, he and Cancino developed a friendship during their undergraduate years at Stanford starting when they were freshman year roommates.

Under the guidance of Richard Ford ‘88, a law school professor who specializes in local government and law, Reed said he was inspired to begin an independent research project on urban agriculture—a topic he is passionate about. Cancino, who graduated four years before Reed, assisted him as the Alumni Mentor-in-Residence at Stanford Law School.

“I realized that there was a problem to solve, and at SLS we identified the problems around us and sought to resolve them,” Reed said.

After two years of research, Reed finished his independent project on urban agriculture in Palo Alto during his third year at SLS and published his work in the Stanford Law and Policy Review. However, with the guidance of Ford and the help of Cancino, he expanded his project into AB 551.

The bill developed gradually from Reed and Cancino’s involvement with the San Francisco Greenhouse Project, a nonprofit organization that advocates for urban agricultural development and planning. The duo was also part of the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance, an organization that supports small-scale farming in cities.

Reed said they shared their findings from the initial research project with the residents of Palo Alto and were soon invited by the state assembly in Sacramento to testify on the matter with both the assembly and the state senate. After receiving positive responses from both legislative bodies, the two Stanford alums partook in the actual crafting of the bill.

Reed and Cancino said students should keep in mind the positive outcomes their research may lead to.

“We often feel like the work we’re doing in academia will never see the light of day,” Reed said. “I think that students should bear in mind that they have an impact. They should approach problems with a positive mentality.”

Cancino expressed similar sentiments, specifically for SLS students.

“Don’t look at your time at law school as time away from the world,” he said. “Try to seize the opportunity to try to change the local places [and your environment] for the better.”

However, Reed said the bill’s passage did not finalize its effects.

“The law has passed, but counties in California still need to opt in,’” he said. “We hope that Stanford students and the residents of Palo Alto help obtain local support from their counties to see true light in the bill.”

Reed is now a co-founder of Ravel Law, a start-up created to make legal research easier for lawyers. Cancino is currently a lawyer for a nonprofit legal organization, the California Rural Legal Assistance.

Contact Peter Samuel Moon at pmoon@stanford.edu.

About Peter Samuel Moon

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