Home Law School News Drake Law alumna attends law school after career change

Drake Law alumna attends law school after career change

Poppy Davis, a 2014 graduate of Drake Law School, has recently been hired by SAGE (Sustainable Agriculture Education) as program director. Her role is to expand the organization’s capacity to develop and implement strategies for revitalizing urban-edge agricultural places that sustain and define cities.

SAGE is a lean, entrepreneurial nonprofit organization in Berkeley, Calif., headed by Sibella Kraus, recipient of the Growing Green Regional Food Leader Award.

Davis began her career as a California Certified Public Accountant specializing in family-scale agricultural businesses and associations. She translated her intimate knowledge of agricultural issues and farm-family decision-making to the policy arena, working for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), first for the crop insurance program in the Western Region and most recently as the National Program Leader for Small Farms and Beginning Farmers and Ranchers in Washington, D.C.

While at the USDA she served as a member of the management team for Secretary Vilsack’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, and co-founded the USDA 4 Veterans, Reservists & Military Families, and Women and Working Lands workgroups.

She holds a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics from the University of California at Davis, a Masters in Journalism from Georgetown University, and a Juris Doctor with a certificate in Agricultural Law from Drake University Law School.

Davis is also a past fellow of the California Agricultural Leadership Program (Class 35) and has served on a number of nonprofit boards including the Farmer-Veteran Coalition, Center for Land Based Learning, and Community Alliance with Family Farmers.

During her career in Washington, D.C., Davis met Neil Hamilton, Dwight D. Opperman Chair of Law, Professor of Law, and Director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake, both through her own work and through those with whom she worked closely. Many of her colleagues were graduates of Hamilton’s program either from Drake or the University of Arkansas.

Davis came to a point in her career where she realized that without a J.D. degree, she couldn’t really accomplish what she wanted to accomplish in her career. She wanted to pursue a law degree for career…and for herself. Drake Law was a natural choice based both on what she knew from friends and colleagues and the reputation of the Agricultural Law Center.

Hamilton, Davis, and the agricultural law staff meet with Secretary Vilsack during a visit to Drake Law

“I was very excited when Poppy Davis decided to resign her senior position at USDA to come to Drake Law School,” says Hamilton. “She embodies how someone in mid-career can use a focused legal education to change the trajectory of their life.”

Although Davis’ story of law school may be different than most, her education at Drake Law School has broadened her knowledge in ways that truly enhance her understanding and effectiveness in her new position.

“Poppy was a great example of a mid-career law student who came to Drake with a wealth of experience in the world of agriculture and is now using her law degree to further advance that career,” says Matt Russell, resilient agriculture coordinator at Drake Law School. “The Drake University Agricultural Law Center greatly benefited as we employed Poppy on a number of projects working with new and beginning farmers including military veterans interested in careers in agriculture.”

For the next step, SAGE is a perfect fit for Davis.

Working through multi-partner collaborations, SAGE develops place-based projects, toolkits and conceptual frameworks to demonstrate strategies for urban-edge farmland preservation, regeneration, and re-connection with healthy cities. SAGE also provides agriculture-related technical services such as foodshed and agricultural economic viability assessments, implementation plans and business plans.

Partners include public agencies, land trusts, agricultural enterprises and associations, planning and economic consultancy firms, public-interest organizations working in the area of public health, healthy food access, education and conservation, and community groups in urban and rural areas.

Bringing Davis on board strengthens the organization’s capacity to work with the agricultural community, particularly retiring landowners and beginning farmers and ranchers who are eager to benefit from new opportunities at the urban-edge.

“We are delighted to welcome Poppy to SAGE,” says SAGE President Sibella Kraus. “Poppy’s breadth of experience – providing services to farmers, working for ag-focused nonprofits and for the USDA – and the respect she commands in the California and national agricultural communities, make her the ideal person to help SAGE grow our mission to cultivate urban-edge places that model sustainable agriculture integrated with resilient communities.”

As program director for SAGE, Davis now has the opportunity to apply all of her collective experiences to something for which she has great passion.

“I have long respected Sibella’s vision and work, and I think we will make a great team,” says Davis. “Sibella already has many forward-thinking projects in the works, and I’m looking forward to working with SAGE’s diverse partners, as well as bringing in collaborations of my own.”

Read more about SAGE: www.sagecenter.org

Read more about the Drake Agricultural Law Center: www.law.drake.edu/clinicsCenters/agLaw