Since graduating from Colorado Law two years ago, Taber Ward has pursued her passions for food, health, and public policy. She held two externships with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment before accepting a full-time position with the department after graduation. In addition to her more traditional position as a policy analyst, Ward utilizes the entrepreneurial acumen she developed in her role as the executive director of an urban farm in Boulder.
Tell us a little about your work. What do you do, and what might a “typical” work day look like?
I never know what to say when people ask me what I do because I split my work life into two distinct realms: 1) I am a farmer and 2) I am a lawyer.
After law school I founded and am now the executive director of Mountain Flower Goat Dairy, a non-profit urban agriculture project in downtown Boulder. We are a social enterprise providing a platform for food system and agricultural policy reform through our raw milk goat dairy, volunteer programs, tours, farm-to-school initiatives and educational opportunities. A typical work day includes hands-on farm chores (like milking goats and building fences), oversight of staff and volunteers, urban agriculture curricula development, grant writing, nonprofit management and fundraising.
In contrast, I am also a lawyer and work for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) as a legal and policy analyst. I focus on public health law and obesity policy in Colorado. A typical work day includes legislative research, administrative legal research and memorandum, policy and program implementation, and meetings with other agency members to work on comprehensive health and obesity policies.
How did you find your job?
I approached the landowners of the historic twenty-five acres of urban agriculture land and asked them if they would consider allowing a community dairy on the property. I submitted a business plan to them and took out a loan to start the farm.
I obtained my job with CDPHE through the law school's externship program. After I externed for my 2L and 3L years, I was offered a position.
How did Colorado Law help you in your job search?
The externship program was extremely helpful to me in obtaining a job for two reasons. First, I had a chance to see what type of work I liked to do with only a semester commitment. This gave me insight into the legal field and my own strengths and challenges. Second, because I was never in the top 10 percent of students at Colorado Law, the externship program allowed me to show a potential employer that I was smart, eager, a hard worker, and a team player by working in the field instead of just relying on my résumé.
What skills do you utilize on a daily basis and how did your experiences or courses at Colorado Law help you develop these skills?
I use legal research, writing, statutory interpretation, nonprofit law, and negotiation on a daily basis. Colorado Law helped me to develop and hone these skills so I could bring them to both the farm and my work at the state.
Please talk a little about people skills and networking specifically. How has your professional network made a difference in your career?
Being an attorney has given me credibility and advanced the position of the farm. People trust the food safety of our raw milk because I work in food safety at the state. They trust that I will understand and follow safety regulations and best practices because it is part of my ethical and professional responsibility. Urban farming in Boulder is incredibly political due to the land uses involved. My legal skills have helped me navigate political issues and innovate on the dairy. Additionally, as an employee of the state, I sit on the Colorado Farm to School Task Force. This has been an amazing professional network for me in both my legal and farming careers as I now have connections to the agencies and industries who are helping to change the food system for the better.
What advice would you give to current students with respect to finding a job?
I would suggest to do as many externships as possible to find out what type of job would suit you best. Externships will also allow you to build personal and professional networks.
If you were to recommend Colorado Law to a potential law student, what would you say?
I would highly recommend Colorado Law because I found professors who were willing and excited to mentor me, to be my friend, to work with my niche interests, and to support me in my professional pursuits. For me, the faculty in the law school is top-notch and cares about the best interest of its students. I would also highly recommend the law school for its focus on food law, natural resources, and entrepreneurship. The professors who taught these courses are incredibly knowledgeable and engaged and the coursework has served me well post law school.
Why did you choose Colorado Law?
I chose Colorado Law because I wanted to do environmental law and I wanted to live somewhere beautiful and vibrant. Colorado Law provided both of these things.