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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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urban agriculture policy

New Pittsburgh Urban Ag Law Passes, Boosts Options for Residents

September 2, 2015 |
Photo courtesy of Grow Pittsburgh.

Photo courtesy of Grow Pittsburgh.

by Julianne Tveten

Pittsburgh City Council passed an ordinance in July to ease restrictions on maintaining chickens, ducks, goats, and apiaries in the city.

Drafted by a collection of agricultural nonprofits, the ordinance follows a 2011 regulation that required residents to undergo a hearing process lasting up to three months and pay up to $340 in cumulative fees. Under the new law, Pittsburghers can obtain a permit for $70 and be approved within a day. Read More

From Concrete to Green: Urban Agriculture Initiative Seeks to Transform LA River into Ag Oasis

August 24, 2015 |
Organizers of the LA River food and ag zone envision a myriad of attractions, including farmers’ markets, as well as local transportation facilities. (image courtesy of Leigh Christy/Perkins+Will)

Organizers of the LA River food and ag zone envision a myriad of attractions, including farmers’ markets, as well as local transportation facilities. (image courtesy of Leigh Christy/Perkins+Will)

The Los Angeles River flows from the Simi Hills, northwest of Los Angeles, through the San Fernando Valley and into the Pacific Ocean at Long Beach. A large portion of the river is concrete.

But now, urban planners and other stakeholders envision a portion of the LA River as being home to a robust agricultural zone in the heart of Los Angeles.

Funded by a California Proposition 84 (Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Coastal Protection Bond of 2006) grant, the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation and architecture and urban planning firm Perkins+Will have explored the feasibility of creating an agricultural hub on the banks of the Los Angeles River.

After extensive research and community input, the conclusion was that such an agriculture hub is a viable option. Specifically, it was decided that a 660-acre area along the river in the neighborhoods of Lincoln Heights, Cypress Park and Chinatown is an ideal place to start such an urban agriculture project. Read More

Urban Farming and the Law: A Q&A with Great Lakes Environmental Law Center’s Nick Leonard

August 17, 2015 |
Picture of Nick Leonard provided by Nick Leonard

Picture of Nick Leonard provided by Nick Leonard

Nick Leonard is an environmental law attorney currently serving a fellowship at the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center. Operating in Detroit since 2008, Leonard is an expert on the legalities of urban farming in Detroit and the surrounding region. Working pro bono, Leonard provides legal advice to individuals, organizations and businesses involved in urban agriculture. Leonard addresses some of the legal questions of urban farmers in Detroit and other cities.

What is the most frequent legal question you hear when it comes to urban farms?

Many of Detroit’s farmers and gardeners have been operating on their current site pursuant to a real property license agreement with the City of Detroit. [This is a common arrangement in cities]. Unfortunately, real property license agreements provide very little security for the license holder as they can essentially be terminated at any time. Many urban farmers and gardeners are very interested in how they can legally obtain a secure interest in their farm property and what they must do to comply with all continuing real property obligations, like maintaining the property in accordance with local property maintenance laws. Read More

Santa Clara County, CA Opens Doors to Urban Ag with Incentive Zones Act

August 12, 2015 |
San Jose Urban Orange Farm by Don McCullough

San Jose Urban Orange Farm by Don McCullough

In 2014, the state of California passed AB 551, the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, which allowed towns and cities to offer tax breaks to property owners that turn vacant land into urban farm space. Best known as the center of America’s tech industry, Santa Clara County, CA has pushed the urban ag door wide open for the towns and cities in their jurisdiction by adopting the Incentive Zones Act to boost urban agriculture.

“So much of agriculture is being depleted and developed. The intention is for ag producers to stay in ag production with a property tax break,” says Joseph Deviney, Santa Clara County Agricultural Commissioner as he explains the decision to adopt AB 551 for the county. Read More

Mahindra USA Boosts Michigan’s Urban Farm Space

July 17, 2015 |
Photo courtesy of Mahindra.

Photo courtesy of Mahindra.

Mahindra USA, a Houston, Tx.-based farming equipment manufacturer, shifted its focus towards sustainable agriculture, in 2010. And now the firm is looking to boost small urban farms with a recent investment of $100,000 in Detroit’s urban farmers.

Through its Detroit-based North American Technical Center, Mahindra awarded money and equipment grants to five Detroit nonprofits. The recipients include two community gardening programs, the Neighbors Building Brightmoor’s Farmway group and the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network’s D-Town Farm. The city of Detroit received a Mahindra utility vehicle. The tractor company has made similar awards to other metropolitan areas and their urban farmers in the past.

“As part of the urban ag initiative program it’s a natural fit,” says Martin Cisneros, Marketing Communications Manager at Mahindra USA remarking on the Detroit investment.  “I think it’s a movement we’re generally seeing across the industry; a more sustainable agriculture. Seems like the ecotype farming initiatives, the co-ops, is what you see a lot more of.” Read More

Proposed Ordinance in Pittsburgh Looks to Get Urban Agriculture Out of the Coop

June 25, 2015 |
The City of Pittsburgh will look at a proposed ordinance that would streamline the permitting process of raising chickens, goats and ducks in the city limits. (photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The City of Pittsburgh will look at a proposed ordinance that would streamline the permitting process of raising chickens, goats and ducks in the city limits. (photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Even though raising chickens is legal in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, city residents who want to own these birds have had to deal with cumbersome regulations. But thanks to a new proposed ordinance, this may change.

The previous law, passed in 2011, required Pittsburghers to fork over $340 and undergo a hearing process lasting for several months. Hence, only 13 people in the city have successfully applied for a chicken-raising permit.

Yet many chickens call Pittsburgh home but fly under the radar, according to Shelly Danko+Day, an open space specialist with the City of Pittsburgh. Read More

Baltimore Combats Food Deserts with Urban Farming Tax Break

May 27, 2015 |
RFF Hoop.jpg Caption: The hooped Real Food Farm in Baltimore, Maryland. Credit: Baltimore Office of Sustainability

RFF Hoop.jpg
Caption: The hooped Real Food Farm in Baltimore, Maryland.
Credit: Baltimore Office of Sustainability

Urban farmers in the city of Baltimore will soon qualify for a 90 percent property tax break under a bill recently approved by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. The move, which is the latest in a series of tax-break initiatives for city growers seen in areas like San Francisco and Washington, D.C., is intended to bolster local production of healthy food.

Drafted by Councilman William “Pete” Welch, the bill, which will likely go into effect next month, gives a tax credit to farmers who make at least $5,000 per year selling crops and raise no more than five acres of land. Read More

NYU Urban Farm Lab Teaches Important Lesson in Urban Ag

April 21, 2015 |
NYU Urban Farm Lab

NYU Urban Farm Lab

NYU’s Urban Farm Lab is not your typical classroom, but for students at NYU’s Food Studies program, it’s where they learn one very important lesson: how to grow food in the big city.

The Urban Farm Lab was the inspiration of NYU graduate student Daniel Bowman Simon who thought there should be an urban garden on campus. Unfortunately, the administration didn’t agree— at least not at first. But after five years of campaigning, Bowman Simon and members of NYU’s Food Studies Department got the administration on board, and the NYU Urban Farm Lab was born. Read More