urban agriculture policy
From community and rooftop gardens to cultivating empty lots, urban farming has been going on as long as there have been cities. But over the past decade or so, as city residents have become more aware of the environmental, economic and community benefits of eating locally grown produce, urban farming has become a topic of wide discussion that has captured the attention and imagination of a diversity of stakeholders — from high profile restaurateurs and community advocates to the United Nations and local city councils across the US.
But does it benefit community, economy and environment? Have some of the virtues of urban agriculture been overstated? Weighing questions like these was the goal of a Johns Hopkins University study, “Vacant Lots to Vibrant Plots: A Review of the Benefits and Limitations of Urban Agriculture,” published in May by Raychel Santo, Anne Palmer and Brent Kim.
Seedstock recently caught up with Santo, the coordinator for the Food Communities and Public Health program at Johns Hopkins’ Center for a Livable Future in Baltimore, MD, to dig deeper into the study’s findings.
For a lot of people, Mother’s Day means two things: time to go out to brunch and time to plant the vegetable garden.
Of course, you may have put many of your plants in the ground already, but for those who like to put their vegetable garden in all at once, mid-May is often the time to do it.
The changing climate has complicated this somewhat, so gardeners in northern areas may need to wait until June to put in hot-season crops. This is particularly the case in cities where the city center may experience a several degree differential from surrounding areas. due to an urban heat island effect Check your local USDA zone map to see where you are..
Most summer crops discussed will not tolerate a frost, let alone a freeze, although a blanket on a cold night or row cover will provide a few degrees of protection.
Orlando, Florida-based Fleet Farming is helping people convert their water-thirsty and fertilizer-hungry St. Augustine grass lawns to prolific food-producing farmlettes.
The initial idea was proposed by John Rife, founder and owner of Orlando’s East End Market. Speaking at a Hive Orlando community workshop held by Ideas for Us (an NPO/NGO focused on environmental sustainability), Rife stressed the importance of farming lawns to spur local food production.
Intrigued, Ideas for Us president and founder Chris Castro refined Rife’s idea, which evolved into Fleet Farming. Castro and Heather Grove, also from East End Market, now serve as Fleet Farming co-coordinators.
By Anna Sysling
While Detroit’s 2013 urban agriculture ordinance allows residents to cultivate plants and fish, there still isn’t any language to account for farm animals. But an urban livestock workgroup hopes to change that shortly.
Members of the group include employees of various city departments, such as the City of Detroit Planning Commission. They say farm animals like egg-laying chickens, ducks, goats and rabbits could be legally kept within Detroit city limits as soon as this summer. Their proposal also makes the case for honey bees and potentially even sheep for the purpose of grazing the city’s vacant land.
Senior Planner with the Legislative Policy Division and City of Detroit Planning Commissioner Kathryn Underwood is a member of the group. She’s been working on an urban livestock policy to present to Detroit City Council. Underwood expects a proposal will be ready to unveil in the next few months, describing it as a comprehensive ordinance that’s been years in the making.
The City of Atlanta, Georgia last month named its first-ever urban agriculture director. Mario Cambardella is poised to officially join the city’s administrative roster, headed by Mayor Kasim Reed, in early December.
There is a critical need for such a position, according to Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, director of Atlanta’s Office of Sustainability. She says Cambardella will expand upon the city’s urban agriculture ordinance, which was adopted in June 2014 and changed Atlanta’s zoning rules to make more room for urban agricultural operations.
“We need more urban farmers,” says Benfield. She expects Cambardella to lead the way in refining the city’s urban agriculture policy and identifying opportunities for urban agriculture in underserved communities. He will be responsible for cultivating partnerships with local nonprofits and helping would-be urban farmers to navigate the city’s permitting process. He’ll also serve as a resource for farmers’ markets.
City planners in Lawrence, Kansas are working together with local farmers to finalize changes to the city’s urban agriculture regulations. Home to the University of Kansas, this city of 80,000 hopes to work toward a strong relationship between urban farmers, non-farmer residents, and local governments in other small cities across the country, according to local station KAHB.
In August, the city conducted a survey asking residents about the barriers they face in growing food. They received 160 responses that they hope will indicate how to best support backyard farmers and urban growers in Lawrence. Open meetings were held on September 28 and October 19 to discuss the proposed new plan, which focuses heavily on small livestock but also addresses land access and on-site sales for community gardens and urban farms, among other things. The proposal puts the spotlight on “small animals that are more appropriate in a denser urban setting,” specifically bees, birds, small goats, worms, crickets, rabbits, and fish.
Residents of Sparks, Nevada now have a lot more options when it comes to farming inside city limits.
In October, city council members voted unanimously to approve a new urban agriculture ordinance that allows for community gardens to be built on vacant or blighted plots in the city. Citizens will also be allowed to raise chickens and bees on private properties.
According to City Manager Steve Driscoll, the revamp of the city’s zoning codes had been in the works for quite some time. As a result of the housing recession, the city council wanted to take a fresh look at what would make the smartest uses of available land and zoning designations.
“In the late 1990s, we were building 300-400 new houses a year in Sparks,” says Driscoll. “From 2003–2005, we were building 2,500 houses a year. In 2008, we built zero. We looked at all our building processes and asked, ‘What lessons did we learn? If we ever ramp up and do that number of houses again, what would we do differently?’”
Los Angeles County’s blighted areas and abandoned lots could be seeing more green in the near future.
On September 22, 2015 , the L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved an Urban Agricultural Incentive Zone Program (also known as a Tomato Garden Tax Break). If implemented, the policy has the potential to transform vacant and privately owned land in the county into urban farms, and help reduce blight and illegal dumping throughout Los Angeles city and county.
In addition to adding more green space, the “tax break” also would create local jobs in urban farming and support food security and access. The details of the program still need to be worked out to make it reality.