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Fostering Sustainability and Innovation in Agriculture

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urban agriculture policy

It’s Almost Summer in the Urban Garden: Tips for Planting Hot Weather Crops

May 8, 2016 |
Zucchini. Source: Wikipedia.

Zucchini. Source: Wikipedia.

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. Read More

Florida Farming Op Converts Water-Thirsty Lawns into Sustainable Food Producing Farmlettes

February 28, 2016 |
Fleet Farming in Orlando utilizes volunteers on bikes to harvest produce from participating home sites. Not only does its work spur local agriculture in the region, but it also builds community. (photo courtesy Heather Grove/Fleet Farming)

Fleet Farming in Orlando utilizes volunteers on bikes to harvest produce from participating home sites. Not only does its work spur local agriculture in the region, but it also builds community. (Photo courtesy Heather Grove/Fleet Farming)

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. Read More

From Cars to Chickens: Urban Livestock Ordinance Considered in Detroit

February 2, 2016 |

By Anna Sysling

Urban Livestock Ordinance Considered in Detroit

Members of urban livestock work group in Detroit say farm animals like egg-laying chickens, ducks, goats and rabbits could be legally kept within city limits as soon as this summer.

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. Read More

The City of Atlanta Hires First Urban Agriculture Director

December 1, 2015 |
Mario Cambardella has been named as the City of Atlanta’s very first director of urban agriculture. (photo courtesy Stephanie Stuckey Benfield/City of Atlanta)

Mario Cambardella has been named as the City of Atlanta’s very first director of urban agriculture. (Photo courtesy Stephanie Stuckey Benfield/City of Atlanta)

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. Read More

Residents and Policymakers in Lawrence, Kansas are Working to Revise Urban Agriculture Codes

November 16, 2015 |
Residents may soon be allowed to keep up to two small goats if they meet certain requirements. Image source: Wikipedia

Residents may soon be allowed to keep up to two small goats if they meet certain requirements. Image source: Wikipedia

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. Read More

Sparks, Nevada Passes New Urban Agriculture Ordinance

November 10, 2015 |
Courtesy of City Manager Steve Driscoll

Courtesy of City of Sparks

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?’” Read More

Los Angeles County Approves ‘Tomato Tax Incentive’

October 25, 2015 |
Source: Los Angeles Food Policy Council

Source: Los Angeles Food Policy Council

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. Read More

City of Tucson Steps Toward Urban Farm-friendly Zoning Code

October 25, 2015 |

post-backyard-henBy Hana Livingston

The city of Tucson may soon expand its support of urban farmers. On September 17, the Tucson Planning Commission voted in favor of changing the city’s zoning laws to be more friendly to small-scale urban farms. The proposal will now go to the city council for a final vote.

Currently, many Tucsonians with vegetable gardens and backyard hens are in violation of city laws. So far, the city has been lenient with its interpretation and enforcement of the laws, but many urban farming projects are still technically illegal, and groups wishing to establish a community garden or farmers’ market are required to jump through bureaucratic hoops. If adopted, the new proposal will legalize and standardize practices that are already commonplace in parts of the city.

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