Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Chicago to regulate urban agriculture?

The city of Chicago is apparently considering an ordinance to regulate urban farming, which is garnering both support and criticism (shocking, I know). I haven't read the proposed ordinance itself, but according to the Chicago Tribune it includes "requirements on fencing, plot size, processing, landscaping and zoning that would apply to urban farming in all its forms: commercial production plots, nonprofit farms and community gardens."

Some urban farmers, or "agricultural activists" as they're called in this article, are worried the regulations will become costly, bureaucratic hurdles that torpedo urban agriculture. Others, including the director of NeighborSpace, think it will be a positive step to recognize and regularize the growing of fresh produce in community gardens and small farms. (For those of you who attended the bloggers' Spring Fling in 2009, the community garden we visited was a NeighborSpace location.)

So what do you think? Has your city or town passed urban farming regulations? Have they helped or hindered? If your city or town hasn't passed any rules, do you think they should?

I would love to see Chicago convert abandoned lots into more gardens, and at the same time I can understand the wariness over this ordinance because the city typically finds a way to complicate and mess up even mundane ideas. And since we tout ourselves as such a "green city," it would be nice to see the City Council put its money where its mouth is. Your thoughts?


garden girl said...

It may not be a realistic concern since urban farming is so small-scale, but I worry a little that big agribusinesses may see dollar signs and that the regulations could conceivably give them an edge.

There are other concerns too of course, and I hope whatever they come up with doesn't stymie the continued growth of Chicago's locavore agricultural movement and increasing numbers of urban farms on that blighted vacant property throughout the city. Engaging local people in their own food production and bringing sustainable agriculture and access to fresh vegetables in Chicago's food deserts is a fantastic thing.

Community gardens and urban agriculture beautify, connect, and revitalize communities. This movement is a powerful force for good. I hope nothing is done to discourage it.

Rose said...

We have no local ordinances like this that I know of, but most garden spaces, other than private ones, are under the jurisdiction of the city's park district, which does a fantastic job of taking little spaces here and there and creating beautiful flower gardens. The idea may be a good one, especially if it means giving people means to grow their own vegetables when they otherwise wouldn't be able to, as Linda says. But I'm always wary of politicians and bureaucrats getting involved in something like this and screwing things up. I hope it works out for the best for everyone, though.

Green been said...

Please remember this is the city that does not allow it's school children to eat the vegetables grown in a school garden! The regulations put on school gardens to be approved is non trivial.

Gail said...

I am not sure what we have in nashville...But, you've got me thinking about the need to pay attention. gail

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