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Visions of Urban Agriculture

Caroline, HomeGrown
Call me nerdy, but I think planning and zoning is fascinating. Give me a project proposal or zoning code, and I gladly immerse myself in land use regulations, zoning jargon and mapping. So when the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Mayor’s office held a kickoff and visioning meeting to rezone Boston for urban agriculture on Monday night, I was sitting front row, pencil in hand!

Image courtesy of City Farmer News

Boston is not new to agriculture. The Boston Common was used from 1634-1830 as a public livestock grazing pasture. The city has the highest number of community gardens per capita; 150 gardens throughout the city in which 3,000 members grow. There are currently 6 urban agriculture projects in Boston, and farmers’ markets in every neighborhood. A new pilot rezoning project approved last year by the city leases two parcels of land in South Dorchester to be farmed by local organizations.

But, this rezoning project is critical to the future of the local food system in Boston…
(1 February 2012)

San Diego deregulates urban agriculture

David Ogul, HealthyCal
San Diego has joined the urban agriculture movement.

What started as a nonprofit group’s entanglement with bureaucracy while trying to plow a community garden in an impoverished neighborhood has ended with California’s second-largest city relaxing its rules on farmers’ markets and making it easier to grow crops and keep farm animals in residential areas.

The changes bring San Diego in line with more progressive Northern California cities and toward the forefront of the urban agriculture movement sweeping the nation, backers of the revisions say.

“There were a lot of pretty prohibitive rules in the city of San Diego,” said Judy Jacoby, founder of the nonprofit San Diego Community Garden Network. “This is a big step forward.”

The changes came on a unanimous vote that Councilwoman Lorie Zapf called regulatory relief and Councilman Todd Gloria called common sense.

“It’s going to add to the quality of life in our city,” Gloria said after the Jan. 31 council session.

“As we become denser and more vertical in our communities, were going to need more opportunities to expand urban agriculture and grow our own food where we can,” Zapf said…
(7 February 2012)

Proposed city amendment provides potential for urban farming

Aaron Dubois, The Minnesota Daily
Proposed amendments to the City of Minneapolis’ zoning code would allow community members to turn a profit off of their market gardens and urban farms.

The changes to the code, authored by Ward 2 Councilman Cam Gordon with help from community members, will make it so individuals can sell their own produce, which was not allowed under the old code. Gordon’s proposal passed the City Planning Commission on Jan. 23.

Russ Henry supports the proposed changes. His landscaping business, Giving Tree Gardens, specializes in organic garden installation and maintenance.

“This is about a lot more than community gardening,” Henry said. “This is about opening the door for selling food in Minneapolis that was grown in Minneapolis, and that has never been allowable under city code.”

Henry said he considers Minneapolis to be progressive, but that other cities are way ahead.

“In this arena of urban farming, we are lagging behind other communities who have a similar demographic representation,” he said.
(5 February 2012)

USDA awards $40 million grants to boost local food supplies

Christine Stebbins, Reuters
The U.S. Agriculture Department on Friday awarded $40.2 million in grants to farmers, ranchers and farmer-controlled rural business ventures aimed at spurring locally produced food supplies and renewable energy ventures.

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said 298 recipients in 44 states and Puerto Rico will receive business development assistance through the Value-Added Producer Grant program.

“These projects will provide financial returns and help create jobs for agricultural producers, businesses and families across the country,” Merrigan said in a statement.

“This funding will promote small business expansion and entrepreneurship opportunities by providing local businesses with access capital, technical assistance and new markets for products and services.”…

The grants were announced at a conference on “local/regional food systems” at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Aside from the farmers awarded USDA grants in the more traditional rural settings, the meeting also featured numerous innovative urban farmers in search of investors and customers.

Many of the urban farmers were seeking the same kind of grants for their operations as those awarded to rural farmers…
(3 February 2012)