Proposed city amendment provides potential for urban farming

An upcoming zone change will allow the sale of urban-grown produce.
February 02, 2012

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.

The push for looser zoning codes is closely tied to the urban agricultural plan created in April 2011 by Homegrown Minneapolis and overseen by Mayor R.T. Rybak as an initiative to increase local food production.

The newly classified market gardens allow produce to be sold and includes rooftops or inside gardens. An urban farm is similar to a market garden but is larger and includes hydroponics.

Chickens are still not allowed on urban farms with the new amendments but are allowed as house pets with permission from neighbors.

“You have to go through a few more hoops then you would with a cat or a dog,” Gordon said.

Gordon said he’s seen a lot more people with chickens. But at the same time, he said he has heard from some of the animal rescue groups that have noticed a lot more abandoned or abused chickens.

Chickens are still not allowed to be slaughtered under the new amendments and are mostly kept by owners for eggs.

Gordon is confident that the amendments will pass through full City Council.

“I think there’s some potential for some minor amendments, but there seems to be a lot of support.”

The Zoning and Planning Committee will look over the changes during its meeting March 1 before it goes to the full council March 8.

Kyle O’Toole, director of new member education for Univerisity of Minnesota-Twin Cities FarmHouse Fraternity, grew up on a farm in Tyler, Minn., where his daily life revolved around farming.

“I would hope that it would pass through,” O’Toole said. “It will help [the community] find local sources for food, which can sometimes be a little cheaper, fresher, healthier.”

Gordon said he has received 70 written comments on the amendments — all of which were relatively positive.

“I’m excited to see this moving forward, and I hope that once it passes in early March that we can really see some people trying out some new things this growing season,” he said.

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