Proposed city amendment provides potential for urban farming

An upcoming zoning code change will allow the sale of urban-grown produce.

Aaron DuBois

Proposed amendments to the City of MinneapolisâÄô 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. GordonâÄôs 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.

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

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

âÄúIn this arena of urban farming, we are lagging behind other communities who have a similar demographic representation,âÄù 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.

âÄúYou have to go through a few more hoops then you would with a cat or a dog,âÄù Gordon said.

Gordon said heâÄôs 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.

âÄúI think thereâÄôs some potential for some minor amendments, but there seems to be a lot of support.âÄù

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 OâÄôToole, 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.

âÄúI would hope that it would pass through,âÄù OâÄôToole said. âÄúIt will help [the community] find local sources for food, which can sometimes be a little cheaper, fresher, healthier.âÄù

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

âÄúIâÄôm 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,âÄù he said.