September 14, 2011

Chicago is the latest urban area to make growing fresh fruits and vegetables in the city a little easier. The city council just approved a new zoning code that would allow for more widespread urban agriculture. The new code expands the size of community gardens to 25,000 feet, which is about half an acre. It also relaxes the rules on fencing and parking for large urban farms and will allow for limited produce sales in residential areas.

Urban farms and community gardens have been growing in vacant lots and rooftops around the country. Chicago Mayor Rham Emanuel called the amendment a job creator that will make use of otherwise vacant land. He told WBEZ the ordinance is about taking land that is sitting fallow and turning it into a revenue and job creator. Urban farming is also effective for bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to communities lacking in healthy food.

Urban farmers who face barriers like zoning issues will soon be getting some help. A group associated with the University of Missouri just received a grant to help would-be urban farmers learn about policy issues. The grant will be used to create a comprehensive guide that addresses the barriers urban farmers face throughout the United States. Right now, most farmers educate each other through online discussions about the roadblocks they face in growing and selling fresh produce in the city.