Mpls. Urban Ag Plan Needs to Deliver on Thursday

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As we discussed in this blog a few months ago, the City of Minneapolis is on the verge of taking unprecedented steps to make our community friendlier to urban food production. After over a year of deliberation, it all comes down to Thursday, April 7, at 9:30 a.m. That’s when the Committee on Zoning and Planning will take up the Urban Agriculture Policy Plan (UAPP). It’s a good plan, but there are indications that changes could be made at the last minute that make it not so good. If you are a resident of Minneapolis, call your City Council member right now and tell them the plan should be passed as is. For details on how to make your voice heard immediately, click here.

The UAPP was drafted by the Minneapolis Department of Community and Economic Development, based on a recommendation from Homegrown Minneapolis, a city-wide initiative to promote healthy, local foods. The Minneapolis Planning Commission passed the plan unanimously on Feb. 22. The Zoning and Planning Committee is the final stop before the UAPP becomes official.

The plan is a step forward, and reflects the needs and desires of community members from throughout Minneapolis. But some City Council members on the Zoning and Planning Committee are considering amending the UAPP in ways that will weaken it, especially with regard to establishing new market gardens in Minneapolis, and in terms of people being able to gain access to land in the city for urban agriculture, community gardens, etc.

It is important that the UAPP allows market gardening in low-density residential districts (generally single family homes).  Market gardens are described as gardens where plants are grown for sale at a scale comparable to a community garden, whether in the backyard of a home or on a vacant lot.

Minneapolis is home to many active market gardeners, and we need zoning that provides a framework for their important economic, agricultural and community work. After the UAPP is passed, development standards will be written to ensure that market gardens enhance and do not create disturbance in neighborhoods.

Some Committee members are also challenging other critical aspects of the proposed UAPP, and are considering amendments that would weaken maintain a status quo in city policy that discourages and/or fails to acknowledge urban agriculture.

These amendments include keeping the price of land for which the City sells to community gardens high by not acknowledging conservation easements in the price when those easements are in place, and continuing to prohibit City staff and planners from considering urban agriculture uses when doing Requests for Proposals (RFP)s for City-owned land. For example, these amendments would prohibit the consideration of community gardens and farmers’ markets as complimentary uses in development RFPs.

LSP believes that the current UAPP creates more opportunities for urban ag enterprises, community gardeners and farmers’ markets. As the plan was being drafted, LSP members and partners analyzed the plan and made public comments expressing our general support, while identifying many key ways that the plan needed to be improved.

These comments called for the plan to deepen its approach to creating more racial equity and long-term access to land for urban agriculture. LSP supports the passage of the current UAPP because we believe it will lay the foundation to pursue deeper changes in urban agriculture moving forward.

It’s time to let the City Council know that the plan must pass unchanged. A new growing season—for rural and urban ag—is just around the corner.

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