By Anna Cioffi, Land Stewardship Project
The Minneapolis City Council will be voting on the complete Urban Ag Text Amendments on March 1 during the Zoning and Planning Committee meeting. As we’ve reported here before, these text amendments are an important step toward making urban farming a key part of the city’s fabric. However, we have heard rumblings that some City Council members are seriously considering restricting or banning market gardening in residential areas when the amendments are voted on. If you live in Minneapolis, contact your City Council member before March 1 to protect market gardening in residential areas.
The Urban Agriculture Draft Text Amendments, created by Minneapolis city staff, take into consideration almost two years of input from experts, urban farmers, neighborhood residents, small businesses and other stakeholders. They strike the right compromise between keeping the character of neighborhoods, and allowing market gardening to become a legitimate land use within the city.
Market gardening (smaller scale urban farming in residential areas) is already a welcome asset in residential areas throughout Minneapolis. In fact, they have existed in Minneapolis for years. These small businesses bring jobs, fresh foods and economic activity to Minneapolis neighborhoods every day. Hundreds of families benefit from these small neighborhood gardens through CSA shares, direct-marketing and farmers’ markets.
Current market gardens like the McKinley Community CSA exist in low-income areas and food deserts of Minneapolis, providing a unique, inexpensive option for fresh, healthy vegetables in these neighborhoods. If market gardening operations were banned from residential areas, it would affect dozens of market gardeners and their businesses, forcing them to relocate.
Market gardens are not a threat to our communities. In fact, they are just the opposite: Current and future market gardens address eyesores, like vacant lots, and increase safety in neighborhoods by providing a productive use for these abandoned spaces. Low-income neighborhoods with higher rates of vacant land, such as North Minneapolis and the Phillips Neighborhood, directly benefit from converting these lots into beautiful community cornerstones.
City Council members who are opposed to allowing market gardening in residential area cite hypothetical troubles with neighbors, and disturbance of the “character” of neighborhoods. These worries could be addressed easily by giving neighbors and neighborhoods the right to decide what standards urban farms, market gardens and community gardens need to meet in their community. Proposed urban ag zoning language already protects citizens from many of these concerns, such as noisy machinery during off-hours, and other aberrant practices.
Create standards of excellence—don’t just restrict urban farming completely, and let Minneapolis residents decide what is right for their neighborhoods.