San Francisco

San Francisco votes to allow small-scale commercial farming in residential areas, no conditional use permit needed

Monday, April 25, 2011 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: urban farms, San Francisco, health news

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(NaturalNews) The passage of an urban farming amendment in San Francisco has sparked a wave of joy among backyard farmers from across the Bay Area. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently voted to amend the city's zoning code in such a way that now allows backyard growers to freely cultivate produce and sell it without having to purchase a conditional use permit (CUP), which can run upwards of $3,000. And the victory could also help spur many other urban areas to take the same route in allowing urban gardens on residential land.

The San Francisco ruling permits urban farmers with land plots measuring one acre or less to grow produce for commercial purposes, as long as they purchase an urban agriculture permit for $300. While still somewhat costly, the price is only a small fraction of what a CUP would be, and the process of obtaining one involves far less bureaucratic red tape than a CUP does.

Besides simply being able to sell fresh produce, backyard growers will also be able to sell "value-added" items like jellies, herb salts, salsas, and other prepared items. Both for-profit and not-for-profit groups are included as well, and many believe that the new freedom will further expand the scope of community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs that provide regular assortments of fresh produce to local communities.

"Should for-benefit (non-profit) farm projects seek to raise some of their operating funds through sales, including of value-added products, this will now be allowed," wrote Antonio Roman-Alcala in a recent piece at Civil Eats ( "This could also open the door for social justice-minded urban farms to create truly green jobs without requiring so much grant funding."

The first phase of a new urban agriculture program in Oakland, Calif., recently took effect as well, permitting backyard growers to grow and sell as long as they have a business license. This law, of course, is beneficial to Novella Carpenter who was recently warned by city officials before the law came into effect that her urban farm was operating illegally (

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