Originally published May 9 2014
New Boston law promotes local agriculture
by Julie Wilson
(NaturalNews) One of the oldest cities in the U.S. has approved legislation to begin developing the "most comprehensive transactional urban agriculture system in the country," according to the Cornucopia Institute.
In January 2012, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), along with the Mayor's Office of Food Initiatives (MOFI), embarked on a planning and zoning process to address urban agriculture in the City of Boston. The national local food movement, including urban farming and sustainability, has swept across the country, particularly gaining momentum throughout the last 14 months.
Article 89 was derived after the 25-member Mayor's Urban Agriculture Working Group spent nearly two years discussing varying facets of urban agriculture with BRA and MOFI to create a plan including the nation's best practices for urban farming. Article 89 addresses many activities, including farming on both the ground and rooftops.
However, it only addresses commercial endeavors, which do not include community or backyard gardens.
Adopted into law in December 2013, the newest article to the Boston Zoning Code addresses a wide range of agricultural activities throughout Boston, most notably farming. The update to the Zoning Code will facilitate the development of many diverse urban agriculture activities, including reducing barriers to commercial agriculture, thereby promoting economic opportunity and self-sufficiency for food producers.
Urban agriculture takes many forms. Some of these forms include ground-level produce farms, rooftop greenhouses and even backyard honeybees.
Ground-level farms typically refer to farms located on a ground plane. These include row crops planted in the ground or raised beds, greenhouses, hydroponics, aquaponics and aquaculture. The new law allows all ground-level farms up to one acre outright in ALL zoning districts throughout the city. Ground-level farms greater than one acre are allowed in industrial areas and are conditional in other areas.
Roof-level farming is particularly fascinating in that it cleverly utilizes space in a big city like Boston. They also help moderate building temperatures, in turn creating a greener city. Open-air roof-level farms as large as 5,000 square feet are now allowed in ALL zooming districts and sub-districts.
Freight container farming, an emerging development expected to grow even more popular, is also encouraged under article 89. Freight containers, initially designed for shipping by train, are now being used for hydroponics and aquaponics.
Freight containers become obsolete after five years once their refrigeration units fail. Because they're already equipped with insulation, they're ideal for growing year-round in a climate-controlled, artificially illuminated environment.
Not only will article 89 promote urban farming in Boston, but it's going to facilitate the practice in areas where it's needed the most, underserved communities. Experts say allowing urban farming in the city will help boost underprivileged communities by providing new opportunities for local business growth and will also help develop knowledge and provide education about healthy eating.
Urban farms in Boston will be a source of fresh produce for neighborhoods and local restaurants and shops, as well as an opportunity for community-supported enterprises to fill valuable educational and social roles. Article 89 will help Bostonians grow and access healthy food while ensuring that farming activities remain compatible with their urban surroundings.
Boston previously had zoning codes in place for community gardens, but farmers weren't allowed to sell their goods, meaning restaurants were unable to buy local produce from farms within the city limits.
Now, not only can farmers sell their products directly, but they can have farm stands right on their farm. Officials hope this will help promote economic viability for the farm and encourage residents to buy local.
At least five urban farms are being developed this spring in predominantly lower income neighborhoods; each one is at least a quarter of an acre.
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