Local food is on the table in Minneapolis, which could adopt a new Urban Agriculture Policy Plan as early as this month.
The plan follows the city council’s 2009 adoption of the “Homegrown Minneapolis Report,” which topped off a year-long process to improve access to locally produced food not just within the surrounding rich upper Midwestern croplands, but in the city itself.
Urban agriculture continues to blossom nationwide. The Minneapolis report cites agrarian movements in Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, and Toronto, and references the Minneapolis’s 15 farmers markets, 120 community gardens, five health food co-ops selling local food, and extensive Community Supported Agriculture network. Although the report recognizes that a wide spectrum of entrepreneurs and average citizens are tilling up urban soil and planting seeds, its authors say there is still more to do. “We are getting more applications all the time,” says Amanda Arnold, aicp, referring to increased requests for market gardens and the keeping of animals in residential areas.
Arnold and planner Aly Pennucci have been working on the Urban Agriculture Policy Plan with help from citizen and staff advisory committees. They convened a series of eight public and professional discussions on a variety of topics, including commercial gardening, restaurants, animals (chickens and bees are currently permitted in the city with neighbors’ consent, but not typically at a commercial scale), rooftop farms, and economic opportunities – specifically the creation of agricultural jobs within city limits, something that is virtually non-existent now.
Pennucci says the plan will likely “introduce new types of land uses we don’t currently describe,” like market gardens—a term used to describe smaller growing operations similar in scale and intensity to a community garden, but that also sell food commercially. Once the policy plan is adopted, the city will consider zoning code changes to further facilitate urban agriculture. “I do believe there is a demand out there,” says Arnold, adding that numerous restaurants are already focusing on or want to serve more local food. “I don’t know what the [other] ideas will be, but our role [as city planners] is to not stand in the way.”
[AUTHOR'S NOTE: since this article was written, the City of Minneapolis has scheduled a public hearing on February 22, 2011. The plan could be accepted by the Planning Commission on that date and forwarded to the City Council for adoption.]