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Urban farms a tricky row to hoe for Minneapolis City Council

Robert Woods stands beside the vacant North Minneapolis city lot he’s transformed into a large garden. Woods wants to start operating it as a commercial farm. (MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert)

“When we bought in the urban area, we didn’t anticipate living next to farms.”

by Curtis Gilbert
Minnesota Public Radio
March 19, 2012


MINNEAPOLIS — Robert Woods owns the vacant lot next to his north Minneapolis home. It’s a brown rectangle of soil in March, but it will be bursting with crops this summer.

“Melons, cantaloupe, okra, spring greens, collard greens, peppers, sweet potatoes and a lot of weeds,” he says of the anticipated bounty.

But there’s a catch. Woods can eat the vegetables he grows. He can give them away to his neighbors. He can lend the land to the non-profit he founded to teach local kids about agriculture. But there’s one thing he hasn’t been allowed to do under the current Minneapolis zoning code — sell his vegetables to make a profit.

“And that’s bringing revenue into my household, and to my family, which I would love. And my wife probably would love it even more,” he says.

His fortunes may be on the verge of changing, however. The Minneapolis City Council this week takes up a controversial set of proposed ordinances designed to encourage urban agriculture. They are part of a nationwide trend toward building small-scale commercial vegetable farms within densely-populated U.S. cities. Last year the council unanimously approved a plan to legalize commercial agriculture.

Read the complete article here.