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Urban Farming Guidebook

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Planning for the Business of Growing Food in BC’s Towns and Cities

By HB Lanarc – Golder
Janine de la Salle, Joanna Clark
2013, 55 pages
Complete Report on-line.

The Urban Farming Guidebook is written to help planners, engineers, and administrators from small and large communities to gain a better understanding of the potential, pitfalls, and best practices for growing, potentially raising, and selling food within town boundaries. Strategies and approaches outlined in the Guidebook provide local governments with tools to proactively plan for urban farming. This resource has been developed in collaboration and consultation with urban farmers, municipal staff, academics, and advocates.

Excerpt:

Foreword by Rob Buchan CAO, District of North Saanich

About three years ago, working as Land Use Manager in the City of Campbell River, I responded to a resident who was wanting to know if she would be able to legally grow vegetables on her acre lot and sell them. After consulting with the Zoning Bylaw, I was embarrassed to advise her that this was not a legal use under current zoning. Seeing the folly of that bylaw provision, we quickly set out to change the bylaw to enable this sensible and sustainable use of that and other similar residential properties. However, the question has to be asked: how did we find ourselves in that position to begin with?

Consider the role of agriculture in human settlement history. The domestication of plants and animals enabled humans to transition from being nomadic hunter gatherers to developing urban civilizations some 10,000 years ago during the Neolithic era. Growing food was the key foundational system for permanent settlements and remained that way for ten millennia. Then we took an unfortunate turn during our flight from the industrialized city. Ironically, this occurred around the time Ebenezer Howard presented the Garden City movement to the western world. The Garden City model embraced food production and its systems as key elements of community design. However, the race to the single use zoned suburbs did not include food production as part of the design of suburbs and in many cases, including the City of Campbell River, urban farming was excluded from our lists of permitted uses and such farming became non-conforming or simply illegal uses which, if they were lucky, avoided bylaw attention. Peri-urban areas became urban reserves with uses, including farming, that were deemed temporary awaiting some higher calling.

So what has changed? Several converging, relatively contemporaneous events and movements have brought us back to recognize and re-embrace food production as an integral and vital part of the urban complex. These include the Bruntland Commission, Local Agenda 21, energy shortages and pricing increases, social movements which demand healthier local and organic foods and associated social justice concerns around food security, climate change and initiatives to mitigate its projected impacts, and evidence of the significance of recent food supply shocks. In addition, there is considerable concern about the environmental, social and economic impacts resulting from our industrialized, global food production system and this has driven many alternative food production initiatives which are characteristically local.

The Urban Farming Guidebook, like Agricultural Urbanism (de la Salle, Holland 2010) is a timely and important resource for local government staff to move this critical element of sustainable urban design and living forward. We have a lot of ground to (re)cover. Having a resource like this Guidebook to assist our efforts is a welcome and important step in this journey.

Complete Report can be read here.