Proposed Law Could Deliver Major Boost to Urban Agriculture in California
Property owners who commit to leasing their land to agricultural enterprises for at least 10 years will be able to receive a re-valuation of their parcels that will lower their property tax bill.
By Jason Mark,
Editor, Earth Island Journal
March 28, 2013
Small-scale farming isn’t easy. The prices farmers receive for their goods are often low, the margins are tight, the days are long, and the chores never-ending. For farmers who don’t own their own property, land insecurity compounds financial instability. It’s tough to really dig in if you don’t know how long you can stay on the piece you’re farming.
The problem of insecure land tenure is especially pressing for urban farmers in many cities, who have to contend with limited space and high real estate values. Brooke Budner and Caitlyn Galloway, the co-founders of San Francisco’s Little City Gardens, understand this better than anyone. They don’t own the three-quarter acre lot they farm and scrape by on a month-to-month lease.
“Small scale farming is already a high risk proposition,” Budner told me recently. “Anything we can do to make it a little less risky is important.”
A new law proposed by California Assemblyman Phil Ting (who represents San Francisco and San Mateo) might give Little City Gardens a bit more security so the small business can thrive. The idea is simple: Property owners who commit to leasing their land to agricultural enterprises for at least 10 years will be able to receive a re-valuation of their parcels that will lower their property tax bill.
If it becomes law, the measure could prompt more landowners with vacant parcels to open up their properties to aspiring urban farmers—and give existing farmers like Budner and Galloway the peace of mind they need.