How Two Urban Farmers Inspired a Community (and Failed as a Business)
Two students in Harrisonburg, Virginia, turned up every last bit of its front, back and side yards into a farm.
By Andrew Jenner
January 23, 2014
When they applied for a business license, however, they hit a major speedbump. City ordinances, which often aspire to an antiseptic Leave it to Beaver-ish ideal for neighborhood life, prohibited farming. Their business license was denied, and Warren and Frere were informed that Collicello Gardens was an outlaw operation. (This occurred late in the summer, and to the city’s non-draconian credit, it didn’t try to prevent them from finishing out the CSA season.)
Through the following fall and winter, Frere and Warren channeled their energies into leading an effort to change that problematic section of city code. Proposals were drafted, public hearings were held, amended proposals were re-drafted, more hearings were held, Frere and Warren appeared repeatedly before the city’s rule-makers to plead their case. While a few opponents came forward to defend white picket fences and emerald lawns, many more folks in town, myself included, spoke up and signed petitions in their support. In March, a new ordinance was approved that legalized plant farming (livestock are still forbidden) in Harrisonburg, to the delight of many in a city that’s developed a thriving local food scene in recent years.