Today is the deadline for comments on Boise’s initial proposal for urban gardens and farms. I feel some degree of responsibility for goading the city in this direction by installing a front-yard garden last year that pushed the boundaries of current zoning laws. I was initially invited to sit on the Urban Agriculture Committee, but I did not pursue the opportunity, so this is the first I’ve seen of the committee’s report.
At first glance, it looks like the committee addressed most of my concerns:
- They are not forcing people to use bourgeois garden boxes and will allow row cropping.
- Gardening will be allowed in front yards.
- Fencing and setbacks will not be required for community or residential gardens.
The committee proposed a few other ideas that make sense, including signage indicating contact info for the gardener and limits on noise and activity at night, which I assume does not include harvesting or sitting around drinking beers in the garden. I’m not sure I understand the rationale for limiting the growing season to March to November, though I support a “clean-up date.” But I intend to keep cool weather crops in the ground through the winter. I am also not clear how the final urban ag policy will fit in with historical preservation guidelines, but I hope that the new ordinance will trump the limits imposed by preservationists.
It’s neat that the city may allow people to sell produce raised on site as well.
The committee also came up with proposed rules for urban farmers, who grow specifically for off-site sales, as opposed to mere urban gardeners such as myself. But some of the local farmers are upset with a few of the provisions. In fact, I learned of the proposed regs in an email from friend and mentor, Katie Painter, who runs Global Gardens, the successful refugee farming project in Boise. Painter brought up several good points that seem to limit opportunities for establishing urban farms: the requirement for obtaining permission from neighbors seems especially excessive, though, in my opinion, a clause urging urban farmers to communicate with neighbors could be helpful. I agree with Painter that the rigid seasons proposed by the committee and the verbiage on working hours will hurt urban farms; farming is a 24/7/365 operation, but does not have to be a nuisance.
I also think that the city should throw in some positive incentives for establishing new urban farms and gardens along with the new regulations. I could support tax incentives, grants or low cost/free use of available city land, as Farmer Marty suggested in the recent Boise Weekly article on the proposed rules.
“It just seems naive and not that thought-out and a way for the city to say, ‘We support urban agriculture.’ But the only support I see is it’s putting restrictions on me, and I don’t see that as support.” — Marty Camberlango.
Overall, I think the three pages of suggestions are good—it makes sense to allow more chickens and bees within city limits and to clarify the rules for people. My understanding is that the city and the Urban Ag Committee is currently tweaking their proposal, based on public feedback and will go to the City Council with a more concrete plan in the near future. If you have comments or suggestions, you can contact Cody Riddle at Planning and Development Services today. I’m going to send him a link to this post.