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urban agriculture is generally employed to designate "a localized food system wherein the production, processing, distribution, access/consumption and disposal/recycling of food occur in and around the city" (Erickson et al. 5). Starting from the nature of all stakeholders' interests, urban agriculture can be endorsed for three main reasons, such as growth of food crops for personal consumption, growth of food crops for donation, or growth of food crops for sales and profits.
Public Health Law & Policy issued in March 2009 a document, named Establishing Land Use Protections for Community Gardens, which challenged the broad term of urban agriculture and advocated for a clear distinction between urban farms and community gardens. According to the document, all communities may create separate definitions and regulations for the two, urban farms being viewed primarily as a commercial or entrepreneurial enterprise, and community gardens as recreation or a leisure activity for gardeners where they grow their own food for themselves or share it with their neighbors (Erickson et al. 23).
In theory, the perks of community gardens are manifold. Mixed-use planning benefits a city's economy, promoting business development in new communities, along with providing unique opportunities to residents. Most notably, residents of a city are presented with a local source of healthy food, which has the potential to impact their lifestyles positively at many levels, namely through the exercise that gardening requires, because of the agricultural activities' recreational dimension, and due to the fresh produce's elevated nutritional value. The example of Seattle Market Gardens is exponential, as it makes a significant contribution to community development through agriculture by providing the city with farming opportunities for its low-income residents. Furthermore, most of the farmers are immigrants who thereby receive both supplemental income and food for their families and friends (Erickson et al. 5-7). Yet, despite the fact that urban gardens automatically constitute civic spaces for community interactions, and grant residents feasible access to farmland by means of favorable lease terms, it cannot be overlooked that their locations imply a certain lack of privacy, and the close proximity to non-farming residents could draw complaints of various farm nuisances, such as noise or odors pertaining to them (Ranney et al. 3). Additionally, it is important to observe that such a garden would require regular health department inspections.
Moreover, on a social level, community gardens are known to build reliance and accountability in neighborhoods and strengthen the relationship between producers and consumers. In this light, farm-based educational programs for the city dwellers are endeavors that would enhance marketing efforts. Nonetheless, it would be necessary to note that a thorough educational experience requires attention to high-quality programming and staffing (Ranney et al. 5).
From an environmental perspective, urban farms and community gardens preserve and enhance green and open space, together with successfully mitigating storm water, creating habitat and, most importantly, reducing carbon emissions due to minimizing transportation procedures (Erickson et al. 6). The latter argument proves to be the heaviest, as in 2008 the Climate Protection Initiative discovered that "food transportation makes 17% of Seattle's carbon emissions" (Erickson et al. 5). Consequently, the implementation of several urban agriculture models would provide the public officials with the chance to start an alternative development model and protect open land without engaging public funds (Ranney et al. 3).
Urban agriculture also has the potential to boost the local economy, through a locally directed food and food system materials commerce, better risk management, and optimized food security (Erickson et al. 5). Indeed, a local farm may develop businesses associated with catering, distribution, value-added products, and commercial rental kitchens. These cost the developers little more than the potential opportunity cost of the land for houses and may provide rental income (Ranney et al. 5). Moreover, the opportunity to provide local restaurants with fresh on-site produce is a tempting amenity, because locating a restaurant next to a farm gives a direct visual connection to its source of food, and can be a very powerful marketing opportunity, as it has an enormous potential to attract homebuyers (Ranney et al. 5).
What is more, modifications to the city code may also reveal new opportunities and incentives for entrepreneurs, public officials, city planners, and architects to include green building and open space into new construction and neighborhood development (Erickson et al. 8). Admittedly, such projects would bring about new jobs and an intensified commercial activity. However, an urban agriculture project would claim the land from competing profitable uses, such as more houses. In addition, an unconventional development team capacity might be required in order to deal with the new challenges pertaining to design, finance, permitting and overall management (Ranney et al. 3).
Furthermore, farmland can provide aesthetically pleasing pastoral views for community members. In this sense, different farming systems have various visual impacts. For instance, commodity crops such as corn, rice, or soybeans, make for a soothing monoculture landscape, yet they require seasonal herbicide and pesticide spraying from industrial-sized machinery, along with nighttime harvesting with the help of lighted equipment. Similarly appealing, vegetable systems are more diverse than commodity crops and involve a higher level of activity, presenting greater challenges for buildings and field storage of equipment. Alternatively, orchards could provide attractive, symmetrical three-dimensional views, but generally require pesticide spraying. Finally, well maintained pastures harboring animals make for a pleasant landscape, as well. In Illinois, Prairie Crossing's residents paid lot premiums for landscape access to the horse pastures (Ranney et al. 5).
Urban agriculture presents two major problematic aspects, namely soil suitability and access to the designated area (Ranney et al. 6). In the former respect, it is a widely acknowledged fact that suitable conditions are crucial to any successful farm operation, and therefore the soil quality, type, topography and pH must be compatible with the crop and production system of choice. Whereas some adverse conditions can be modified by use of restoration technologies, others cannot. In addition, accessibility within the garden or farm site could be difficult in bad weather conditions, and large vehicles would need to be able to make deliveries.
It would be interesting to comparatively analyze the urban agriculture policies from Polk County, Florida, and Seattle, Washington. Firstly, the Polk County matrix is exclusively focused on non-commercial residential gardening, whereas the Seattle document depicts a broader approach, which thoroughly explores regulations for both the commercial and non-commercial sides of urban agriculture in relation to the city's four major categories of zones: residential, commercial, downtown and industrial (Erickson et al. 16).
Seattle decreed that it is in the public interest that citizens, communities, local administration, and the private sector altogether cooperate for meaningful, comprehensive land use planning (Erickson et al. 9). Thus, if a resident is interested in starting a community garden and has identified a potentially suitable piece of land, getting in touch with DON's P-Patch program starts off the process by coordinating a community group, finding the necessary funds and acquiring the desired parcel (Erickson et al. 7), and afterwards the Department of Planning and Development decides "where and how urban agriculture can occur" (Erickson et al. 8). Moreover, any homeowner can garden in his own yard (Erickson et al. 24), but DPD sets the regulations concerning Home Occupation, the use of one's home as a business (Erickson et al. 28).
By comparison, Polk County policies emphasize the prohibitive regulations assigned for residential gardens as opposed to Home Occupations, which are barely mentioned. Hence, cities of Frostproof, Lakeland and Polk City expressly forbid the on-site advertising, sale and distribution of garden produce, and residents may have gardens on their own residential lots so long as the garden is not the primary use of the property and it is maintained so as to not violate the nuisance ordinance (Polk County Research Matrix). Furthermore, Polk County matrix enlists specific indications regarding potential nuisances,…[continue]
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