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Wanna' Put Heads-in-Beds? Put Local Food in Mouths! (And Other Benefits of Becoming a Model Urban Agriculture City)

Posted Jul 11 2010 3:27am
Something happened the other day about which most people don't even know.  Something seemingly small. Inconsequential.  Forgettable.  But it wasn't.  It was huge.  Because it's yet another sign that the groundswell is growing.

A woman contacted City Hall in my city (the newest city in the United States--Dunwoody, GA, USA) and suggested that the city start a local food cooperative.  She raved about this co-op in the Little Five Points section of Atlanta. 

I had several meetings with City Hall last week (well, actually, the meetings were at the community garden, where we asked if we could expand our growing space in time for the fall growing season, and embrace other Year 2 enhancements-- see details here , if you are interested) and was asked my opinion about this.  My first reaction?  Hurray! Another voice for local organic food!  I sat back and looked at the woman's name.  Vaguely familiar, but I don't think I know her.

I raised lots of questions:  

* Is Sevananda privately-owned by committed community members or is it part of a public/private partnership?  

* How are other local food co-ops organized?  

* What are Best Practices nationwide regarding local food co-ops?   

* Are there any examples of city or state policies in support of local food co-ops, providing tax incentives or marketing support, for instance?  

* Are there any examples of local food co-ops on public land?  

In the past, I would have done all that research myself.  But now that names I don't know are showing up at City Hall to advocate, I am ready to move on.  Especially after I was almost laughed out of town for the following list I developed comprising a Model Urban Agriculture City.  One City Council member told me I threw a hand-grenade in every section.  Huh?  Really?  Gosh, every single item here is taken from Best Practices in other cities.  Absolutely nothing is an original idea.  Even the overriding-the-homeowners-association (HOA) parts reflect the growing awareness that providing food for your family from your own land should be a basic human right. (By the way, gardening is not a hobby for me.  If I didn't grow what I do, my children would not eat the way they do.  Period.)

Anyway, here goes.  It used to say my city name at the front of every sentence, but I changed that up to generalize it so that you could possibly see how your city is doing on a comprehensive urban agriculture scorecard.  Of course, your city may have some different assets than mine that would need to be figured in as well.  And I didn't even touch on the whole local abattoir thing, or the unlimited eco-tourism assets and attraction for companies committed to sustainability that these initiatives create for a city. Wanna' put heads-in-beds?  One way is to put local food in mouths!  Wanna' attract companies committed to sustainability (um, that would be all of them nowadays)?  Provide a compatible residential environment for employees of these companies! Wanna' get your share of business meetings, conventions, conferences, etc?  Ya' gotta' go green.  (That's why downtown Atlanta established the Zero Waste Zone, FYI.  It was losing biz to other cities that were perceived to be more green.)

Your City: A Model Urban Agriculture City


Your City encourages local food security, healthy nutrition for all, and growth in the green job sector through policies and ordinances that support local food production, processing, access, and sale.


  • Every citizen in Your City will have at least one urban agricultural component (besides a home garden) within ¼ mile of his or her residence. 
  • Your City will establish itself as a national urban agriculture model by 2015.

Urban Agriculture Components

Home gardens

Your City ordinances allow (and override any HOA restrictions on) home food gardens and backyard chicken-keeping (within specific parameters reflective of best practices nationwide and adapted to local conditions).

School programs

Your City encourages all schools to start and maintain school gardens, to establish relationships with local farms for supply of farm-fresh healthy food to schoolchildren, and to educate children about healthy food sourcing and preparation/preservation within our city.

Community gardens

Your City establishes a level of service of one community garden per 2,500 citizens.  City ordinances allow (and override any HOA restrictions) for community gardens in all zoning areas, as long as specific established criteria is met by committed citizen groups.  The City supports community gardens with installed water access.

Farmers markets

Your City ordinances allow local farmers markets with strict grown-local standards in commercial zoning areas, on City park property, and on church property.

Greenhouse center

Your City supports the creation of a greenhouse growing center that serves to provide a steady organic plant supply to Your City's gardens and farms, and to mobilize diverse community groups in hands-on education and green job training.

Public Produce

Your City ordinances allow low-maintenance climate-appropriate edible landscaping in Adopt-a-Spot locations, as street trees, and in public parks.  The City encourages the planting of recommended edible landscaping at commercial locations and institutions. 

Urban Farms

Your City ordinances allow 1-5 acre public urban farms in select locations determined as part of the master greenspace plan.

Urban agriculture education center

Your City encourages the creation of an education center for urban agriculture-related workshops to learn growing, processing, and preserving of healthy, local food.

Community kitchen/small-scale processing center

Your City ordinances allow the creation of a shared community food processing center for the creation of value-added agricultural products such as jams, pickles, salsas, baby food, and more.

Green waste composting center

Your City encourages the creation of a food waste composting center designed to repurpose the waste stream and return finished compost back to Your City's gardens for free, or as a branded, affordable product as part of a green entrepreneurial initiative.

Farm-to-fork restaurant and other local food-related businesses (including co-ops)

Your City encourages urban agriculture entrepreneurial and green job growth through tax incentives and targeted marketing efforts to attract more green businesses to your community.

Want to see how other cities are embracing comprehensive urban agriculture planning and policies?  Well, here's a start .

If you live in a city near mine and are ready to dig in on some of these ideas, please let me know.  I know folks (including me) who love to help.  Email me at .

No matter where in the world you are, if you have more points to add to this list, please leave a comment and share with us all! 

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