Changing Zoning Codes for Urban Agriculture


Chicago urban farm (image: Linda N)

Having lived in Tucson for many years, this article warmed my heart. There is a lot of backyard gardening and farming going on, but it’s illegal. Neighbors don’t generally complain. More often than not, they share in the bounty of ambitious gardeners. What’s to complain about?

It’s not illegal to raise chickens in Tucson, but the setback requirements don’t allow for a coop. Small details like that need to be rewritten to address and accommodate what has been going on for decades.

Of course there are opponents who don’t think it’s right to rewrite laws for people who are breaking them. But if urban gardening is good for the neighborhood and the economy, why not allow it?

Growing food is not trendy. It’s a necessity. Why were the Victory Gardens of World War II patriotic, but urban gardens today are illegal?

Tucson, Boston and Chicago

Up until now, Tucson zoning codes did not even mention community gardens. This is something that will be added. Community gardens are a good way for lower income families to grow food. These spaces are usually owned by civic organizations or the city, and they are free to use. They bring people together with a common goal, and they share their harvest with others.

Boston has also rewritten their codes, but only for commercial farming, which includes “ground-level farms, roof-level farms, roof-level greenhouses, composting, aquaculture, hydroponics, aquaponics, freight farming, farmers’ markets, farm stands, and soil safety.” It’s clear that urban farming is good for the city and its residents, but why not include home and community gardens? It looks to me like Boston has more writing to do!

In Chicago, it’s illegal to compost. It’s legal in the state of Illinois, but not in its largest city. In 2011, urban agriculture became legal, but composting laws did not change. Successful organic gardening depends on good compost. Chicago, just like Boston, need to revisit their code and allow urban composting.

“Outlaws” change the laws

There are ‘outlaws’ in all of these cities. People are farming successfully with no complaints from neighbors. City governments need see the benefits to their economies, the environment, and the sense of community and connection to nature. They mostly need to consider the health and well-being of their residents.

We all need to eat, whether we live in a village of 600 people or a city of millions. We all need to be able to grow what we eat. The US needs Victory Garden-type legislation that allows anyone anywhere to feed themselves from their own yard.

Your thoughts on urban gardens and gardening?

Do you have an experience with a neighbor who farms or gardens in a city?

Does it bother you?

Do you buy or barter for their goods?

What are your thoughts about creating zoning codes to allow more urban farming?

Do you think there should be national or global legislation?

Tell us about it in the comments section of this post.

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