ATLANTA—Atlanta is ready to become a national leader in local food systems, as the city council today approved an ordinance that will encourage and support our growing urban agriculture movement.
More Atlanta families are growing their own food, community gardens and farmers markets are now hubs of community interaction, and Atlanta urban farms are producing—and increasing access to—local, fresh food.
But until these new zoning changes were enacted, city laws:
- Prevented urban agriculture operations from obtaining small business loans;
- Stood in the way of urban farmers being issued a business license;
- Created a barrier for farmers and community gardeners to enter into legal land lease agreements; and,
- Created a risky environment where one complaint could jeopardize an entire project.
The changes were led by a grassroots group of urban farmers, community gardeners, community development organizations, and citizen advocates working in partnership with Atlanta’s Office of Planning and Office of Sustainability and supported by the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory Law School, which helped draft and negotiate the zoning updates.
“Atlanta should be proud of itself,” says Mindy Goldstein, director of the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory Law School. “The city’s urban agriculture ordinance is one of the most streamlined and permissive in the country. This ordinance will support our residents, our farmers, and our small businesses. It will set the stage for our city to become a leader in local food production, and it will serve as a guiding light for other cities seeking to bring fresh produce into their communities.”
“Urban agriculture is about strengthening communities, building lasting relationships, caring for the soil, and nurturing the plants that nurture us” said Rashid Nuri, Chief Executive Officer and President of the Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture. “Having the community’s support has enabled Truly Living Well to become a national model of urban agriculture. We employ over 15 folks and grew 30,000 pounds of food last year. These new zoning regulations are going to help take Truly Living Well and the rest of the urban ag community to the next level.”
“While the ordinance is meant to clarify and improve zoning policies, we hope it will stimulate the next wave of gardens and farms that can serve up some mighty delicious food for resident to eat, cook and grow,” says Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls. “This ordinance is a validation of the dynamic and innovative urban agriculture happening in the City of Atlanta and its importance in building a food oasis in the next 10 years.”
We are excited the City has taken this important step in improving urban agriculture’s legal foundation. And we are pleased to have the Office of Planning’s support in introducing a separate fee paper that will greatly reduce the permit fee that a select number of large community gardens may incur. The ALFI coalition will continue to work with the City, the Office of Planning, and community gardens towards further promoting urban agriculture. Members of this coalition and city officials will celebrate this new day in urban agriculture on Tuesday, June 10 at 10 a.m. at Truly Living Well’s Wheat Street Garden, a four-acre urban farm that embodies the vital, transformative work of urban agriculture.