Urban Agriculture: New ordinances promote city farming

The Wheat Street Garden.

The Wheat Street Garden.

The Atlanta City Council’s vote last month to encourage and support more urban agriculture is set to make the city a national leader in local food systems.

More Atlanta families are growing their own food, while community gardens and farmers markets are now hubs of community interaction, but until the city council made zoning changes, urban agriculture operations were prevented from obtaining small business loans, urban farmers getting business licenses and put up barriers for legal land lease agreements.

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. “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.”

Rashid Nuri, CEO and President of the Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture, agreed. “Urban agriculture is about strengthening communities, building lasting relationships, caring for the soil, and nurturing the plants that nurture us,” Nuri said.

Nuri said having the community’s support has enabled Truly Living Well to become a national model of urban agriculture, employing 15 people and growing 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,” Nuri stated.

Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls said the new ordinance validates the innovative urban agriculture happening in the city. “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,” Rolls said.