Proposed Chicago zoning change to cut red tape for urban agriculture

July 26, 2011

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(Flickr/Piush Dahal)
Greens at City Farm, located near Chicago's Old Town neighborhood.
(Natalie Moore/WBEZ)
Growing Power is an urban farm in the Bridgeport neighborhood.

Urban agriculture is a growing movement in Chicago to help increase access to healthy food – especially in food deserts. But there’s nothing in the city’s zoning code that formally recognizes farming.

A proposed ordinance would make it easier for urban agriculture to take place in the city of Chicago.

For months, the food justice community has been working on an ordinance. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he’s proposing one this week to city council.

Emanuel announced the initiative at Iron Street Urban Farm, a former abandoned truck depot in the Bridgeport neighborhood. The farm plans to grow fresh produce year round.

“Our ordinance will deal with the ability of turning a plot like this that was an eyesore into an economic engine in the neighborhood. That’s one – creating hundreds of jobs just here and there’s thousands of sites like this throughout the city,” Emanuel said.

The proposed ordinance would expand the size of community gardens that would, in turn, allow for farms. Urban agriculture workers and advocates say these proposed reforms are promising. Erika Allen is with Growing Power and says this new ordinance is better than the one that was being worked on. It also allows for more space and recognizes aquaponics, a sustainable fish production system.

“This ordinance that’s being presented will make our work legal,” Allen said.