State’s Premier Urban Agriculture Ordinance Includes Regs for Farming on City and Private Land, Keeping of Chickens and Bees.
Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced that, following approvals by the City’s Board of Aldermen (Aug. 16), Planning Board (Aug. 16) and Board of Health (Sept. 20), , Somerville is now the first city in Massachusetts to pass an Urban Agriculture Ordinance that establishes formal guidelines for urban farming and gardening, the keeping of chickens and bees, and other policies governing the growth and sale of agricultural products in an urban setting. Residents, non-profit agencies or businesses seeking to obtain permits to begin farming or keeping bees or chickens should visit the City’s Urban Agriculture webpage: www.somervillema.gov/urbanag. Information on the initiative and upcoming events can also be found on the Urban Agriculture blog: somervilleurbanag.tumblr.com.
“We are committed to making our city a great place to live, work, play and raise a family - and we believe that ought to include a commitment to promoting a healthy and sustainable community by increasing access to fresh, healthy local foods and reconnecting residents with their food sources,” said Mayor Curtatone. “Somerville worked hard to become a model of innovation in such areas as government transparency, data sharing, and performance-driven management. Through programs like Shape Up Somerville, we’ve also maintained a focus on promoting healthier lifestyles and better health outcomes for all our residents – and especially our children. The passage of an Urban Agriculture Ordinance once again demonstrates how, as a community, we continue to embrace innovation and emerging best practices while working in close collaboration with great local partners like Groundwork Somerville and Green City Growers who have spearheaded this initiative.”
“As chair of the Land Use Committee of the Board of Aldermen, I am pleased to be able to say that the Committee held a number of meetings with substantial public input, and worked with the Administration to prepare a final ordinance that balanced the important goals of promoting and facilitating Urban Agriculture while protecting residents from potential negative adverse health or quality of life impacts,” said Alderman at Large William White.
“The Board of Health is pleased to be part of Somerville’s momentum in once again leading the way to encourage healthy local food options for our residents,” said Chairman of the Somerville Board of Health, Brian Green. “As evidenced by a unanimous vote, our entire membership encourages this initiative, and we look forward to working with the administration as we grow this and other related programs.”
Somerville’s new ordinance classifies activities under “Urban Agriculture” into categories including Farming (sale of produce grown on designated city or private lots and/or on rooftops), Gardening (growing produce not for sale on city and private lots, in greenhouses and/or on rooftops), and the keeping of animals (chickens and honeybees). Health regulations, approved by the Board of Health, also set guidelines and permitting structures surrounding the sale of foods, recommendations for soil safety and rodent control, and fee structures for the keeping of animals. Information has been consolidated into an easy-to-read “Somerville’s ABC’s of Urban Agriculture” Guidebook, available on the City’s website, to encourage and promote activities throughout the City.
“Every resident should have easy, affordable access to fresh, healthy foods, and we hope that through these recommendations and guidelines, our community will continue to embrace the movement to reconnect residents with their food source, and make healthier lifestyle choices,” said Mayor Curtatone. “We also hope that, through this ordinance, Somerville can provide a a resource to other Massachusetts municipalities seeking to implement Urban Agriculture, sharing our best practices and tools to make programs like this a reality across the state.”
In the last year, the City has worked with community partners to implement a number of related programs, such as an educational series entitled “Let’s Grow Somerville,” a City Hall Container Garden on the steps of City Hall, an Urban Agriculture Blog (“Somerville Loves Urban Gardening:” somervilleurbanag.tumblr.com), a Facebook group called “Somerville Loves Urban Gardening (SLUG), and community gardening and farming programs throughout the City.