Urban Argriculture in Seattle
While Seattle has seen an incredible groundswell of energy in the urban agricultural movement in the past five years, 2010 is officially our Year of Urban Agriculture. This is a campaign, a mission really, to promote exploration and expansion of our already vibrant culture of community gardening, farmer’s markets and regional farming.
What’s driving this mission? One key component is the Department of Planning’s recent announcement of proposed code changes to promote and encourage urban agriculture. This new legislation would, among other things, allow urban farms in all zones and allow rooftop greenhouses up to 15 feet. The difference between urban farming, and the already existing practice of community gardening (i.e. P-Patches), being the ability to sell the produce. Download FAQs For Urban Agriculture for answers to a number of frequently asked questions.
This comes on the heels of recommendations made in the Urban Agriculture in Seattle: Policy & Barriers report prepared for the City of Seattle. The three basic issues identified were: access to land, access to and clarity of laws and regulations, and ability to sell produce.
Seattle is already a hotbed of community gardening (a virtue extolled by the Daily Green in Which 10 Cities Have the Most Urban Gardens?), with a stunning 1,900 plots in our P-Patch Program, serving more than 3,800 urban gardeners on 23 acres of land.
Picardo P-Patch in Northeast Seattle was established in 1973. It is 98,000 sq ft, has 281 plots, and a wait list of approximately 1 year. As the original Seattle community garden, it has the longest term gardeners; dedicated people who have worked for years at tilling the soil and cultivating the program. It is also unique in having the longest quack grass roots in the city, the greatest number of comfrey plants per acre, and the most numerous slugs in the universe.
So, why do we now need urban farms? In 2008 the Seattle City Council passed Resolution 31019, a local food action initiative, which sets forth a series of actions meant to promote local and regional food sustainability and security.
A realistic vision of a “green city” is a food consumption hub in a larger regional foodshed, surrounded by and having within itself, diversified farms of all sizes. More specifically, urban farms can turn food production into a source of jobs and provide greater access to fresh, nutritious food.
According to the DPD, urban agriculture is a type of infill development that fits into Seattle, and the region’s larger growth management strategy, by adding a missing element of livable communities and stimulating small‐scale economic development.
One exceptional community urban farm model is Solid Ground’s Marra Farm, tucked into the South Park neighborhood of Seattle. It is 4 acres of historic preserved farmland, that with the help of 1,400 volunteers, grew more than 16,000 pounds of fresh, organic produce in 2009. In addition to South Park residents growing food for their own families, Marra Farm is the largest provider of organic produce to Seattle’s food bank system.
What many believe to be the ideal though is creation of a network of mini-farms wherever people can scrounge available land: school sites, churches, fire stations, yards. Some Seattle officials are pushing for a citywide inventory of public land that could be used to grow food, potentially including parks, land under power lines or even future reservoir caps. A similar effort in Portland called “The Diggable City”, started five years ago.
Check out this piece by CBS news entitled Down On The (Urban) Farm – Inner City Agriculture Brings Produce Closer To Consumers, And Nourishes More Than Just Appetites.
Here in Seattle, Urban Farm Hub provides a plethora of resources on urban farming, policy & fundng and food processing. Stay up-to-date with their humorous, academic, and thought-provoking news and information on urban agriculture and food policy in the Puget Sound region.