Wednesday, March 21, 2012

ACTION NEEDED: Call Your Council Person About Comunity Gardens and Urban Agriculture!

Post and photos by the Hawthorne Hawkman.

Tomorrow the Minneapolis City Council will consider provisions around urban farming and community gardens.  The language overall seems to be quite good, but Council Member Meg Tuthill has proposed several amendments that are misguided at best and would be harmful to north Minneapolis.

1.  Hoop houses, like the one pictured above, would be limited to a maximum height of six feet.  That's simply not large enough for most people to work in.  The hoop house pictured above, at the St. Olaf community garden in Jordan, is about seven feet tall.  Presumably, the six-foot limit is proposed because people are worried that the structures might be unsightly.  I've seen a few hoop houses pop up over north, and not once have I heard anyone complain about their appearance.  Conversations about them tend to go like this:

"What's that?"

"A hoop house."

"What does it do?"

"It extends the growing season so that more fruits and vegetables can be harvested from the garden."

"Oh, cool!"

Sometimes the comment of approval is followed by "How do I get one?"  Never have I heard anyone ask, "Well, can it be shorter?"

While a six-foot hoop house would be conveniently hidden from the tender eyes of southwesternites who don't want to see anything beyond their fences, the language would render hoop houses essentially unworkable and useless to the northsiders who are looking for ways to maximize the use of our land.  Tuthill's amendment needs to be voted down.

The second amendment would limit...

...sales that could occur on site at community gardens to only two sales in a calendar year.  Current language allows for up to twenty-five days per year.  Healthy foods are not consumed enough in North Minneapolis, and one main reason is because residents don't have easy access to a variety of such foods.  Furthermore, we have plenty of people who are looking for another way to supplement their income and stay one step ahead of the bills that pile up.  The more often we can allow for sales of healthy food, the better off everyone is.  Honestly folks, there's really only one appropriate response to this motion, and that's a quick "no" vote.  Giving the community better access to healthy foods while promoting entrepreneurs should be a no-brainer.

Our third proposed amendment from Tuthill deals with the placement and composition of raised beds.  Namely, raised beds would be prohibited from being made out of certain materials such as railroad ties or old telephone poles.  Some of the prohibited items, such as disallowing pergolas made out of electrically charged wire seem so odd you wonder why we have to legislate them at all.  But there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with repurposing old wood for light construction materials.

These amendments are set to go before zoning and planning tomorrow morning, so call your council member quickly and tell them to vote for the existing language instead!

4 comments:

  1. I really don't like the look of tall hoop houses. I'd prefer they extend no taller than the nearest fenceline. If a taller hoop house is needed then the fence should also be extended to keep neighbor eyes from seeing the structure. As far as the sales go, i'd be ok with multiple sales as long as the vendors are properly inspected, licensed and then taxed to ensure thay they are paying their fair share and are not posing any safety risk to the neighborhood. True we need healthy food but not at a possible food contamination risk which could be averted if we were properly inspected. I agree on the planters, they are great (way more attractive than hoop houses.) These should be made out of any organic sustainable material that the homeowner sees fit.

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    1. I really like the look of tall hoop houses. I'd prefer they extend taller than the nearest roofline. If a taller hoop house is needed then the entire yard should be encased in a geodesic dome "hoop house" with large signage promoting the gardening activities to the community. As far as the sales go, i'd be ok with multiple sales as long as the vendors have plenty of produce to share, and are not going hungry themselves. True we need healthy food but not at a possible starvation risk which could be averted if we let the grower be free. I agree on the planters, they are great (way more attractive than empty lots.) These should be made out of any organic sustainable material that the homeowner sees fit.

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    2. I think "taller than the nearest roofline" is pushing it in terms of aesthetics, and even *I* would oppose that. I also wonder if hoop houses of that size would start to lose their functionality at that point.

      However, I do think that as urban agriculture becomes more and more common, the people who wring their hands over hoop house aesthetics will be in the minority. Right now hoop houses aren't familiar enough, but as that changes then the sight of them will have a positive impact on the community.

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  2. Farmers don’t seem to be facing this kind of issue. Why are we, if we are zoned for urban agriculture?

    Could we get an exemption if our structure is duly insured and we signed a responsibility weaver clearing the city and county of all responsibility?

    Could this be brought in front of the Building Appeal Board?

    How could we get a variance?

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