Solving Cities

Pittsburgh wants urban farms to grow

Pittsburgh wants urban farms to grow

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Pittsburgh has adopted new rules to make it easier to farm in the city. Will it spark more urban agriculture?

Grow Pittsburgh's Braddock Farms.

When it comes to urban agriculture, cities are not always clear about the rules. Many city codes are either outdated or nonexistent when it comes to issues like beekeeping, chickens, or selling produce. But last week Pittsburgh's city council adopted new rules to better align the city with its residents, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Some of the codes will make it easier to own a commercial farm -- with bee, crops, poultry, and/or livestock -- the site must be at least three acres -- down from the previous five acres that were needed to run a farm in the city. It's also easier to own a chicken coop or other farm-related structures because they only need to be 50 feet from a property line -- down from 200 feet.

And most importantly, for the beekeeping community, the practice, which code previously ignored, is now permitted. For community gardens, the city was also silent on the legality of selling produce, but now it's now legal to sell produce on-site once gardens go through a variance process.

But not everyone is happy with the new regulations.

City council President Darlene Harris called the regulations confusing and, possibly, too burdensome.

Mrs. Harris said she's concerned that existing agricultural operations without occupancy permits will be forced to apply for variances and that the city will crack down on people who have a horse or a pig as a pet. She said she'll assess the regulations' impact in about a year and push for any changes she considers necessary.

Horses and pigs are not considered pets under the city code. Under the new rules, a person with under 3 acres must seek special permission to have either animal.

Even so, Pittsburgh is one of many U.S. cities where urban farms are gaining popularity. But it's not just a fad, there are plenty of cool urban agriculture projects that have been around for years.

Mildreds' Daughters Urban Farm -- This Pittsburgh farm has been around since 1875. It operates on five acres and offers classes and farm tours.

Grow Pittsburgh -- For the past five years, this organization has been helping students in Pittsburgh Public Schools learn about gardening. In 2007, the organization turned a vacant lot into a thriving farm called Braddock Farm (see photo above). And in the summer, teens can learn sustainable urban farming techniques through the Summer Youth Intern Program.

Burgh Bees -- For all aspiring beekeepers in Pittsburgh, this is an organization to get acquainted with. They offer beekeeping classes, and turned a vacant lot into the city's first community apiary.

Know of other cool urban agriculture projects happening in Pittsburgh? Tell us in the comments below.

[Via Planetizen]

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Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure