Urban Farming Is no Longer a Crime

Score one for backyard gardeners, urban homesteaders, and fans of super-local produce: On Tuesday, Oakland’s City Council (finally) moved to update a long-standing city code that prohibited the sale of homegrown fruits and vegetables — a ban which, according to Matthai Kuruvila at the Chron, is a “relic of an era when cities wanted to distinguish themselves from rural areas.” These days, of course, as urban farming increases in popularity with the help of folks like Novella Carpenter and in tandem with the locavore movement, such a ban means backyard homesteaders are forced to either break the law or (literally) eat all their excess produce.

Backyard carrots: no longer contraband

  • Backyard carrots: no longer contraband

But the new code provides cover for outdoor “home-based businesses” — i.e., farms — under the condition that they don’t use professional farm equipment, sell produce boxes, or grow on vacant lots. That still rules out farms like Carpenter’s, which is in an empty lot, and as Kuruvila notes, the code change doesn’t address the stickiest part of the urban farming movement — the rearing (and, often, eventual slaughter) of farm animals like chickens, goats, and rabbits in backyard farms. That’s what got Carpenter in hot water with the city earlier this year a neighbor complained that she was making and selling rabbit potpies. There’s no word yet on how, if at all, the city intends to address that piece of the puzzle. In the meantime, though, go forth and garden, Oakland. (But be careful!!)


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