Proposed legislation would grow Richmond’s urban farming capabilities

Urban farmers in Richmond would be legally able to grow fruits and vegetables on larger city plots under a proposed ordinance.
Photo of volunteers at a Richmond Greenway community farm provided by Urban Tilth, a local nonprofit.

Urban farmers and gardeners in Richmond would have more flexibility to grow fruits, vegetables and other foods on a larger scale – and sell them to their neighbors — under an ordinance backed by City Councilmember Tom Butt, according to a report by KALW (91.7 FM).

Butt posted a web version of the radio station’s story on his Facebook page, a clear endorsement of lifting restrictions on urban farming in Richmond. Some residents say the city’s current rules are at odds with Richmond’s burgeoning slow food movement.  The draft ordinance, which won’t be seen by the full City Council until September, would allow urban gardeners and farmers with a business license to sell their products at temporary farmstands, according to KALW.

“It mainly provides a way that people can create urban farms or do urban gardening on a larger scale than just a backyard garden, and make it legal,” Butt told KALW.

Under the current planning code, “all of the use of vacant lots or front yards or city parks for growing food is illegal,” said Doria Robinson, executive director of Urban Tilth, the nonprofit managing 11 small farms and gardens in Richmond.

 “If it isn’t explicitly allowed, it’s disallowed, and right now we have no code addressing it, and so they say that it’s not allowed,” Robinson told KALW.

Butt has on multiple occasions called Richmond a food desert with few stores offering healthy options. He believes urban gardens would help solve that longstanding problem.