Urban agriculture is a growing phenomenon throughout the country. This goes beyond simply having a little vegetable garden, which was long a staple of suburban homes, and instead consists of applying some actual agricultural know-how to urban plots. Urban agriculture has been touted as a potential savior for cities like Detroit, which have a lot of unused space and large areas of “food deserts,” which are areas in which actual grocery stores cannot be reached on foot.
But advocates of urban agriculture have been fighting a constant battle against zoning laws in a lot of cities across the country. While Seattle or Portland might have embraced urban agriculture because it appeals to large segments of their populations, other places, like Arlington, Virginia, have had more trouble moving forward.
That city in particular has spent a lot of council hours on the question of who can legally raise chickens within the city.
Chickens are a common sight in urban agriculture because they don’t require a lot of room or nearly as much work as other livestock, and they produce eggs frequently enough that they’re actually worth having around. But to date, only a very small number of households in the city can raise chickens legally, because the coop has to be at least 100 feet from the street, and the vast majority of lots simply aren’t that big. There have been discussions of reducing that number by as much as 75 percent, which would vastly increase the number of single-family lots in the city where chickens could live.
Unfortunately for urban farmers in Arlington, the discussion has been off the table for the last few years, but some changes in the city council have opened up the possibility of moving forward with the discussion.
If those rules could be amended, it would be a win for urban farmers across the country, showing that even places that aren’t “weird” like Portland can embrace potentially very helpful trends.