A Tree Grows in Kansas City
I agree with this quote about urban farming from an article in the Pitch:
“I’m hoping for more availability and enthusiasm for local food in Kansas City — seeing a code that allows growers to sell and connect with potential buyers. Then local food will grow all on its own,” said Rachel Hogan, who recently completed a year-long internship on a series of organic farms in Missouri and is looking to help develop community gardens in Kansas City.
Farmers should be able to sell what they grow, regardless of whether they live on a rural farm or in a residential area or city. Get rid of the barriers to urban farming, and more people will pursue it.
Some people would be content if government just got out of the way, but other activists are asking the city of Kansas City to promote local gardening actively:
Residents suggested that new neighborhood trees planted by the city could be fruit or nut trees; land could be designated for agricultural purposes similar to park land; organic practices could be mandated for urban farms; and changes to the zoning code could provide guidance for would-be farmers.
Let’s look at those suggestions one at a time: I don’t see anything wrong with planting fruit trees, if the city is going to be planting trees anyway. It could be a problem if the fruit trees require more care than the trees Kansas City would normally plant, or if it’s cumbersome to remove the fruit that falls. Community gardening enthusiasts could probably come up with solutions to those issues.
I’m still opposed to designating public land for agriculture. That gives local agriculture an unfair advantage over other activities — cities don’t give out free land for bakeries or pharmacies. As for the argument that agriculture is special because everyone will depend on local food in the case of economic collapse, everyone would depend on local everything in that highly unlikely scenario. We couldn’t bring in bread from other places if disaster struck, so we might as well start subsidizing the bakeries. If you buy that argument for public farmland, you’re agreeing to local subsidies for every business.
Mandating organic practices is another policy that Kansas City would be wise not to pursue. When you want people to feel free to farm in the city, the last thing you should do is put a lot of extra requirements in their way.
And, finally, I don’t know what specific “guidance” activists want to impart through zoning code changes. Whatever it is, there is probably a less coercive way to guide farmers. People who want guidance usually ask for help or advice — not for an order from the city.