How to expand urban farming regs

With a two-stage zoning update, Boston residents became able to operate aquaculture, hydroponics, farmers markets and commercial farms


Originally published July 3, 2013

Boston proposed changes to its zoning regulations to make it easier for residents to optimize urban agriculture opportunities. Increasing access to locally grown produce boosts economic activity as well as supports a more sustainable community.

The Goal

Under the city’s previous zoning guidelines, urban agriculture was strictly regulated, which made such projects hard to cultivate. Boston officials introduced an amendment to the city’s zoning code, known as Article 89, to support a growing interest in urban farming projects within the community.

The amendment aims to create comprehensive rules surrounding:

  • Commercial farms
  • Farmers markets and stands
  • Aquaculture, hydroponics and aquaponics facilities
  • Composting
  • Soil safety
  • Raising of hens and bees in an urban environment

How It Will Work

Proposers of the amendment want to make healthy, locally grown food more accessible to residents – specifically underserved communities. By making urban farming more affordable and achievable, officials hope to boost economic opportunity and residential health. The city would provide education and resources to support urban agriculture projects, and connect future farmers with local and regional food providers to gain valuable insight and networking opportunities. The urban farms would then supply fresh produce to local organizations, institutions and residents.

The amendment proposed completing changes in two stages:

  1. Stage One: The city’s Pilot Urban Agriculture Rezoning Project would be revitalized, resulting in the creation of two urban farms. One farm will be operated by City Growers, a private company, and the other will be run by nonprofit organization Victory Programs.
  2. Stage Two: Article 89 would be passed to make it easier for more urban farms to rise up and be supported in the community. That included expanding the influence of the Mayor’s Urban Agriculture Working Group, which provided new farmers with industry experts and insight to successfully plan and launch an urban agriculture business.

Impact of The Project

The Boston Redevelopment Authority predicted the new zoning rules would increase cooperation within neighborhoods, make fresh food more affordable to residents, empower entrepreneurs throughout the city and make greater use of available space and land. Transportation costs and carbon emissions generated from transporting produce in from remote farms would be reduced with increased urban agriculture, which would help make Boston a greener city.

Think Pink

According to NPR, cities worldwide are experimenting with urban farming projects while working with engineers to create buildings that house resident s as well as support agricultural endeavors. Many engineers foresee the future of urban farming in warehouses that use blue and red LED lights to create a pink glow while growing produce. By providing plants with just the red and blue lights they require for growth, urban farmers can reduce electricity costs while ensuring consistent light is provided to all plants.

By working with LED technology, urban farmers can be more energy efficient and avoid burning the plants as the lights are cooler than the fluorescent alternatives. The plants could be grown completely indoors, making it easy to sustain consistent output despite adverse weather conditions.

Urban Farming Perks

Gov1 previously reported on the job creation resulting from urban agriculture and new water strategies to sustain the projects.