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CHAPTER 4 Urban Ag’ in the ’Burbs megan horst, c atherine brinkley, and kara martin introduction In this chapter, we call for increased attention to suburban-agriculture policy. In the past decade, great strides have been made to readapt appropriate urban agriculture in many urban areas. Most of this attention has been centered in large cities. Suburbs have not been the focus of reforms or of academic investigation. However, suburbs represent a significant and mostly untapped potential space for agricultural policy. Suburbs contain the majority of the US population and urban land. Suburban agriculture also has a history of significantly supporting food-stressed countries (Brinkley 2013). Suburban agriculture will benefit from a different policy approach than urban agriculture. Urban and suburban agriculture are different in their histories, demographics, land-use mixes, plot dimensions, and preexisting prohibitive zoning regulations. As such, suburban planners and policy makers do not find the practices of larger cities particularly relevant to their community context. Yet without other resources, practitioners continue to draw from urban-agri- 42 regulation culture models in large cities. City “best practices” regarding allowed uses, lot size, guidelines on aesthetics, monitoring and permitting, and restrictions and requirements for additional buildings, animals, fences, parking, setbacks, lighting and noise, odor, and waste management (for examples, see chapter 16) often need to be changed to suit the suburban context. Overall, we see a need for more attention to suburbs, and purposeful inclusion of diverse jurisdictions in research and development of best practices. In this chapter, through a series of four cases, we explore modern suburban agriculture to identify patterns of early adoptions and limits. We conclude with three takeaways regarding urban agriculture, as well as a set of recommended steps for suburban-agriculture policy making. history of urban agriculture To understand the current regulations governing urban agriculture, it is helpful to know how urban agriculture became so heavily regulated, and often discouraged, across the United States. This was not always the case. Among early colonial American cities, urban agriculture was emphasized as a key component in civic life and the food supply (Vitiello and Brinkley 2013). Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Boston maintained planned commons for animal pasturing, communal gardens, and designated areas for private gardening. Spanish settlements in the West were constructed following planning documents that specified the distance of resident housing to farmland and gardens to make food transport efficient. However, urban agriculture fell out of favor in the late 1800s as inventions like refrigerated railcars enabled the transport of food over long distances, removing the necessity of relying on nearby production (Cronon 1991). Significant changes occurred regarding policies around animals. Early American cities relied on animal agriculture for waste management, transportation , and food supply (Brinkley and Vitiello 2013). Free-roaming hogs cleaned up household slop and processed swill in what would become New York’s Central Park before the city had a public suburban sanitation department . Sheep and goats grazed on the Boston Commons. Chickens and roosters squawked as they scratched through the dirt. Animals were everywhere, as was their manure. Urban Ag’ in the ’Burbs 43 Ascitiesgrewandmodernized,concernalsogrewoveranimalsasnuisances. Specifically, there were fears over the spread of cholera from swill-feeding pig operations, and a desire to relocate the urban poor and the waste services they provided (via pigs processing slop and urban dairy cattle processing spent grains from distilleries, for example) to less-central locations like the suburbs. Citiesstartedgovernmentsanitationservicesattheturnofthetwentiethcentury, outlawing piggeries, composting, and informal garbage collection (for more on this issue, see chapter 6). Soon thereafter, city planners, veterinarians, and newly created public health officials engaged in efforts to remove animals from cities. Prohibitions on animals were codified in zoning ordinances in the 1920s and still exist today, almost a century later. In addition to concerns over animals, some (though not all) early city officials also considered inner-city food gardening problematic. While early planners saw gardens on the residential fringes (early suburbs) as important amenities that could sometimes be used for cultivating vegetables and fruit, they debated why and if the inner-city poor should garden. At one of the first city planning conferences, planner Thomas Adams noted that urban agriculture was prevalent in poorer quarters of the city; when “you go down into these slums . . . you will find people trying to grow potatoes in a box one foot square . . . and these people will tell you that they are living under these conditions only because they cannot do otherwise” (Proceedings of the Third National Conference 1911). Public health concerns over the quality...


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