on the range

The Future of Urban Agriculture

Will the City of Austin love its urban farms to death?

By Anna Toon, 10:30AM, Fri. May. 17, 2013

Carol Ann Sayle (l) and Larry Butler at Boggy Creek Farm
Carol Ann Sayle (l) and Larry Butler at Boggy Creek Farm
Photo by John Anderson

The Urban Farms Process and Code Coordination Working Group of the Austin/Travis County Sustainable Food Policy Board held its last of three working group sessions Wednesday night.

Formed to update the City of Austin's urban farm code, the working group has explored a host of issues, most recently addressing Byproducts, Environmental Health, and Sustainability.

Over 70 people attended the meeting making for an often spirited debate. Clarifications to the code are intended to benefit farmers, specifically to avoid a debacle of HausBar proportions. However, talk of increased restrictions worry many urban farmers, and rightly so. While not the mission of the Sustainable Food Policy Board, farmers are concerned that the revision may result in a code that is far too prescriptive and therefore may unnecessarily limit accepted organic practices. “The way we work and the way we do it is about passion. It’s about feeding people good, organic food,” said Larry Butler of Boggy Creek Farm.

Jean Drew and Matt Hollon of the City’s Watershed Protection Department as well as the City of Austin’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Lucia Athens provided valuable input. Austin’s Eastside urban farms were also highly represented. Slated for completion by the fourth Monday in June, the Sustainable Food Policy Board will utilize the recommendations and best practices gathered from the three meetings to draft new provisions for the code. At that point, a town hall meeting will be scheduled to provide an opportunity for additional public comment. From there, the updates will go to the Planning Commission in July and City Council in August.

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