Municipal Zoning for Local Foods in Iowa Guidebook now available – Webinar scheduled.

Municipalities in Iowa and across the nation are increasingly recognizing the multiple benefits of urban agriculture; however, zoning regulations can unintentionally impede urban agriculture. To respond to this challenge the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University funded Gary Taylor and Andrea Vaage to develop the Municipal Zoning for Local Foods in Iowa guidebook. The guidebook provides science-based guidance and sample zoning code language designed to reduce the barriers to, and promote production and sales activities commonly associated with urban agriculture.  Although written for Iowa, the guidebook contains practical information and code language applicable to any local jurisdiction.

The guidebook can be found by going to the top of this page and clicking on the “Local Food Systems projects” tab.

To develop the guidebook the authors collected zoning code language from 84 municipalities across the nation on a variety of topics related to urban agriculture, and also researched practice-oriented scientific publications from a variety of sources, such as the United States Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Cooperative Extension publications from several university Extension services. The result is guidebook chapters that address the following common urban agriculture uses: aquaculture, bees, chickens, goats, front-yard gardens, community and market gardens, gardening on vacant lots, urban farms, season extenders, composting, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) drop-sites, farm stands, farmers markets, food trucks and pushcarts, and urban agriculture districts. Each chapter provides a general description of the activity, and the science-based information on standards and best practices associated with the activity; the public health, safety and welfare concerns commonly associated with the activity; a summary of the commonalities found among municipalities’ codes; and sample code language taken from municipalities that vary both in size and location.

A webinar will be hosted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach on September 30, 2015 from noon to 1:00p.m. Central time to inform participants of the issues associated with zoning and urban agriculture, and to introduce the guidebook to planning officials and city staff of Iowa municipalities.

To access the link to the webinar you can again go to the top of this page and click on the “Local Food Systems projects” tab.

Four ISU Extension bulletins discuss challenges to local food systems in Iowa

A roundtable on Local Food Systems was held in Perry, Iowa on August 12 and 13, 2009.  During the discussions at that roundtable it became clear that, in order to foster the growth of local foods systems in Iowa, there is a need to engage city, county and regional planners in discussions with those who are involved with local food systems production and distribution.  As a result, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University funded a project to bring together key stakeholders in focus group settings to identify the key barriers to, and opportunities for, integrating local food systems into community (city and/or county) plans to foster the establishment and growth of vibrant local food systems.  The focus groups identified the three most significant challenges facing the development and expansion of local food systems: (1) Defining and administering the agricultural exemption to county zoning found in Iowa Code 335.2, (2) Smart growth practices and their impacts on agriculture in and near city limits, and (3) lack of recognition of local food systems as an economic development opportunity.

Four Iowa State University Extension bulletins have been published from the work of this project.  Each can be accessed on the “Local Food Systems project” page linked above.

Illinois Local Food, Farms and Jobs Act

by Allison Arends and Gary Taylor

Of all the food consumed in Illinois, only 4 percent is grown within the state’s borders.  This is a startling statistic, but not surprising for states in the Midwestern Corn Belt where farm economies have largely developed into corn-soybean rotation monocultures.  Considering Illinois is home to  76,000 farms and 950 food manufacturing companies, enormous amounts of farm commodities are exported out of the state, while similar amounts are imported in order to feed Illinois citizens.  This has resulted in a, “costly arrangement that leaves too many people without enough access to healthy fruits and vegetables.”  Recently, both community level food systems and community-supported agriculture organizations have grown substantially. However, large consumers like hospitals, restaurant, and grocery stores have found it difficult to obtain local food in the necessary quantities.

In an attempt to contribute the efforts of state government to restructuring the food system and encourage Illinois farmers to respond directly to local consumers’ demands for fresh, locally-produced food, Governor Patrick Quinn recently signed into law the Illinois Local Food, Farms and Jobs Act of 2009.   The law creates a Grown-in-Illinois labeling and certification program to be administered by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.  The law also sets forth procurement goals that direct state agencies to purchase at least 20 percent of their food locally by 2020.  State-funded institutions such as schools have a goal of 10 percent by 2020.  State agencies will be allowed to pay up to a 10 percent premium above the lowest bid in order to purchase locally grown food.   

In addition, the law creates the Local Food, Farms and Jobs Council, a not-for-profit corporation tasked with facilitating the growth of an Illinois-based local farm and food product economy. This council, governed by a 35-member board of directors, will take actions designed to achieve the law’s goals of stimulating rural and urban communities, providing access to healthy fresh foods, creating jobs, and supporting economic growth through the distribution of Illinois local farm or food products to all of its citizens.  One of its main functions will be to work with public and private organizations and agencied to develop strategies for local food purchasing.

The state expects that increasing local food sales will bring a $30 billion boost to its economy the multiplier effect of keeping value-added production and consumption local.





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