Local Food Systems projects

Identifying barriers to, and opportunities for local food systems

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 at the following links:

Bulletin 1: Introduction and Overview:  Engaging Community Planners and Local Elected Officials with Local Food Systems Producers to Integrate Local Food Systems into Community Plans and Policies

Bulletin 2:  The Intersection of Local Food Systems and the Agricultural Exemption to Iowa County Zoning

Bulletin 3:  Smart Growth and Local Food Systems

Bulletin 4:  Local Food Systems and Economic Development

“Municipal Zoning for Local Foods in Iowa” guidebook and webinar

Municipalities in Iowa and across the nation are increasingly recognizing the multiple benefits of urban agriculture; however, zoning regulations can unintentionally impede urban agriculture. As a follow-up to the project discussed above, the Leopold Center funded Gary Taylor 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.

The guidebook can be downloaded here.   UPDATE: This version preserves the links to municipal code websites.

We would like to know who we are reaching with this guidebook.  Please email gtaylor *at* iastate.edu with your name and where you are from when you download the guidebook, or leave a comment below.  It is a monitored comment section, and for your privacy we will not post any comments with your name and location.

To develop the guidebook Gary Taylor and Andrea Vaage 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 was held on September 30, 2015 to inform participants of the issues associated with zoning and urban agriculture, and to introduce the guidebook.  A link to the archived webinar can be found here:


4 thoughts on “Local Food Systems projects

  1. I am at The Evergreen State College, WA. I downloaded this guidebook for research into zoning implications for urban agriculture.

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