Toledo City Council and a group of urban farm advocates have reached agreement on new rules for urban agriculture in Toledo — the latest development from the pioneering efforts of urban farmer Thomas Jackson to convert vacant inner-city lots into vegetable beds.
The agreement between the Toledo Plan Commission and a local group, Urban Agriculture Alliance, rewrites the city zoning code on agriculture into two categories — major agriculture and minor agriculture.
Most significantly, it allows people to set up a table stand with a tent in their front yard to sell tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and whatever else they can coax out of the soil on that same property. The stand could be no larger than 100 square feet and it could operate only from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The amendments also address the issue of compost and mulch, which were the problems that attracted the power of city bureaucracy against Mr. Jackson two years ago. Mr. Jackson’s farm lots — former vacant housing lots — drew neighbor complaints and nuisance complaints from the city. The proposed ordinance spells out what compost and mulch can be used, and it is referenced to standards set by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which helps ensure they will stay updated.
It creates two categories — minor agriculture, which may use greenhouses and similar structures up to 400 square feet, and major agriculture, which requires a special use permit for anything bigger.
The new rules have been hashed out over a matter of months and are up for a vote on council this Tuesday.
Said Tom Gibbons, director of the plan commission, “If somebody has a small card table out and they want to sell vegetables to their neighbors, why would that require a special-use permit? We thought about it and said, ‘You know, OK that makes sense.’”
It does make sense. Now, if only the plan commission could convince us that calling a tomato a fruit makes sense.
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