Publisher's Note

WE SUPPORT URBAN FARMS

“Eating is an agricultural act.” —Wendell Berry, The Pleasures of Eating

Every time we lift our fork we are supporting a farm somewhere. Increasingly, thanks to urban farms, we are supporting neighborhood farms in our own community. These farms grow healthy food, create jobs, serve as community hubs and give us the opportunity to experience the inherent value of the land. Protecting our urban farms is key to creating a positive economic environment in Austin.

Earlier this year, the City began a process to update the Code Ordinance for our urban farms. The process was conducted over eight months of well-publicized and documented city-wide public hearings and input-gathering. As with any thoughtful and well-considered process, it brought multiple stakeholders to the table and compromises were made by all parties to accommodate multi-faceted concerns of both farmers and neighborhood groups.

Benefits to the community. The Urban Farm Code Ordinance is a city-wide ordinance benefitting all residents throughout Austin. Here are a few of these:

Long-term, stable neighbors. Long-term land stewardship is essential for sustainably growing vegetables and small livestock. Austin’s urban farmers need years to build soil fertility, provide healthy pasture and invest in infrastructure. Because no farmer can survive on sales of the fruits of their labors alone, urban farms also bring vibrant and meaningful events to life such as farm dinners, canning and cooking classes and weddings to provide additional revenue to support the farm. This, in turn, allows them to give back to the community with farm tours providing educational outreach for schools and charity fundraisers.

Support for the local economy. Urban farms hire locally and every dollar spent on a local farm stays in the community, as opposed to the 4-cents on the dollar when you buy your food from a big box store. As Austinites influence local restaurants to source more locally and sustainably grown food, this also drives money to our vibrant local—and nationally recognized—food scene.

Access to healthy food for all. Small urban farms throughout the city can't solve all of our food access problems, but they can help. A new “market garden” code designation provides an easier entry for producers of diverse backgrounds and an additional source of income and food for families; non-code recommendations support farm stands that have the capacity to accept nutrition assistance benefits such as SNAP and WIC and point the city towards programs to help get land in the hands of more diverse producers.

The payoff. Supporting our urban farms by passing the update to the urban farm code will provide the residents of Austin access to fresh, healthful food and local jobs while cultivating good neighbors with a strong sense of place and interest in preserving not just the land but our neighborhoods.

Help us celebrate Austin's urban farms during our 2013 Eat Drink Local Week, December 7–14, by taking our Local Food Challenge: Join us in cooking meals throughout the week with all local ingredients or dining at restaurants featured in our new mapped guide to farm-to-table restaurants. And we’ll see you at the farmers markets and special events throughout the week!