City of Wheat Ridge Promotes Urban Agriculture

CITY OF WHEAT RIDGE PROMOTES URBAN AGRICULTURE WITH CODE AMENDMENTS

Partnership with LiveWell Wheat Ridge Encourages Locally Grown

Access to Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

The Wheat Ridge City Council approved changes to the City Code on Monday, May 23, 2011 that will further support and encourage urban agricultural uses and activities in the City. The code changes updated the City’s regulations and established three main uses for urban agriculture: community gardens (under the category of “urban gardens”), farmers’ markets, and produce stands which are now allowed in any zone district. A summary of the three uses permitted in each zone district may be found on the City Website at this link: Wheat Ridge, CO – Official Website – Urban Agriculture

We’ve seen increased interest in urban agriculture by our residents. Wheat Ridge was founded on an agricultural past and it is exciting to see the renewed interest by so many of our residents in a favorite pastime coupled with their desire to access locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m pleased that the amended ordinance creates a Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) for a resident or business to grow and sell fresh fruits and vegetables with no review fees or oversight by the City.

An overview on the code changes is as follows:

Urban Gardens

An urban garden is defined as an area of land formally managed, organized, and maintained by an individual or group of individuals to grow and harvest food crops and/or non-food ornamental crops, such as flowers. Common examples of urban gardens include:

  • Community gardens, where plots of land are leased for a minimal cost and crops are usually consumed or donated.
  • Market gardens, where crops are sold for profit.
  • Community supported agriculture (CSA), where locally grown crops are sold or donated for shareholder consumption.
  • Urban gardens are allowed in all zone districts, including residential, and do not require a submittal or review by the City.

 Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ markets are allowed in any zone district, except in residential zone districts on properties where the primary use is a single-or two-family homes. Farmers’ markets require a business license.

Produce Stands

A produce stand is a temporary structure where agricultural products such as raw vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, plants, nuts, honey, and eggs are sold. Value-added agricultural products which are made from raw agricultural products such as jams and jellies may also be sold from produce stands. Produce stands require a business license, which you may apply for through the City’s Sales Tax Division. Produce stands on residential properties must also follow the rules for home occupations.

“LiveWell Wheat Ridge congratulates the City of Wheat Ridge on making these important changes to the zoning code,” states Molly Hansen, LiveWell Wheat Ridge Coordinator. “Increasing access to locally grown food is a vital step in promoting healthy food options, creating resilient neighborhoods and supporting our local economy. It is exciting to see support from the community and City Council on creating a policy framework that supports these important principles.”

Tim Tindell and Amy DiPierre Tindell, Wheat Ridge residents and owners of the City Mouse Garden noted, “We believe Wheat Ridge is in a unique position, as a former agricultural community, to be an example for communities locally and nationally. This ensures countless positive effects. Embracing urban farmers, whether it is a person growing cut flowers or cucumbers, will stabilize our immediate local economy, solidify long-term relationships, provide a safe and secure food system. This is truly one of the most important issues any of us can be involved in.”

The City identified the need to update the zoning regulations for urban agriculture activities as part of the Envision Wheat Ridge Comprehensive Plan that was adopted in the fall of 2009. “Envision Wheat Ridge is a visionary plan that set the foundation for us to create and maintain a healthy and active community,” says Tracy Langworthy, Mayor pro tem and Councilmember for District IV. “It is exciting to see the grassroots involvement from citizens who have helped bring these goals to life.”

Efforts to promote urban agriculture in communities are on the rise. Wheat Ridge is now among the leading municipalities in the State and nation connecting urban dwellers to fresh, healthy food. The City began its efforts a year ago researching cities across the country including Seattle, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Kansas City all that have been recognized for adopting zoning codes that support urban agricultural activities. “Cities are drawn to urban agriculture for a variety of reasons,” said Ken Johnstone, Community Development Director. “Urban agriculture promotes economic and community development, environmental sustainability, and connects urban dwellers to fresh, healthy food.”

A dynamic grassroots effort developed when the City partnered with a group of Wheat Ridge residents, known as the Access to Fresh Fruits and Vegetables (AFFV) Task Force, to review and comment on the draft ordinance as it was developed. Amanda Weaver, who lives and owns a farm in Wheat Ridge commented, “I think it’s great that Wheat Ridge is continuing to support local growing and local food in their zoning code and I really appreciate the efforts of the staff to keep this important piece of Wheat Ridge’s heritage thriving.”

LiveWell Wheat Ridge funded the development of the Residential and Urban Agriculture Guide for Wheat Ridge which was created by the Jefferson Conservation District, staff at the City of Wheat Ridge and Councilmember Karen Berry. The publication provides a summary of the types and intensities of urban agriculture are permitted on residentially zoned property. This publication can be found on the City Website at this link: Wheat Ridge, CO – Official Website – Urban Agriculture

Suzanne Teale, a member of the AFFV Task Force added, “As someone who has been gardening at the Happiness community garden for several years and enjoying all the benefits of growing my own vegetables and sharing with neighbors and friends, I am glad that many other people in the City will have opportunities to participate in community gardens and other urban gardening alternatives because of the adoption of the urban agriculture ordinance.”

In addition to the zoning code amendments, the City is in the process of amending the building code easing the requirements for hoop houses. Hoop houses are temporary greenhouses with a semi-circular shape that typically have a plastic covering. Many people use hoop houses as an affordable way to extend the growing season. These structures range from very small greenhouses set up in private backyards, to very large structures used on commercial farms or in retail settings.

For more information on a community assessment conducted in the fall of 2010 by LiveWell Wheat Ridge and community partners on the importance of accessing and consuming locally-grown produce, community gardening, and much more, go to: http://jeffco.us/jeffco/health_uploads/hplmhandouts/LWWR_Health_Assessment.pdf

For more information about the City’s urban agriculture efforts, please contact Sarah Showalter, Planner II at 303.235.2849 or via email: sshowalter@ci.wheatridge.co.us.

To find out more about how you can participate in the Access to Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Task Force, and for media inquiries about LiveWell Wheat Ridge, please contact Molly Hanson, LiveWell Wheat Ridge Coordinator, at 720.345.8547 or email mhanson@jeffco.us.

Please feel free to use the two attached photos and credit Deb Johnson, City of Wheat Ridge Happiness Gardens.

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City Treasurer Jerry DiTullio - Wheat Ridge, CO
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