Urban farming is nothing new. Over the last decade, gardens have sprouted up on rooftops and in weed-riddled, overgrown plots in cities across the country. But city code, unsurprisingly, takes a while to catch up with trends.
Recently, the City of Boise's Planning and Development Services formed an Urban Agriculture Committee to update city code to include specifications on urban farming, community gardens, beekeeping, poultry and livestock.
"We reviewed the minimal standards we have already at Boise City and compared those to other municipalities: Spokane, Salt Lake, Seattle," explained Planning and Development Current Planning Manager Cody Riddle.
After consulting with members like Josie Erskine of Peaceful Belly, Steve Sweet of the Treasure Valley Beekeepers Club and Trina Leishman of Edwards Nursery, the Urban Agriculture Committee drafted a set of preliminary recommendations, which they recently dispersed among Boise neighborhood associations and public agencies for input.
In addition to expanding the scope of urban beekeeping and suggesting that the number of pet chickens allowed per household be raised from three to between six and eight, the recommendations also suggest that "research into allowances for roosters should occur." The new recs also delineate between community gardens and urban farms and impose some potential restrictions on their use.
For example, "operations should not begin before March 1 and all gardens should be cleaned up before Nov. 1" and "operations should be limited to daylight hours."
"They've been kind of operating in a no man's land ... We really want to acknowledge that they're out there and allow them to continue to operate with some very basic standards that they can work with and that neighbors can rely on," said Riddle.
But these recommendations, while still open for debate, have upset some of Boise's few existing urban farmers.
"It just seems backwards to me to impose all these regulations before you've even come up with a way to help people farm," said Casey O'Leary of Earthly Delights Farm.
Marty Camberlango of City Gardens agreed. He's not against regulation but would rather see the city support the growth of urban agriculture first--by allowing people to farm fallow public land or giving tax breaks to those farming residential property.
"It just seems naive and not that thought-out and a way for the city to say, 'We support urban agriculture.' But the only support I see is it's putting restrictions on me, and I don't see that as support," said Camberlango.
O'Leary approached Riddle with her complaints and was promptly added as a member of the Urban Agriculture Committee.
"Cody was extremely receptive when I talked to him," said O'Leary. "Hopefully, the process is such that we'll be able to continue to comment on it and get it to somewhere where it is actually benefiting farmers and it's not creating a bunch of unnecessary [red tape]."
The city has extended the timeline for input until Friday, Aug. 12. After that more-specific recommendations may be added before the public weighs in at a hearing prior to City Council approval. Riddle hopes to have these standards in place by next growing season.