Ask Eartha: Urban farming in Summit County? | SummitDaily.com
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Ask Eartha: Urban farming in Summit County?

by Eartha Steward

Last week, a dozen or so chicken and garden crusaders piled into a small room at the High Country Conservation Center to find the answers to whether or not urban farming is in Summit County’s near future. What exactly is urban farming and why should you care?

Summit County is a unique community that doesn’t necessarily fall under the cut-and-paste definition of urban or rural. Call us what you may – ski town, mountain village, paradise – we definitely have our fair share of city and country.

Urban farming is a term that seems to fit the movement across America where people are investing in backyard homesteads – gardens, chickens, goats and bees – to feed themselves and their families. The key to urban farming is that it isn’t taking place on the outskirts of town or in Podunk (i.e. the middle of nowhere). In fact, it’s taking place in large cities like Portland, New York and Denver.

Even more exciting, this urban farming fever is spreading throughout suburbia to the mountain towns. From Boulder and Fort Collins to Littleton to Kremmling and Steamboat to Leadville – why not Summit County? Well, we asked that very question.

According to “raising chickens 101” articles from Mother Earth News and Grist, the first step in urban farming is researching your current city regulations to find out what is legal or illegal. As it stands, chickens and goats are not allowed on any property in Summit County that is less than 2 acres, and such uses are only allowed in limited zoning districts such as RU, RME, and A1. Thus, the majority of residential properties in Summit County are currently prohibited from the keeping of chickens and goats.

The current code does not address beekeeping and therefore, new regulations are currently being drafted which will facilitate beekeeping on residential lots along with providing a regulatory framework for the keeping of bees.

Last week’s group of future urban farmers wanted to know how we can make changes to the existing code. Summit County’s Food Policy Council, co-chaired by the High Country Conservation Center and Summit Prevention Alliance, determined there are five main steps:

1). Form a support group. As of now, we have about 40 individuals in support of urban farming initiatives. This power group is the backbone essential to making each of the following steps successful.

2). Learn from other communities. We’ve been researching everything from city ordinances and food policies to animal husbandry and community gardens to arm ourselves with enough information to answer your questions. The research will also prepare us to help facilitate a decision that takes our community’s climate, needs and concerns into consideration for the most appropriate regulations.

3). Spread the word. We will continue to hold public meetings that allow citizens to discuss their questions and concerns. The Food Policy Council is also hosting a public forum on the Future of Urban Farming in Summit County Feb. 16, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Senior and Community Center in Frisco. The forum will discuss in depth the potential code amendments while allowing the public to voice their agreements and disagreements. Over the next couple of weeks you will see the urban farming topic throughout the media. Please help us spread the word to your neighbors, friends and family members. We will also provide up-to-date information about this campaign on HC3’s website (www.highcountryconservation.org) so you can thumb through the resources and sign an online petition in support.

4). Address the concerns. We want to hear from you. Please send us your thoughts and concerns about urban farming in Summit County. What do you want to see happen? What worries you about these potential changes? What are your interests? You can e-mail your suggestions to food@highcountryconservation.org.

5). Present the case. After the public forum Feb. 16, we’ll go back to the drawing board and address all questions and concerns. The intent is for the urban farming regulations to be reviewed by the countywide planning commission this spring.

We have a lot of work to do in a small amount of time. Just a reminder, the county has not made and will not make a definitive decision on these urban farming measures until they have approved the regulations through the formal process mentioned above. In addition, local towns will have to adopt their own individual guidelines for urban farming if they chose to.

For more information about urban farming and to find out what you can do, please visit http://www.highcountryconservation.org.

Eartha Steward is written by Jennifer Santry and Erin Makowsky, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at eartha@highcountryconservation.org.


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