Push is on for backyard farming in Summit County | SummitDaily.com

Push is on for backyard farming in Summit County

Special to the Daily Jennifer Santry, Executive Director of High Country Conservation Center and Co-Chair of Summit County Food Policy Council, is working on new regulations to facilitate community gardens and backyard chickens, bees, and goats in Summit County.

It could be soon that residents outside of the incorporated areas of Summit County can look out their windows on chickens, goats and bees in their backyards.

High County Conservation Center is working with county planner Kristin Dean to develop revised regulations to be considered as county code amendments that would allow the creatures to be raised locally. Before the county reviews the proposal this spring, the center is soliciting public feedback at a forum slated for 5:30-7 tonight at the Summit County Community and Senior Center in the County Commons area near Frisco.

Currently, county code has restrictions on where chickens and goats can be kept that preclude most residential properties in the county from urban farming, HC3 director Jennifer Santry said. And code doesn’t currently address beekeeping on residential lots, so appropriate regulations are being drafted.

Santry said the HC3 is pushing the initiative partly at the behest of the Food Policy Council, which has identified increasing hunger issues in the county, as well as because Summit County doesn’t have a predominate source of local, fresh food.

“Food security and hunger is a serious issue in the High Country,” she said. There are also environmental benefits that can come out of the project.

Though locals supported Grant Family Farms in Wellington by purchasing shares, the produce is still about 150 miles away. And the Food Policy Council has issued a report that shows a growing need for basic food assistance in Summit County.

Santry said those needing food are often transient and seasonal people who “realize how hard it is to live here,” but nonetheless, the goal is to help supply food banks with fresher, more nutritious food and storage to keep items longer. Last season, Nancy’s Community Garden in Frisco donated more than 400 pounds of produce, Santry said.

“Between 2000 and 2009, the number of people fed per year by local food banks increased by over 815 percent for some (locations),” she said.

Another opportunity that comes with urban farming and community gardens is bringing local and healthy food to school cafeterias, Santry said.

Eggs, goat milk and cheese, honey and the pollination that occurs with bees living in the county are all benefits of bringing urban farming into the Summit County environment.

“It’s a great, full-circle, working environment,” Santry said, adding that the manure can be used for compost.

“The best thing about growing food with your own hands is that there are no questions on whether your food is truly local, free-range, grass-fed and pesticide-free,” she said.

She added that it’s often cheaper.

“You can grow so much more in your backyard and on your windowsill than what it costs to buy produce at the store,” she said. “You’d be amazed at what you can grow up here.”

Regulations would include predator-proof chicken coops and goat yards that are set back from homes along with a way for the animals to retreat from the cold. Santry said the animals are common for urban farms, being able to abide on small lots in the city.

For now, towns are excluded from the regulation changes, Santry said. Partnerships within the municipalities must be formed before taking on the task of bringing urban farming to residents in incorporated areas.

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