City council voted 4-1 tonight to approve an ordinance amendment to allow urban farmers to sell produce grown in “business gardens” on residential lots, concluding a several-month process to decide if and how urban agriculture has a place in Harrisonburg.
During tonight’s public comment session, three people supported the proposal and three people opposed it, speaking from either side of what seems to be a pretty significant cultural rift between people who think urban farming is great, and people like one of the dissenters who characterized the prospect of legal business gardens as “an abomination” (a term he deployed not just once but twice).
Speaking before he voted with the majority to approve the amendment, Councilman Charlie Chenault made note of this culture clash and said he hopes it doesn’t eventually manifest in an unpleasant way that will cause council to reconsider the legality of urban farming in Harrisonburg. He added that people who use the new ordinance to run a business garden will bear responsibility to do so in an appropriate manner.
Mayor Ted Byrd was the only member of city council to vote against the proposal.
The fact that growing a garden on every available square inch of your yard is already legal (the debate here revolved around your ability to sell things out of that garden) was cited by several members of council as a major reason they supported the amendment.
After the meeting, Daniel Warren and Sam Frere of Collicello Gardens told Old South High they will immediately begin offering CSA shares for the produce they’ll grow on their urban farm, with deliveries running from May 1 to Sept. 1.
The two, who jumpstarted the debate in Harrisonburg over urban farming last year when they were denied a business license for Collicello Gardens, said they enjoyed the process of seeing an idea work its way through the machinery of local government.
“Enacting change is possible,” said Warren. “And it’s encouraging to see the amount of support [we got].”