Urban Agrigulture, Atlanta, & the Regulatory Context
Lee, Jenna E.
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PROBLEM: A growing body of research investigates the relationship between the built environment and health, specifically the health consequences for those with inadequate access to affordable and healthy food—because there are no nearby markets or because available food is not affordable. Sustainable urban agriculture offers opportunities at many scales to bring healthy food back into the city and closer to those seeking it; however, today’s regulatory system does not offer clear legal avenues for those seeking to initiate urban agriculture programs and operations. PURPOSE: The purpose of this investigation is to better understand the potential for food production in urban environments and ways cities can revise regulatory frameworks to facilitate and encourage sustainable food production. METHOD: I first researched the current state of food systems in urban environments and identified the possibilities and limitations of commercial urban agriculture operations, community gardens, and household agriculture. I then investigated the agriculture initiatives of other cities. And finally, I researched Atlanta’s current urban agriculture projects, conducted a close read of Atlanta’s relevant regulatory framework, and made recommendations to encourage sustainable food systems in Atlanta. CONCLUSION: Cities, counties, local governments, communities, and individual households all influence local food production potential and each play a role in creating long‐term sustainable food system plans. At the city level, zoning and policy updates that allow and encourage urban agriculture, land inventories and assessments, and city‐sponsored programs to encourage community gardens and farmers markets are valuable tools for developing a sustainable food system. Cities and communities are utilizing vacant parcels, public rights of way, un‐used green spaces, and under‐used parking lots for both temporary and permanent urban agriculture projects. Whether it’s animal husbandry, raised‐bed gardening, or simply planting some edible greens or fruit‐bearing trees, gardeners and policy makers are creating innovative ways to make urban vacant space productive. Cities throughout the country are initiating urban gardening programs as interim uses for vacant properties—and others are creating regulatory frameworks that establish permanent agriculture uses. Urban farms, community gardens, and local markets have become ubiquitous in sustainable urban development discourse—and regardless of the approach, urban agriculture is gaining recognition as being vital to economic, social, cultural, and environmental security.