COMMUNITY VOICES | 2013 Minneapolis Urban Farmers Collaborative candidate questionnaire: Kris Brogan, Ward 4

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The Minneapolis Urban Farmer’s Collaborative has invited candidates for Minneapolis City Council, Parks & Recreation Board, and Mayor to complete a candidate questionnaire to determine where the candidates stand on current policy issues relevant to urban agriculture, including food production on public park lands, on-site vegetable sales for urban producers, and ownership of chickens for small-scale commercial purposes. Completed candidate questionnaires are being posted on the Minneapolis Issues Forum at www.e-democracy.org for public viewing as they become available.

Below, read the response from Kris Brogan, candidate for the Minneapolis City Council Ward 4 seat.

Urban agriculture city code amendments passed Minneapolis city council in spring of 2012 and laid the groundwork for urban farms to take root. In the year since these new rules have been in place many small businesses have endeavored to grow, sell, prepare, and compost hundreds of thousands of pounds of Minneapolis produced fruits and vegetables. This spring, the urban farmers and residents that rely on their food would like to enhance the growing environment for urban farms in Minneapolis. The following initiatives and rule changes would nourish and enrich this growing movement.

Do you as a candidate for -Mayor, City Hall- support the following initiatives and rule changes in order to promote urban farming in Minneapolis?

The current MPLS chicken ordinance only allows chickens in residential back yards. Many urban residents would like to purchase eggs and chicken from urban farms, and urban farmers could use the proceeds from chicken farming to support their urban farms in the winter months. Do you as a candidate support allowing chickens as livestock at urban farms?

Yes, I support allowing chickens as livestock at urban farms. I will work with City regulators, urban farmers, animal control, and community residents to develop a program that will provide the eggs and poultry to the community and also making sure that the chickens are well cared for, the community is safe from health issues that can arise, and that the animals are harvested in the most humane manner. I am also very interested in developing a plan to use sheep and goats in our neighborhoods to “cut” the grass and “trim” the weeds. We have many acres of green space that need to be cut and cared for and the option of using animals is much better than the mowers that use fossil fuels. These animals can then be used for their wool and can be harvested for meat as well.

Urban farm sites often don’t have water spigots and in most cases urban farmers purchase water from neighbors to water their plots. Will you as a candidate work to build affordable access to city water hydrants and support city cost assistance for water for urban farmers and community gardens?

I will work to build affordable access to city water. I believe we can find the resources necessary to pay for the water and assist farmers with purchasing the water. I believe we can find a rate that will work for the farmers and cover the City costs at the same time.

Urban land is priced too high for urban farming to be financially sustainable. Most urban farms are leasing land without any guarantee that they’ll be able to continue leasing year to year. Urban farm sites need years of fertility building before they become highly productive. Do you as a candidate support creating a city pilot program for leasing public lands for urban farming?

I know there are City owned parcels that will not be developed nor should be developed. Creating the opportunity for long-term ownership will be a priority for me. The County, the school district, the park board, and various departments in the City own land that can be used for farming. I will work to identify those sites and work with the farmers and land trusts to secure the use for generations. I am also very interested in looking at industrial land and buildings as possible future farming options.

Urban farmers and family owned businesses rely on their work vehicles to run their local businesses. It is currently illegal by city code to park work vehicles on the street in Minneapolis, resulting in hundreds of family owned businesses being fined for parking in front of their homes. Will you as a candidate support small businesses by removing barriers to on street and off street parking of contractor work vehicles and trailers?

Will work to identify the barriers, provide community engagement processes to hear from the business owners, the neighbors, and regulatory services on the issues. It will be important to identify what a “work” vehicle is described as, when the vehicle is parked and for how long, and what the underlying concerns may be regarding parking. I would be interested in discussing special permits that would allow parking at the farm site as well as allowing those vehicles to be parked on residential streets.

Urban gardeners and farmers who wish to sell produce to neighbors now have to apply for a costly permit to sell vegetables. This permit only allows for 15 days of on-site sales per year, and when seeking a permit, farmers must pre-schedule their sales days. Since weather, climate, and variations in growing seasons affect production of vegetables it is almost impossible to predict when will be the best days to sell vegetables. Additionally if one farmer runs multiple sites, that farmer must apply for multiple permits to have sales from each site. These restrictions mean that valuable produce is going to waste even while there is a high demand for purchasing it within the neighborhoods. Will you as a candidate support the local food system by easing the permitting process for on-site vegetable sales, by reducing permit fees, increasing the amount of days farmers can sell, and allowing produce sales from multiple farm sites?

I am very interested in revising the permitting rules. I believe this type of business should be given the same seasonal or annual licensing as other licensed businesses in the City. I am also interested in discussing the fee structure and what benefit the applicant will receive for fees paid. Too often the City has fees but the applicant/or the community receive nothing in return.

Broad vision question:

As a candidate for public office, what would you like the food economy of Minneapolis to look like in 2017?

I have a vision of a City with several designated urban farms that will be in existence for generations creating opportunities for learning for children and adults, creating food sources that are close to the people, establishing orchards that supply fruit and honey, and business growth in the development and management of the farms, delivery of the food, and use of the food not only by residents but by small businesses as well. I see additional growth in the poultry and egg businesses, working toward the use of goats and sheep, and the increase in meat, cheese, and wool products. I see several cottage industries that can assist in supporting our families and our communities.