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 Ken Bradley, candidate for the Minneapolis City Council Ward 10 seat.
Running to serve the neighborhoods of Whittier, Wedge, CARAG, East Calhoun and East Harriet
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 will support Animal Welfare Approved (using a third party) to perform audits and allowing urban farming of chickens. Minneapolis Animal Control should not be used as it would impose fees that can be cost prohibitive and reduce opportunities for urban farmers. Minneapolis needs to support urban farmers to help provide healthy food security for our communities.
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 would support affordable access to water for urban farming and community gardening in our community. The present cost of installing water access can cost as much as $5000 which is cost prohibitive for urban farmers. I would support allowing Gardening Matters to provide oversight for granting access to water as they presently do for community gardens.
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?
Long-term access to land and permanent lands are a very important issue for urban farmers. Minneapolis needs to create permanent land access for urban farmers to allow them to be successful. Otherwise, creating a healthy local food supply will continue to be impacted by the whims of the real-estate market.
Minneapolis needs to support urban farming that will provide food security and create the policies that allow shared greenhouses, a food aggregation facility (whole sale farmers market) with the goal of working to provide more food locally.
Minneapolis has a substantial land base that exists in our neighborhoods in our longstanding vacant lots, privately and publicly owned lands and even properties under foreclosure. Community gardens and urban agriculture are primarily operating on property that is insecure for long-term operations and are at risk of losing their investment when those lands are taken back by property owners. Urban farmers and gardeners are investing their labor, materials in the health of the soil which provides benefits for all of us and they could lose this investment with very little notice.
I would work with our urban farming and community gardening community to help create a land trust to provide urban farm lands through long-term leases. I would work with Twin Cities Agricultural Land Trust to develop the best practices for creating stable lands for our urban farming and community gardening community.
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?
I would work with our urban farming and gardening community and Regulatory, Energy & Environment Committee to either remove or create less restrictive regulations that would allow urban farmers to have vehicles to operate effectively.
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?
Minneapolis needs to create a permitting process that is more flexible and accessible and not as restrictive as the current system established by the current city council. I would advocate for no less than 25 days and allow those days to be flexible to ensure urban growers can take advantage of selling when the harvest is ready for our community. However, I am looking forward to working with urban farmers and gardeners and other stakeholders to create the best practices to allow our city to provide more locally grown food.
Broad vision question:
As a candidate for public office, what would you like the food economy of Minneapolis to look like in 2017?
First, I have been an urban gardener for many years in the city of Minneapolis. I have taken poor soil and turned it into high producing soil on several properties in our city. I understand the joy of improving the soil, growing your own food and preparing it in my kitchen, and sharing with my neighbors and friends. Spring is always an exciting time in our household and I can’t wait to start turning the winter compost and begin to prepare my gardens for planting.
My mother and my grandparents were also passionate organic gardeners who taught me how to compost, manage water and soil moisture to grow fruits and vegetables in the most efficient way. My grandfather worked his local Victory Garden during World War II to help provide additional food for our community. These gardens produced up to 40 percent of all the vegetable produce being consumed nationally during World War II and food production exceeding $1.2 billion by the end of the war. World War II began in 1939 and ended in 1945, so in a span of just six years, our nation made tremendous achievements at creating food security for our communities.
It is time for our communities to bring back Victory Gardens and to fight to provide support for a more important moral battle, reducing global warming pollution and creating a healthier Minneapolis. Our new objective should be to provide food for our community and create special programs to provide local healthy food for communities struggling economically and that currently live in food deserts.
My spouse Crystal presently serves on the Board of Community Design Center of Minnesota whose mission is to build vibrant and healthy communities through food, conservation and youth development. They work with diverse communities and use farming as an opportunity to help youth develop specific skills and provide fresh food for their families and community. Minneapolis should work with our urban farmers and gardeners to raise funds from foundations and other sources to create a summer jobs program to employ the most disadvantaged youth in our city which will help them grow food for their community and develop additional skills for life.
Crystal and I are both extremely passionate about urban gardening and farming and are proud to compost the majority of our own organic waste every year to either use in our gardens or provide to our friends, family and neighbors to improve our collective soil. I would like to see a city wide composting program to reduce our organic waste and provide soil for our city gardens and farms.
The tenth ward has several urban farms including locations on the 2500 block of Aldrich in the Wedge and the 2700 block of 2nd Ave located in Whittier. However, I would like to see additional urban lands being used for gardening and farming in our ward and across our city. I would like to see our city set ambitious goals for creating local food in our city by 2017. I would work with the urban farming and gardening community to develop the strategies and plan to ensure we can create healthy, secure food for our residents with a goal of providing food first for our most disadvantaged communities.
Let’s set goals for first providing local, fresh quality food for schools that serve the most disadvantaged members of our city and CSA programs for their families. Let’s make it easier to raise chickens, bees, and expand the variety and types of food produced in our city. If our nation was able provide 40% of our food from Victory Gardens in just six short years during a War, what can our city do in the next four years? Let’s work together to create the plan to provide, health, prosperity and peace to our community together.