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 Jackie Cherryhomes, candidate for Minneapolis mayor.
1. Do you as a candidate support allowing chickens as livestock at urban farms?
I support having the opportunity to purchase eggs and chickens from urban farms. Allowing eggs to be sold could help smooth out the income fluctuations in an urban farm that come from relying on vegetable sales. I would partner with farmers and city staff to identify what regulations would be necessary to insure safe, human conditions for animals without creating barriers to raising chickens.
2. Will you as a candidate work to build affordable access to city water hydrants and support cost assistance for water for urban farmers and community gardens?
My father was one of the original community gardeners in the Phillips and Near North neighborhoods. When on the City Council, I worked to insure water was available to community gardens, a policy which remains in place today. Now, we need to extend that to the urban farmer. While we may not be able to provide free water, I would support a flat rate fee structure for market gardeners and urban farmers.
3. Do you as a candidate support creating a city pilot program for leasing public lands for urban farming?
Yes. This is an issue with which I have some experience from my tenure on the City Council. I took a leadership role in insuring that vacant lots would be available to community gardeners. We have a number of vacant lot which can be gardening/farming opportunities. Land which is made available to but not utilized by community gardeners should be made available to urban farmers. In addition, we need to work with individuals/institutions that own land in our city to incentivize them to make the land available for gardening/farming. I think the value that comes from the gardening/farming experience far outweighs any risk that may be created by leasing the land for that use. Urban gardens/farms are a wonderful opportunity to build community and provide healthy fruits and vegetables. Community gardening/urban farming is a means of maximizing our local food supply.
4. Will you as a candidate support small business by removing barriers to on street and off street parking of contractor work vehicles and trailers?
I believe the current ordinances regarding commercial vehicles have outlived their usefulness. Vehicles have changed, home-based and small businesses have changed. The ordinances need to change to meet the needs of the times. The current ordinances are truly “one size fits all” and, in turn, they really fit no one. I think there is a compromise that can be found that protects our neighborhoods, while allowing businesses to park their vehicles at their homes. As Mayor, I will provide strong leadership on this issue so urban farms and home-based businesses can thrive.
5. 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?
Yes. I view urban farmers as small business people. We should facilitate their business and encourage their success in any way possible. Reducing permit fees and increasing opportunities for sales are two ways we can do that. My understanding is that the current system was developed after a series of compromises. Council Member Gordon showed great leadership on this issue, but in the end the compromise was reached. As Mayor, I will partner with Council Member Gordon and urban farmers to ease the permitting process and reduce the permit fees. Frankly, I simply don’t understand why neighbors are prohibited from setting up a small stand to sell extra backyard vegetables to other neighbors. It would have been really nice if my daughter could have sold my extra cucumbers rather than lemonade.
My parents were raised on farms. My extended family in North Dakota still farms. I have been a backyard vegetable gardener for many years. In fact, I am known for being able to grow tomatoes in any soil and under any conditions. Through my father’s involvement with community gardening, I have seen firsthand the power of community-building through gardening. I live in a community where access to healthy fruit and vegetables is a problem. For all these reasons, I am committed to enhancing the opportunities for urban farming.
Minneapolis can set itself apart by being a leader in urban farming/gardening. Urban farming contributes to our economy, is healthy and good for our environment. A strong, vibrant urban farming economy can provide fresh foods in our underserved communities, serve as a means of building community and teach our young people about food policy. In the next five years, I will be a strong partner with the urban farming community. Good work has been done – there is more to do. Specifically, I will: (1) work with the network of African American churches to enhance the gardening already underway; (2) support programs in the Minneapolis Public Schools to educate young people about gardening/farming and food supply; (3) Partner with the urban farming community to insure that the regulations in Minneapolis enhance, rather than inhibit, their operations. By 2017 we will have a vibrant, well-established urban farming community that is an integral part of the economy of Minneapolis.