COMMUNITY VOICES | 2013 Minneapolis Urban Farmers Collaborative candidate questionnaire: Ward 3 City Council member Diane Hofstede

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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 Diane Hofstede Ward 3, current City Council member and candidate for the Ward 3 seat.

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

• Do you as a candidate support allowing chickens as livestock at urban farms?

I support, and voted on the ordinance that allowed chickens to be kept, in the city, in private yards, and support urban farms. Urban farmers could use the proceeds from chicken farming to support their urban farms in winter months.

That said, I think we need to expand the conversation in order to discuss how we ensure the safety and care of chickens in a city environment and how we handle chickens across their life cycle. I am in contact with a woman who does “chicken rescue” and she has seen an explosion in the number of abandoned and abused chickens brought to her for care by animal control. These animals were not provided with sufficient water or food and some have frozen feet because they weren’t adequately protected from winter temperatures. I’m not suggesting that chickens on urban farms would be mistreated, but we need a system in place to protect these animals. One system that would provide us with that safety net for our animals is Animal Welfare Approved. It has developed animal welfare standards that would provide the needed security in order to insure the humane treatment of animals in our city. It is my intent to move this initiative forward to include the discussion of Animal Welfare Approved as an organization that will guide our ordinance.

Slaughtering chickens is another issue that needs to be addressed. If a chicken is going to become food, we need to find a location where slaughtering can be done humanely and safely – and that’s not in someone’s back yard or basement.

Solutions are on the way, and I intend to lead and support the expansion that cares for both people and animals.

• 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?

Yes, we need to do this. Until now, it’s only been done on a case-by-case basis but we need to resolve this problem everywhere in the city which is an initiative which I intend to support, and lead in order to expand our urban farming options.

• Do you, as a candidate, support creating a city pilot program for leasing public lands for urban farming?

I support increasing the number of urban farms in the city. As a practical matter, we need to look at what land is available for this type of use. In addition, we need to examine the prohibition to park work vehicles on city streets for urban farmers.

I have been a member of the Committee that formed Minneapolis Homegrown since the beginning. Minneapolis Homegrown has increased the number of community gardens in Minneapolis by identifying and making the properties available for the community, (such as housing or business development). What we’ve learned from that process is that there is limited land under City control that is good for this purpose. More often, appropriate land is under the control of the Park Board.

The Park Board began conversations with the community in 2012 to begin assessing how it could and should engage with food production issues. I intend to work with them to expand our farming options.

• 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 support all efforts to expand the production of local, fresh and organic produce in Minneapolis. This is a thriving new business and we want our small businesses to succeed. We are running into problems, however, with parking. Parking and street use is a hot issue within the neighborhoods. We’re seeing more high-density housing being built without a lot of parking included. This means more people are using the street to park – and now we’ve got parking competition.

I believe that gardening opportunities and growth of market gardens creates more community engagement and livability in our neighborhoods. I intend to continue to support and look for partners and opportunities to help them “grow “by removing the barriers that prevent such “growth” in our City.

• 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 day’s farmers can sell, and allowing produce sales from multiple farm sites?

I support all of the efforts that would increase the production of locally grown foods. I believe the question of on-site vegetable sales needs to be a broader conversation beyond the City Council. Neighborhoods, residents and businesses need to be included in the dialogue.

Q: What would you like the food economy of Minneapolis to look like in 2017?

In the big picture, we both want and need to expand residents’ access to locally fresh, organic foods with minimum transportation. How do we do that?

Engagement at Every Level: While I work on the city level, I think there needs to be greater understanding and support for healthy, local food at the state level, and coordinated engagement with the Park Board.

Engagement in Every Area: We are currently seeing a strong local food movement occurring in many locations around the city, primarily in South Minneapolis. It is my intent to continue the growth throughout our city. We all need fresh food, and we need to expand our food choices of locally grown food for purchase in all of our neighborhoods.

We need to examine zoning. Zoning restrictions are really about respectful use of lands. Urban farms are important. We need to create space for them in a way that is respectful of other businesses and people in the area. We need to educate people about the value of local market gardens and mini-farms – and the value of engaging in more vegetable growing at home, even if it’s only a tomato pot on the deck! We also need to look for more opportunities for in-city greenhouse and aquaponic ventures to increase our growing season.

That brings us to the issue of garden design and composting. We made some changes to the rules around composting last year by expanding the size and location of compost bins. We need to continue looking at compost — from a waste-reduction perspective, from a healthy soil perspective, AND from a “good neighbor” perspective. We need to respectfully balance concerns about rodents and mess with the need for compost.

Several years ago, the City of Minneapolis began an organics recycling pilot project. In select neighborhoods, people could have their organic waste picked up and turned into compost. Initially that program faced some challenges but now it’s operating well and I believe we can say it’s been a success. We need to find ways to expand that program so that we are better able to take advantage of all the organic waste we produce in the city. It’s an asset that we should be keeping out of the waste stream.

Finally, there has been some discussion about goats for milk/cheese production and meat. It’s on the radar but the reorganization of City Regulatory Services resulted in the topic being set aside in 2013. I’m sure we’ll be revisiting this topic soon. Once again, my stance will be that we need to be prepared to properly accommodate and care for goats in a humane way and in a safe manner for the neighborhood.

Thank you for your leadership,

Diane Hofstede
Third Ward Minneapolis City Council Member