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 Cam Winton, candidate for Minneapolis mayor.
Do you as a candidate support allowing chickens as livestock at urban farms?
My understanding is that the limits on owning chickens for agricultural purposes came about in part because of concerns about noise, disease, and the health and safety of the animals. As mayor, I’d support an urban agriculture program that would begin by allowing chickens for agricultural purposes in a couple of pilot locations. I’d want to ensure that the city can adequately regulate all urban farms with live animals before completely jumping in. Based on the results of that experiment, I’d then pursue changes in the existing ordinance based on the results of that experiment.
I also would look into reforming the permitting and renewal process to get and keep chickens. I’d like to see that process made available online, and I’d like to see the renewal
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?
If urban farming is to become a reality in Minneapolis, access to water is crucial. As Mayor, I would happily explore options similar to the hydrant program that currently exists for community gardens. I do think that the water pricing would have to be tied in some way to the size of the operation. The goal would be to lower barriers to entry but also ensure the city is not handing out unneeded subsidies to large and well established operations.
Do you as a candidate support creating a city pilot program for leasing public lands for urban farming?
Seven city-owned lots in North Minneapolis reserved for community gardens are currently un-leased. There’s no reason for this land to remain vacant if it could instead be helping provide local, healthy food for Minneapolis families. I’d support allowing urban farms to lease this land if there’s a continuing lack of interest by community gardeners.
Will you as a candidate support small businesses by removing barriers to on street and off street parking of contractor work vehicles and trailers?
Current law prohibits any vehicle over 9,000 pounds or any commercial vehicle from being parked on the street in an area that is zoned residential unless it is actually loading or unloading goods. While I don’t believe a vehicle’s permissibility should necessarily depend on who owns it, the weight limit does seem reasonable to me. Urban farmers who need to load and unload supplies and products should be able to do so. The needs of urban farms must be balanced against the needs of Minneapolis neighborhoods. Any action on this issue would have to be taken while carefully considering the needs of residential 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?
Yes. The current permitting process creates barriers to entry for urban farmers that don’t need to exist. I would support making the permit process available online, and change the ordinance so one permit is issued to one farm on a seasonal basis. This would prevent the problems that currently exist with respect to limited sale days and multiple sale sites.
As a candidate for public office, what would you like the food economy of Minneapolis to look like in 2017?
In my position with a wind energy firm, I spend a great deal of time in rural Minnesota and I have seen firsthand how agriculture binds communities and families together. The shared work of planting and harvest provide opportunities for families and neighborhoods to come together. Small-scale farm stands provide children with experience in running a business. I want to enable that to occur right here in Minneapolis as much as it might be possible in an urban setting. I see urban agriculture as part of the answer to the problem of food deserts in Minneapolis. According to the USDA, North Minneapolis in particular has a high number of areas where access to fresh produce and other healthy options is lacking. Kids bear the brunt of the lack of access to healthy foods contributing to America’s ongoing obesity epidemic. I envision urban farming as part of a number of solutions that can help us reach a future where all Minneapolis residents, rich or poor, have affordable access to healthy food.