It’s easy to heed the call of urban farming. It really is. Who wouldn’t get excited about the idea of knowing where your food came from? Who wouldn’t get pumped up about feeding only the very best food to your loved ones and community members? Who would mind the extra cash farming 100% organic and 100% local food brings to urban family’s bottom lines?
As awesome as all of the above may be, if you make one common mistake urban farmers make, your self-sustaining, eco-friendly dreams of making a little extra money through your backyard ‘green labor of love’ can easily turn into a very expensive and drawn out battle with your local town council or city hall.
Sadly, if you just jump in with both feet and start planting away, your dreams of making a little side income through urban farming may go up in smoke but you might be left with a hefty legal bill as well.
Don’t make the mistake of failing to research local ordinances
It doesn’t matter how seemingly relaxed or freewheeling your neck of the urban woods may be, you need to check with local authorities if your urban farming vision fits with existing law. Local ordinances can throw cold water on your plans because of their requirements or restrictions regarding the following:
Depending on where you live, you might not be able to farm at all. Many cities ban large scale plant cultivation outright. They either restrict you to decent-sized gardens (with many restrictions) or very tiny green areas.
Even if your city or town allows for farming, make sure you comply with the necessary permit requirements. Operating without a permit not only can lead to the closure of your farm but you might be on the hook for sizable fines, penalties, and, if you don’t pay up completely on time, hefty interest penalties. Not a good situation!
Local ordinances have varying rules regarding what you can and cannot use water for. You also have to make sure you comply with drainage and sewerage rules. These might require you to get a special permit (with its matching fees!).
Some jurisdictions are very sensitive when it comes to any kind of labor arrangement. Not only must your operations comply with state rules regarding wage and hour regulations, there might be local or county rules you might not be aware of.
Make sure you have a clear understanding of these rules (in addition to health and safety regulations on the state level) before you even think of hiring someone to help you out with your urban farm.
You might think that your operations are so small scale that you won’t be producing much waste. This might be true, but you can bet your local city site inspectors will have a different opinion. Don’t run afoul of local city rules by making sure your waste management systems are in full compliance.
One of the worst ways to put an end to your dreams of urban farming or gardening is to run smack into local laws. Be informed about applicable local rules and regulations so you can build an urban farm that will continue to benefit your family and community for a long time to come.