News & Updates

Mayor Menino Announces Adoption of Urban Agriculture Zoning

Dec 19, 2013

Zoning will empower commercial farming entrepreneurs

Mayor Thomas M. Menino today announced that the Boston Zoning Commission approved new zoning that will support the growth of commercial farming in Boston and improve access to affordable, fresh, and healthy food. Article 89 of Boston’s zoning code creates clarity and predictability for urban farmers who want to pursue ground level and rooftop urban food production. The new zoning is the result of a three year collaboration led by the Mayor’s Office of Food Initiatives, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and the Mayor’s Urban Agriculture Working Group. Mayor Menino is anticipated to sign the zoning into law this week.
“Urban agriculture is an innovative way to improve city life. Boston’s new zoning creates opportunities for entrepreneurs, decreases the distance food travels from farm to table, and better ours communities,” Mayor Menino said. “Growing food within our city limits means better access to food and economic empowerment, all while cultivating a sense of neighborhood unity, and greening our city.”

By formalizing zoning for urban agriculture, Boston has put itself at the forefront of urban food production. Article 89 addresses a wide range of growing activities, including ground-level farms, roof-level farms, roof-level greenhouses, composting, aquaculture, hydroponics, aquaponics, freight farming, farmers’ markets, farm stands, and soil safety. The keeping of hens and bees on residential property is already addressed in the existing Zoning Code, but Article 89 details size and maintenance requirements for these uses. Article 89 applies only to commercial agricultural endeavors; community gardens and backyard gardening are not a part of the new zoning.
“We have an opportunity to develop our community -- the people who live in it and the land around it -- in a holistic sort of way,” said Bruce Bickerstaff, Roxbury community leader and member of the Urban Agriculture Working Group. “I'm excited for members of our community who might not otherwise have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of such an exciting business opportunity that is economic, nutritional, educational and spiritual in its nature.”
In 2010, Mayor Menino launched Boston’s Urban Agriculture Initiative to increase access to affordable and healthy food, particularly for underserved communities. At the time, the zoning code did not allow for urban farming as an acceptable land use. In support of the Urban Agriculture Initiative, the BRA explored ways to amend the zoning code, and with the support of the Mayor’s Office of Food Initiatives, established zoning that allowed for two pilot micro-farms on Department of Neighborhood Development owned land in Mattapan.
"We're modernizing the Boston zoning code to create a more vibrant and diverse city," said BRA Director Peter Meade. "This is about unlocking opportunities for entrepreneurs, building healthy communities, teaching young people about food production, and supporting the local food movement."
With guidance from these pilot farms, in January 2012, the BRA, the Mayor’s Office of Food Initiatives, and the 25-member Mayor’s Urban Agriculture Working Group, began exploring the adoption of urban agriculture into the Zoning Code. Goals of the initiative were to increase access to affordable and healthy food, promote economic opportunity, and increase education and knowledge around healthy eating and food production. 

Over a year and a half 18 public Working Group meetings were held in order to develop Article 89. In the summer of 2013 the BRA and the Mayor’s Office of Food Initiatives presented a draft of Article 89 to Boston’s neighborhoods through 11 community meetings and a Twitter chat, and incorporated certain suggested revisions into the final draft. The BRA Board approved Article 89 on November 14, 2013 and the Zoning Commission approved Article 89 on December 18, 2013.

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