Green Umbrella helps secure the city’s future in urban agriculture

This month, Green Umbrella’s Greater Cincinnati Food Policy Council announced that the long-awaited Urban Agriculture Zoning Ordinance has finally passed in the City of Cincinnati. With this legislation comes increased freedom for residents and communities to take their food security into their own hands.

The Greater Cincinnati Food Policy Council is a formal initiative of Green Umbrella. Its mission is “to advance a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food system” across all of Greater Cincinnati. The council works to address systematic and legislative changes that affect food systems and access on a community level.

The council program manager, Michaela Oldfield, says that this legislation is good news for Cincinnati residents as it cleans up the rules and regulations surrounding things like community gardens, backyard gardening, small-scale urban farming, and community composting.

Oldfield says this legislation has taken two years to pass but passed unanimously.

“The process itself was really important,” she explains, “because we worked with multiple departments across the city and multiple stakeholders to see what actually happens when people do urban agriculture. We wanted to find appropriate rules for actual situation and leave jurisdiction to the appropriate departments.”

Up until now, laws have been duplicitous, she says, making it harder to navigate the rights and regulations for growing food in the city. Now, residents can find more complete and centralized information about what is and is not allowed within the city limits. The code also addresses potential problems such as ongoing maintenance and waste management. The ordinance establishes rules for small-scale composting in backyards and community gardens.

Green Umbrella supported this ordinance for multiple reasons. Oldfield explains that it increases opportunities for community gardening and entrepreneurship, and that community gardening, especially, has broader community effects.

“Agriculture and growing food has a lot of benefits. For example, as a small business, it has low startup cost. It also provides nutrition education, food education, recreational opportunities, and is a healthy activity. Community gardens also reduce crime because they activate previously vacant space.”

A fundraising boost from an unlikely source

Green Umbrella also announced an exciting fundraising opportunity this coming August. As an initiative of the philanthropic organization Plus 1, The Greater Cincinnati Food Policy Council was chosen as the recipient of donations from the August 2nd “Night Running Tour” concert at the Riverbend Music Center featuring Beck, Cage The Elephant, Spoon, and Wild Belle.

The funds, which are unrestricted dollars, will be used to hire two people from the Emerson National Hunger Fellows Program who will help start a new healthy food access program. This new program will be a coordinated effort between the food policy council, health institutions, and community organizations working to change the local food system and promote healthy lifestyle changes.

“It’s a big deal for us to receive this,” Oldfield says. “We are incredibly thrilled and thankful to be chosen.”

For more information

To find more detailed information about the new Urban Agriculture Zoning Ordinance, visit the FAQ.

The Greater Cincinnati Food Policy Council will hold a few listening sessions in August to answer questions about the new legislation. Partnering organizations like the Civic Garden Center and the City of Cincinnati’s Urban Agriculture department will be present as well. Information can be found on the policy council webpage.

Visit the Green Umbrella calendar for more local events and updates.

Tickets for the August 2nd Beck concert can be purchased from Ticketmaster.

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Read more articles by Liz McEwan.

Liz McEwan is a proud wife, mama, urbanite, musician and blogger. Follow her at The Walking Green and on twitter at @thewalkinggreen.