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Urban Agriculture

What is Urban Agriculture?

Urban Farm in East Bay. (c)2018 University of California
Urban agriculture allows for the development of a variety of environmental, economic, and social benefits to the surrounding communities. Urban farming can reduce transportation costs, help reduce runoff associated with heavy rainfall, and lead to better air quality. Beekeeping and cultivation of native plants can provide pollination services to the community. Supporting local food producers, such as through a community supported agriculture (CSA) membership, also contributes to regional economic development by keeping capital within the local economy. (USDA National Agricultural Library)

They are a vital “public good” worthy of public investment, in that they foster community stewardship and promote ecological restoration, environmental education and public health. They help balance the distribution of benefits and burdens of urban development, enabling vibrant, multicultural, equitable, and liveable cities. They provide food, ecosystem services, community education, and well-being. (Berkeley Food Institute)

Urban Agriculture in California

The Community Food Production law, AB 1990, became effective in 2015.

The law authorizes, except under a specified circumstance, a community food producer or a gleaner, to sell or provide whole uncut fruits or vegetables, or unrefrigerated shell eggs, directly to the public or to a permitted restaurant if the community food producer meets specified requirements.

A city or county health enforcement office may require a community food producer or gleaner to register with the city or county. Not all municipalities require this, see Agencies to Contact below.

Community Food Producers are required to implement safe food handling practices as described in the California Small Farm Food Safety Guidelines provided by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Produce must be labeled with the name and address of the community food producer.

Egg production is limited to 15 dozen eggs per month and must register as an Egg Handler, see Agencies to Contact below.

About the law:

Text of AB 1990, Food Production, approved by the governor September 26, 2014.

Community Food Production FAQs by CA Conference of Directors of Environmental Health.

Health & Safety Code 113752 defines Community Food Producer (CFP) - “Community food producer” means a producer of agricultural products on land that is not zoned for agricultural use but is otherwise in compliance with applicable local land use and zoning restrictions, including, but not limited to, restrictions governing personal gardens, community gardens, school gardens, and culinary gardens.

Health & Safety Code 114376 about CFP selling or donating produce: Unless a local jurisdiction adopts an ordinance regulating community food production or agricultural production that prohibits the activity, a community food producer or gleaner may sell or provide whole uncut fruits or vegetables, or unrefrigerated shell eggs, directly to the public, to a permitted restaurant, or a cottage food operation if the community food producer meets all of the following requirements in addition to any requirements imposed by an ordinance adopted by a local jurisdiction

Food & Ag Code 27643 allows for CFP direct marketing activities including certified farmers’ markets (must obtain Certified Producer Certificate), community food producers (e.g., Cottage Food Operators, non-profits) community-supported agriculture (CSA), and farm stands.

Agencies to Contact

To obtain approvals needed for Community Food Producers, it is recommended that you contact the following agencies.

  • Land Use and Zoning approval: Contact your local planning or community development agency to verify that it is legal for you to produce, glean or sell food from your specific site. Note: the law allows for agriculture production on non-ag zoned land.
  • Sales permit/license: Contact your local jurisdiction to obtain a business license or permit, if required.
  • Egg Sales: Register with the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Egg Safety and Quality Management Program. See also: Selling Eggs fact sheet for details and requirements.
  • Pesticide use: Contact your County Department of Agricultural Commissioner/ Weights & Measures if you are planning to use pesticides. See CA Dept of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) Licensing and Certification Program. NOTE: Even when applying organic pesticides the operation must register with DPR or use a DPR licensed applicator.

UCANR Resources for Urban Agriculture

UCANR Urban Agriculture website.

UCANR Urban Agriculture Team - find a contact in your area.

Bay Area Urban Farming Resource Guide - this guide includes urban farms, and supporting groups and agencies, that grow food for those beyond their own needs.

Additional Resources for Urban Agriculture

Urban Agroecology Policy Brief developed by Berkeley Food Institute and an interdisciplinary team of faculty, graduate students, Cooperative Extension advisors, and community stakeholders. The policy brief documents the importance of the preservation of urban farms across the East Bay, the state of California, and the U.S.

For Planners & Policy Makers

The Healthy Food Policy Project created Zoning for Urban Agriculture: A Guide for Updating Your City’s Laws to Support Healthy Food Production and Access to help summarize zoning laws that promote and support agriculture in urban municipalities and highlights examples of strategies from around the country.

This resource includes an overview of the authority of local governments to develop zoning designations, zoning’s influence on urban agriculture practices, an analysis of suggested practices and equity considerations, as well as an overview of the zoning law amendment process.

This resource is intended to be used by planners, local policy makers, and food policy councils, and is aimed at cities and counties that have not yet taken an in-depth look at how zoning changes can encourage urban agriculture activities.