Local Urban Farming Codes

P4 is working on a compilation of local ordinances. For now, check out the "Urban Farming Ordinances" section on the Resources page.

If you are looking to change the ordinances around urban agriculture in your area, you, the resident, must start the process.  This is quite simple during good weather.  The first step is to start a petition.  Your petition will say something like:

We, the undersigned, asks our council of TOWNSHIP to consider allowing backyard chickens and bees through urban agriculture code.  Then you need columns for: date, printed name, signature, address with zipcode.  If you have room get email addresses and ask the question: Do you know anyone in TOWNSHIP with chickens or bees? yes/no [helps show it's already happening, and doesn't point out who is already doing it].  Would you like to help change the laws? yes/no [gives you permission to contact them or have a second list to collect people willing to help]

Because P4 representatives are not necessarily residents of your municipality, we can't speak at a council meeting until invited by council when Urban Agriculture is on the agenda of a council meeting.  Then we can be involved as an expert witness, helping answer concerns about public health, normal code language, and such. We can then be present at public or private meetings to address concerns. The president of Burghbees, Stephen Repasky, will also participate as an exert witness for beekeeping.  Both groups have worked with suburban municipalities.

Your local government would be thrilled to find out that 150 or more citizens want them to do something.  They are floundering, looking for work someone would notice.  These are politicians, just starting out and they want to help their hometown.

As you stand around at your local farmers' market/parade/art show/football game with a clipboard, you will find your support group of other like-minded folk.  You will also find council members -- These civil minded people are often participating in festivals and special events and are curious about what their constituents are doing. This is really easy work.

Your second step is getting a close group of 10 to 20 committed folks willing to show up to council meetings to represent and respond as an organized group showing the wishes of the citizenry.

Out of this group will come: Help getting the petition signed,connections to council; your spokesperson (it doesn't have to be you); someone who will write up a handout to help with public education; someone will contact citizens through social media/neighborhood listserves/newsletters; different neighborhoods being represented; someone who can set up a facebook page to spread the word, make up buttons/signs/tshirts. 

Give yourselves a name, have fun, have kidsitting, have beer, spread the work around. We can come to a meeting to help you with your message.

The third step can be happening all along.  As you develop from the grass roots of a petition, you also must find a council member to sponsor your efforts.  This may come through your little army of supporters - someone knows someone in small places.  You should spend some time on your township's website, figure out who's on council. Perhaps your government has an attorney on staff. Code officers aren't in a position of power, but can direct you to the right people.  Often council members are on various committees, such as safety, physical plant, green space.  See if you can figure out which committee would cover urban agriculture legislation.  It depends on how things have been divided.  Where are stray animals dealt with?  This council subcommittee may be who to deal with first.  And once you make contact with the right person, they may be willing to allow P4 and Burghbees to communicate directly even before a council meeting. 

If you can't find anyone through informal channels, you will approach the council during open concern speaking time at a regular council meeting, usually held monthly. We can help with topics to cover in two minutes of talking. With your petition signatures in hand, providing copies for the council, ask for council members to contact you.  Hang out until the end of the meeting and talk to anyone who seems open or appropriate.  Get contact information for these elected servants.  They should offer it to you or it should be on the township’s website.  Give out your contact information.

Once you have the attention of council, urban agriculture will need to become an item on the agenda.  So the situation can be discussed at length and motions can be made to continue, study and learn about urban agriculture.  We are introduced as experts in the development of urban agriculture code and invited to attend and speak at council meetings or perhaps a subcommittee meeting.

And then we can help the council in writing the code and supplying answers to the public.  You or your spokesperson won't end up debating and supporting your arguments in front of a group.  Your spokesperson will read statements in front of council, perhaps answering a few follow up questions from council members afterwards, but not speaking with the public.  But your group is not expected to be experts in any of the law development, just enthusiastic supporters.

You are in for a thoughtful year or so. You will learn about your government and sit through meetings wondering why anyone would ever want to be a politician. How can this work?  It works because we are there in that meeting.  And it doesn’t work when we don’t attend meetings. I never expected to be involved in politics of any kind and yet here I am, expert witness for Urban Agriculture.  You get to see how it's done - very educational, it's good for you.  And we all should get involved at some time. Pay your democratic dues to the country.

Good luck!