Hamilton Pushes for Urban Farming

Monday, October 27, 2014

Last month Hamilton’s planning committee paved the way for new city rules that would allow more urban farms and community gardens – clarifying the rules for growers, defining the areas and what can be grown there. Previously, urban farms in Hamilton have only been allowed in certain limited areas, while the new rules allow urban farms and community gardens in most residential, institutional and commercial areas.

We spoke with Joanne Hickey-Evans, Manager of Policy Planning and Zoning By-law Reform, who tells us it’s about providing additional opportunities for healthy, local, sustainable food in the city. It will make it easier to use unused parcels of land to grow food, with the hope that the regulations will also encourage more farm ventures as it clarifies the rules.

With urban farming and community gardens on the rise, these changes come at a crucial time. Neighbourhood action plans have been consistently pushing for urban agriculture. In fact, this review started from one community’s neighbourhood action strategy, which wanted to focus on an urban farm, but zoning didn’t permit it – they decided to look at this citywide, so other areas could benefit as well.

Specifically, the official plan amendments would allow onsite sales of produce grown on urban farms that are at least 0.4 hectare, with growing as the primary use. Related structures would be allowed if they are no larger than 140 square metres each and total no more than 230 square metres altogether. On properties smaller than 0.4 hectare, or where there is an existing use (a home, a church, a business), produce can be grown but cannot be sold on site.

Hamilton will be one of the few municipalities in the country to go this far with zoning bylaw changes.