Sowing Seeds in the City


Vermont is known for its thriving bucolic landscapes, but even in downtown Burlington many people have dirt beneath their fingernails. The Conservation Law Foundation has long supported agriculture in Vermont by helping farmers understand the legal landscape and find funding to grow their operations. More recently, CLF has been playing a significant role in urban agriculture advocacy and policy development in Boston, MA, fostering a resilient regional food system by addressing barriers to urban farming. Now, CLF is supporting the Burlington Food Council’s efforts to shape that city’s agriculture policy landscape through ordinances that will promote environmentally responsible urban agriculture and humane livestock husbandry.

Urban food production is burgeoning in Burlington, as residents aim to localize their diets and connect with the sources of their food. In recognition of this growing trend, the City Council created the Burlington Food Council’s Urban Agriculture Task Force in March 2011. After an 18-month stakeholder engagement process, the Task Force published a report last fall addressing opportunities and issues that arise as Queen City residents become increasingly passionate about growing food in their backyards. In late 2012, the City Council passed an Urban Agriculture Resolution, identifying priorities from the Task Force Report and directing relevant City departments to facilitate implementation of action steps.

CLF is proud to collaborate with the Burlington Food Council, which is “an open community group dedicated to creating and nurturing a healthy, equitable and sustainable food system for all members of the Burlington community.” You can learn more about the Burlington Food Council, read the Task Force Report, and find out how you can support the Food Council’s important work by visiting its web site.

As the City’s professional staff and volunteer boards start digging into the Task Force Report’s priorities, CLF is collaborating with the Burlington Food Council to support the City’s efforts by ensuring a clear and comprehensive framework for urban agriculture outreach, policy, and education. Drawing on its experience supporting the City’s effort to adopt a stormwater pollution control ordinance, CLF is providing the Burlington Food Council with strategic input and technical assistance as it participates in the city processes that will make the Task Force Report recommendations on-the-ground realities. For example, CLF and the Burlington Food
Council are serving on the Board of Health’s working group that will devise draft ordinance language for humane, environmentally responsible animal husbandry and small-scale slaughter. This open stakeholder process aims to produce a draft ordinance that balances the concerns and aspirations of all city residents and that can win approval from the City Council and the Mayor.

The time is ripe for urban agriculture. By sowing the seeds of a sensible urban agriculture policy today, we are making our food system stronger, safer, more flexible, and more localized for tomorrow.

 Cucumbers from the Burlington Food Council

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