Though only recently decriminalized, urban farming and beekeeping endeavors are quickly gaining a foothold in the contemporary landscape of Minneapolis, Minnesota. In order to increase the sustainability and efficiency of urban land use, while also promoting the local food system, the City of Minneapolis is currently implementing several changes:
- Amending zoning laws to permit market gardens, composting initiatives, and to allow agriculture in commercial and industrial areas;
- Considering urban agriculture in long-range planning of land use and transportation;
- Encouraging creative land use in future development including growers’ markets and edible landscaping;
- Conducting land surveys and making vacant properties available for urban agricultural uses;
- Enhancing agricultural uses through economic impact analyses and supporting small business development.
So, how does this look on the ground? I recently interrupted Farmer Mike of Growing Lots Urban Farms, as he was cultivating mounds of black earth piled in rows atop an abandoned asphalt slab, while traffic raced by on the nearby highway. Using such permaculture techniques as vertical farming and intercropping, Mike produces vegetables for more than 30 CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members. All of the produce is grown on small, abandoned lots in areas zoned industrial. Growing Lots has converted a neglected service station into a farm shed while a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs absorb stormwater and diminish the urban heat island effect by reducing the area of exposed asphalt.
Another part of this process of changing land-use patterns has allowed for urban beekeeping, which wasn’t permitted until 2009 when a 34-year ban on bees was lifted. No longer an underground activity, beekeeping is becoming a common sight in the Twin Cities. One such example of this is the Community Bees on Bikes program that combines educational urban apiary tours at parks, community gardens, and schools with sustainable travel on bicycles.
Many of the Twin Cities 65 metro-area growers markets make use of less traditional urban spaces such as one under an overpass of a major interstate and another lining the commercial streets of downtown.
How is agriculture changing the urban landscape in your city?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.