UrbanAgLaw.org uses a collaborative approach to collect and disseminate important legal information, best practices, and supporting tools to support urban agriculture in the U.S.
At SELC, we want nothing more than to see the number new urban agriculture projects and enterprises explode all across the country! To facilitate the growth of the urban agriculture movement, we offer this website as a collection of resources on laws and regulations that regulate who, how, and where urban agriculture can occur. As a collaborative effort, the content on UrbanAgLaw.org is created by a group of legal professionals and law students, and the site is curated by SELC. See our list of contributors here.
12 Topics to Guide the Urban Gardener:
- Land Access – This question proves the most important and most challenging to urban agriculturists. Learn about public and private land use agreements, urban land trusts, and tips for drafting leases and easements for urban agriculture projects.
- For-Profit Urban Ag – Urban agriculture has the potential to foster all kinds of micro-enterprises, including farms, apiaries, composters, aquaculture, and more. Anyone interested in starting a small agricultural business in a city will want to read through the resources on this page.
- Food, Ag, and Health – Federal, state, and local governments enforce a variety of agricultural, health, and safety regulations for commercial urban agricultural operations. Knowing which laws apply when is key to running a successful urban agricultural operation. Since urban agriculture is a relatively new concept, there are advocacy opportunities in this area to promote urban agriculture as a part of local urban economies.
- Non-Profit Urban Ag – Nonprofit organizations engage in a variety of community and education oriented urban agricultural activities. In order to sustain themselves, many nonprofits seek tax exemption under IRS Code section 501(c). This status can limit their activities, so we have created a resource that explains other potential ways of organizing a tax exempt nonprofit urban agriculture organization on this page.
- Building Codes – Greenhouses, hoophouses, chicken coops, animal shelters, fish tanks and other structures often necessitate a building permit in order to be constructed within city limits. This section includes information on when permits may be required for these commonly used structures.
- Animals/Livestock – Cities often have limits on the number, species, and gender of animals that can be kept on urban farms or in backyards. This page provides information on who regulates animal keeping in cities, what is required in order to process and sell animal products, and how different cities regulate urban animal husbandry.
- Employment Law – Whether you run a for-profit commercial urban farm or a nonprofit community garden, you need to know what the basics of employment law. The definitions of employee, volunteer, intern, independent contractor, and partner are the main topics covered in this section.
- Planning & Zoning – Most cities have rules regarding where certain activities can take place within city limits, this is what is known as zoning. Urban agricultural activities often push the boundaries of existing zoning codes or, more often than not, are just not allowed. Many cities are updating their codes to accommodate and promote urban agriculture, which is a great opportunity for urban agriculture advocates to become involved in shaping the future of urban ag in cities across the country. We feature a few cities with comprehensive zoning codes here on the website, and hope to expand these case studies. If you are interested in helping us add more cities to our database, please contact us!
- Homeowners Associations – Common interest developments often have restrictive land use policies that do not allow for common urban agricultural activities like growing crops, raising livestock, or keeping bees. Read more in this section about how HOAs legally operate.
- Liability, Risk, and Insurance – Anybody who operates an organization of business engaged in urban agriculture should be aware of the risks involved. When accidents happen, a good liability insurance policy can protect an organization or business’ ability to survive a lawsuit.
- Soil and Water – Soil safety and access to water are two common challenges in urban settings. These pages describe and share resources related to soil remediation standards and techniques as well as creative options for accessing water in cities.
How UrbanAgLaw.org supports the urban agriculture community:
1. Empowers Individuals and Communities
UrbanAgLaw.org equips individuals and community organizations with information and resources to help them understand and overcome potential legal barriers to urban agriculture in their communities. It can help navigate laws to establish a community garden, a commercial farm, sell locally grown produce, form a non-profit entity, access land, manage risk, or just garden legally on your own property.
2. Influences Policymakers
If SELC’s policy work in California has taught us one thing, it’s that policymakers do not always have the time to do their own homework or undertake the time-intensive research on laws, studies, and case surveys necessary to craft legislation relating to urban agriculture. UrbanAgLaw.org is intended not only for the general public, but also for policymakers who want to educate themselves on how states and cities accommodate urban agriculture across the country.
3. Prepares Lawyers for the Urban Ag Groundswell
We know that we need many more attorneys who are well informed about issues in sustainable economies law; in fact, much of SELC’s work is dedicated to training attorneys to practice law in the sustainable economy through publications, workshops, and webinars. UrbanAgLaw.org can empower lawyers with relevant legal knowledge to assist them in advising clients and advocating for new policies.
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