St. Petersburg city council members unanimously passed an ordinance Thursday that will expand opportunities for the production and sale of locally grown produce, a move that will help address the issue of food insecurity in the city while providing economic benefits for residents interested in growing and selling their own food.
The ordinance, which amends the city’s land development regulations, will go back before city council for a second reading in January. Key elements include:
- Eliminating the not-for-profit requirements for community gardens and extending the initial permit period.
- Lowering the cost of community garden permits and roadside vending market permits from $100 to $50, with renewal applications dropping from $50 to $10.
- Allowing commercial gardens and greenhouses as permitted uses, rather than special exceptions, in industrial traditional and industrial suburban zones.
- Allowing sales of produce grown onsite on residential properties in single-family and multi-family districts. That includes value-added and honeybee products. Home produce sales would be allowed up to 36 events per year.
- Allowing garden-related structures, including hoop houses, cold frames, greenhouses and vertical structures.
- Allowing produce sales from vehicles and on vacant non-residential property city-wide.
Council member Brandi Gabbard, who has spoken about dealing with food insecurity as a child, said that having access to fresh fruits and vegetables is critically important.
“It’s a quality of life issue,” she said. “If you go to bed and you don’t have a full belly, you can’t sleep well and children can’t perform well at school.”
The city has taken a number of measures to fight food insecurity including the recent creation of a Food Policy Council. Established at the end of August by the city’s Health, Energy, Resiliency and Sustainability Committee, the Council serves as an independent advisory board and work to elevate food security with the goal of creating an equitable, community-based system that would remove barriers that prevent residents from accessing healthy food.
Gabbard also pointed out the economic development and job opportunities that can be created by supporting the development of more community and commercial gardens and allowing growers to sell produce in more locations across the city.
Carla Bristol, the collaboration manager at the St. Pete Youth Farm, has spoken at several meetings on the topic of loosening regulations for residents who want to grow and sell their own produce. She said that she’s talked to a lot of people who come from farming families who are excited to continue that legacy while creating economic growth for their futures.
“I think it’s beautiful,” she said.