New legislation eases restrictions, builds awareness, and expands opportunities for Prince George’s County’s urban farms
November 12th, 2019
Director, Prince George’s County Food Equity Council
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
LARGO, MD, NOVEMBER 12, 2019 –
|Prince George’s County, MD is admired for its rich agricultural heritage, industry, and landscape. Predominantly based in its most rural regions, the past decade has seen the county’s agricultural community diversify and expand its presence into more unconventional spaces. A testament to a larger national movement (with chapters in both Washington, DC and Baltimore) and a byproduct of global urbanization, the emergence of urban farming in Prince George’s County has given rise to a community of next-generation agriculture professionals, enthusiasts, and entrepreneurs reimagining local food production while tackling food injustices.|
Despite noted public interest and legislative support, inadvertent zoning restrictions and unclear permissions in current urban farming legislation have introduced challenges for Prince George’s County urban farmers. CR-17-2019 and CB-14-2019 are two newly passed pieces of legislation that remedy these issues by formally allowing urban farming in the county’s bustling Gateway Arts District, and expand the county’s allowed zones and legislative definition of urban farming, respectively.
Enacted on 9/24/19, CR-17-2019 is a legislative resolution formalizing a minor planning amendment that greenlights urban farming as a permitted use in Prince George’s County’s Gateway Arts District. The resolution was spearheaded by Councilwoman Deni Taveras in response to constituent Doug Adams’ request for special clearance to construct a high tunnel hoophouse on his urban farm in the Gateway Arts District after being denied a building permit by the county. Because the Development District Overlay zone uses were written before formal demand for urban farming in the county, urban farming uses were unintentionally disallowed in the Gateway Arts District – despite prior county legislation (CB-25-2016) allowing it in the base zone.
Enacted on 11/1/19, CB-14-2019 is a bill that amends the definition of “Urban Farming” uses in the county’s current Zoning Ordinance to align with the new definition per the more recently passed Zoning Ordinance Rewrite. Supported by key recommendations and feedback from the Prince George’s County Food Equity Council and New Brooklyn Farms, the bill permits urban farming in additional residential, commercial, and industrial zones, and introduces new permissions for rooftop farming, aquaponics, and controlled environment agriculture.
Prince George’s County District 2 Councilmember Taveras states:
“These two bills create, reassert the County’s commitment to urban farmers and community gardeners to start up and grow an urban farm. “Urban farming is a powerful vehicle for economic, environmental, and community empowerment that aligns with many of the County’s key goals, such as ensuring all our residents have access to fresh food. It is truly a pleasure to be able to support legislation that will help grow urban farming, while supplying healthy, locally grown food to our communities.”
New Brooklyn Farms founder and Prince George’s County native Doug Adams states:
“After a 2 year-long journey, the passing of CR-17-2019 and CB-14-2019 represent a huge milestone in my journey with New Brooklyn Farms and a resounding encore of the county’s commitment to taking a stake in the burgeoning urban agriculture and local food movements, respectively. As an independent small business in a relatively unprecedented space, it’s an honor to be the impetus and advocate for legislative change that empowers future green entrepreneurs to realize environmental and economic sustainability. This victory would not be possible without key mentorship and support from my Prince George’s County Food Equity Council family, public support from the city of Mt. Rainier and region at large, and the favorable consideration of Councilmember Taveras, the entire county council, and the county planning board.”
About Prince George’s County Food Equity Council (FEC)
The FEC is a local food policy council that works to help Prince George’s County residents grow, sell, and choose healthy foods. Since 2013, FEC has been a voice for county residents at the policymaking table. We work with county leaders to find permanent solutions to improve our food system. We focus on systematic and sustainable changes to Prince George’s public health challenges (i.e., hunger, obesity, and food deserts that lack healthy food options) by advocating for policy that creates a more equitable local food system.