Ive been looking at and listening to the recent offerings of folks having something to say about Right To Farm, and the Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices, which drive the Right To Farm legislation in Michigan. Ive heard from those in support of urban farming; from those who oppose the concept on general principles; and from farmers for whom the legislation was first drafted.
To those first two groups, I say this: Please check out the appropriate Kalamazoo City Ordinance. It was adopted by the then-sitting Kalamazoo City Commission on October 6, 1997.
To the third group, the farmers for whom Right To Farm was adopted, pending adherence to GAAMP, I say you might save yourself a good deal of frustration if you just do the same. That is, suggest that people who might come to you for support, that they go back to their own local unit of government - - city, county, township, village - - and ask, can we get something like the city ofKalamazoo has? Im not suggesting that all current and potential urban farmers will jump on this bandwagon, but I think such a proposal would give some satisfaction, and I think it beats hoping the Michigan Commission on Agriculture and Rural Development is going to reorganize the Michigan landscape to where its one big farm - - and those folks are not about to risk crippling a 92-billion-dollar contributor to the Michigan economy by accommodating occupiers of residential zoning to the point they can indulge their agrarian predilections. The subject Kalamazoo Ordinance, which repealed the former Chapter 7, deals only with animals and fowl. That is the kind of urban agriculture Ive heard about, that is in question. I really doubt anyone will complain about a neighbor tilling a plot for carrots, radishes, and green beans. I have apple trees on my Kalamazoo property, and I raised and sold Christmas trees.
I have a good deal more property than the two acres prescribed in the Kalamazoo ordinance, but I am zoned residential, so the extra acreage is of no particular advantage, EXCEPT in plant agriculture. Im pretty sure I could cultivate many more fruit trees, or a vegetable garden of considerable size.
As for animal agriculture, Kalamazoo permits rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, or other poultry if they are kept in a sanitary condition, free of offensive odors, and in an enclosed yard or coop located at least thirty feet from the street line or any adjacent property line.
It appears to me that the Michigan Agriculture Commission is heading toward modest revisions, some tweaking of terminology, but will stay the basic course, perhaps with a bit more emphasis on requirements for everyone to adhere to the local zoning ordinances.
Advocates of urban farming would be better served, I believe, campaigning for a local ordinance that will accommodate at least some of their intended undertakings.
Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. (accompanying picture is a screen capture from YouTube)