Urban farming ready to take root with approval from San Francisco 

In an urban setting in which the term "produce" is synonymous with supermarkets, city farmers can now return to their earliest agricultural roots to cash in on homegrown crops.

About 70 farmers, politicians, reporters and ordinary folk gathered at the Little City Garden urban farm in the Excelsior district Wednesday to witness Mayor Ed Lee sign an ordinance to allow city farmers to legally sell their produce.

The ordinance, which also makes it possible for city-owned plots of less than 1 acre to be turned into urban gardens, makes San Francisco the first major American city to modify its planning code to allow such practices.

In describing the urban agricultural ordinance as "precedent-setting" and "smart legislation," the interim mayor hoped to send a message to future leaders of The City.

"We’ve got to break open these vacant lots, we’ve got to do something more with our land," Lee said.

The legislation’s roots date back to a 2009 directive from then-Mayor Gavin Newsom.

There are about 50 community gardens citywide, according to members of the San Francisco Urban Agricultural Alliance. Market gardens, which grow for profit, aren’t nearly as numerous.

Amid a light rain, Little City Garden co--owners Brooke Budner and Caitlyn Galloway talked about converting their three-quarter acre lot into a viable cash-crop-producing garden.

"This place was impenetrable," said Bruce, Budner’s father. "The heart of darkness."

The two 30-year-old co-owners embarked on the business idea to create jobs for themselves amid a recession. But the discovery that selling their homegrown produce was illegal was a setback.

"It felt like a big blow," Budner said. "When we dug in, we realized this is going to be a lot of work."

Although Little City Garden celebrated its one-year anniversary earlier this week, the lot was recently sold to a San Francisco developer, Galloway said.

Some things never change.


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