IF you make it easier to grow, will local food pop up in more places?
City council will consider options to amend its bylaws to allow indoor and outdoor urban agriculture in more parts of Winnipeg. If the changes are approved, food growing will be allowed in more areas without residents needing to apply for a change-of-land use.
The proposed changes are a welcome step that should help increase access to local food, said Colin Rémillard, co-owner of Jardins St-Léon Gardens.
"There’s this whole avenue that would be opened up that before was… not easy to achieve," said Rémillard. "You’ll start seeing younger entrepreneurs either borrowing or renting land and making something of what would otherwise be vacant land."
The business owner said his father bought a residential lot in St. Boniface that now grows food sold at St-Léon, at 419 St. Mary’s Rd. Under the current bylaws, he had to obtain city zoning approvals, which took added time and effort.
Rémillard said easing the process should help more gardens emerge, which could beautify vacant lots.
"In other provinces, people have made whole businesses in using vacant lots that would otherwise not be aesthetically pleasing," he said.
Under current city rules, agriculture is only allowed without special approvals in agricultural and larger rural residential zones. Community gardens are an allowed use in residential, parks and commercial districts. The changes would allow new gardens to be run by individuals and not just groups, which they are limited to now.
The proposed new rules would let outdoor urban agriculture take place without special city clearances in all zones, except heavy industrial areas, which would require a public hearing, while indoor agriculture would be allowed in industrial zones, most commercial zones and some parks.
(Indoor agriculture is defined as food production within enclosed buildings, such as hydroponics and vertical gardening.)
The city also hopes to clarify produce can be sold in commercial, industrial or institutional areas, as well as some parks, without special city approval.
Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital), who chairs the Winnipeg Food Council, said the changes should make it easier to produce food and sell it in the city.
"I think there’s an environmental movement there and we need to be part of it… It’s part of (fighting) climate change that we need to do more local food production," said Mayes.
Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface) said he agrees the city should encourage more options for growing food. For example, he said landowners could rent out access to their properties to allow more gardens and the city could consider letting people grow food instead of grass at their homes.
"Policies like this are good for food security in the city and they make our lands potentially more productive," said Allard.
Coun. Janice Lukes (Waverley West) also supports expanding food-growth options. She recently raised a motion to see if the city could require new developments to set aside space for community gardens.
"As the city becomes denser, (there are) smaller house lots and many, many apartments and condominiums, so there’s nowhere to garden," said Lukes.
The councillor said she recently worked out a lease with a private developer to set up a community garden at the end of Northridge Road in South Pointe, where 50 people have signed up to rent lots this year.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.