BY KAY SHIPMAN
Delegates approved new Illinois Farm Bureau policy defining and supporting urban agriculture during the Illinois Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Chicago. Cook County Farm Bureau submitted the policy proposal.
The new policy defines urban agriculture as a wide range of activities from cultivation to processing and from marketing to distribution of food in urban and suburban settings in both outdoor and indoor facilities. The policy considers both community gardens and large-scale urban sites as urban agriculture that includes sites where food may be grown by an organization or private enterprise, including for- and nonprofit entities.
IFB “wants to be involved in urban agriculture and have a presence. This (policy) gives us direction,” Mark Gebhards, IFB executive director of governmental affairs and commodities, told reporters during a news conference. Gebhards projected involvement in the urban food system sector would be important for IFB in 2022.
“This will allow us to build partnerships,” he added.
Under new policy, IFB supports, among other things:
- Recognizing the importance of urban agriculture and its contribution to the agricultural economy.
- Urban agriculture providing safe, attractive and welcoming spaces for neighbors to gather and foster a sense of community.
- County Farm Bureaus working with units of government to develop agriculture-friendly zoning policies.
- Using land management tools, such as land banks, land trusts, conservation easements and long-term leases on public and private lands, so urban agriculture can flourish.
- Advocating for new developments to include opportunities for agriculture, including rooftop and home gardens, community gardens, and urban farms where appropriate.
- Diverting organic waste into compost.
- Using raised beds or hydroponics to address soil-quality concerns.
- Using season extension tools, such as indoor facilities and high tunnels.
- The keeping of bees and beehives in urban settings, providing that best management practices are followed.
- Urban agriculture sites gaining access to agricultural markets.
- Developing infrastructure to transport and store food for market.
- Providing job training and skill development to beginning farmers and garden managers.