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City of Worcester's

Urban Agriculture

Ordinance

What is Urban Agriculture?

Urban Agriculture can be broadly defined as growing food within the city. It can include growing food on vacant land, aquaponics, hoop houses, school gardens, community gardens, on rooftops, in backyards.  It also can include keeping bees.  The food grown may be for personal consumption or for commercial use.

UrbanAg increases access to healthy and fresh foods by increasing the amount of food produced locally. Access to healthy foods increases through such things as an increase of farm stands in neighborhoods across our city and new small businesses producing and using locally grown produce.

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Why is Urban Agriculture Good for Worcester?

Urban agriculture improves health, supports community development, and provides economic benefits. 
 

  • Buying local produce is good for the environment, as it cuts down on carbon emitted from large scale, industrial agriculture

  • Community members can experience physical, mental and emotional benefits from urban growing 

  • Growing and producing food provides even greater opportunities to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables, which supports health and well-being in our city

  • Urban Agriculture provides more culturally appropriate food for our multicultural city

  • When these enterprises are for commercial purposes it is bringing local jobs into our economy!

  • Communities also benefit from the greenery in their neighborhoods, especially when gardens or farms replace vacant lots or blighted areas.  The greenspaces help to clean our air and support improved rainwater absorption.

Worcester's Urban Agriculture Ordinance

 

The zoning amendment defines what constitutes an urban farm, community garden and yard garden, identifies and categorizes where each of them are permitted or require special permits, and establishes rules and regulations designed to minimize potential impacts and maintain the safety of the neighborhood areas while encouraging healthy food growing practices.
 

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Frequently Asked Questions

What types of growing spaces are covered by the ordinance?


There are three types of growing spaces protected by the ordinance: yard gardens, community gardens and urban farms. A yard garden is essentially a home garden: “any agriculture involving less than 2,500 square feet of area conducted accessory to a residential use by the person who resides there, primarily for personal consumption or use, except for accessory farm stand sales.” Community gardens are, as the name suggests, spaces where groups of individuals come together to grow food. The Urban Agriculture Ordinance defines a community garden as “a lot or any portion thereof, not exceeding 5,000 square feet in size, that is used by a group of individuals for growing and harvesting of food crops, flowers or ornamental plants primarily for personal consumption or use, not for sale.” The REC provides a number of resources to registered community gardens in the City of Worcester, in partnership with the Department of Public Works and Parks, including free annual delivery of compost and seedlings. An urban farm is a site that produces at a larger scale and not primarily for personal consumption. Establishing an urban farm in a residential district requires a special permit and the proposed plan must include a layout, farm structures, equipment and material storage, lighting, irrigation, drainage, grading, composting, access, parking, and operations that are compatible with and designed to minimize the impact to the surrounding neighborhood.




What kind of growing spaces require a permit?


Yard gardens and community gardens are permitted as an allowable use in all areas of Worcester. Establishing an urban farm may require a special permit, depending on where you live. You can see the types of zoning districts that require a permit for this use in the CIty Zoning Ordinance. The best way to find what type of zoning district you live in, is to contact the City of Worcester, as these designations can shift. Reach out to Michelle Smith at SmithM@worcesterma.gov to inquire about the process.




I want to set up a farm stand- how do I do it?





Is on-site composting allowed in Worcester?


Yes, on-site composting is allowed however, areas dedicated to composting shall not exceed 200 square feet.




I'm looking for resources about urban growing (soil safety, container growing, bed building, etc.)


Check out the REC's Garden Resource Page! You'll find growing guides, tips on where to buy your plants, and much more.





Seeing This Ordinance Come To Life


Many Worcester residents are already taking advantage of this ordinance to grow food, organize community and school gardens, and sell at farmers markets. The REC supports many existing growing projects across the city.