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Letter: Friendlier permitting needed for urban agriculture

I left the City of Encinitas’ first urban agriculture subcommittee meeting feeling frustrated by the city’s position on small farms. I also left feeling motivated to do what I can to keep small farms like Coral Tree Farm operating. I do not want the city to turn what little agricultural land is left into more subdivisions.

Is that the Encinitas we want? I think this can be a catalyst for a new direction for the city.

There seems to be a giant disconnect between the city’s vision (preserving its agricultural heritage and the environment) and current planning department’s approach. The City Council is in the process of rewriting the framework for urban agriculture. I hope that in the interim the city will allow historic Coral Tree Farm to continue to exist.

With clear definitions and an understanding of what urban agriculture is, Encinitas policy makers have an opportunity to innovate and provide an optimal framework that takes account of the many cross benefits of urban agriculture. Some of these include creating and connecting community, renewing local economy, increasing food security, improving our physical and emotional health, and positive environmental impacts.

Coral Tree’s workshops and classes (recently deemed accessory uses) are essential to the farm’s existence and they enrich our community. They provide opportunities for children and adults to connect and engage with their community and with nature. The farm has become a place to exchange ideas and learn about how and what to grow in our area and the importance of crop lineage and heirloom seed saving. With the city’s support, it can continue to serve as a model and resource for future urban farmers in Encinitas.

Among the planning commission concerns is increased traffic at the farm. How is the impact of visitors any different from a resident having friends over for a potluck? If a development replaced the farm, there would be more traffic than currently exists. We need to use common sense with our permit process. To expect farmers to pay for traffic impact studies or $1,600 for a minor use permit application is unreasonable.

Small farms like Coral Tree help build sustainable and more resilient food systems. By reconnecting people with the natural cycles of food production, it opens the doors to responsible consumption. Urban farming can help us unplug from big oil companies by minimizing our transport footprint and by using organic cultivation methods. With increasing climate change challenges like drought affecting our agricultural systems, what are we doing as a community to create and support a more resilient and diverse food system? The first step is supporting rules and regulations that make the existence of these small farms possible.

Perhaps equally important to providing economical and geographical access to organic food, small farms like Coral Tree Farm are helping to nurture and grow the very sense of community we love in Encinitas.

By Anna Young, a Leucadia resident.


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