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Farmers serve up suggestions for agriculture ordinance

Chickens roam around a local farm. To encourage backyard farms, an Encinitas City Council subcommittee is drafting an urban agriculture ordinance, which farmers weighed in on this week.
( / Jared Whitlock)

Urban farming advocates said Encinitas’ proposed agriculture ordinance should do more to encourage backyard growers during an April 21 meeting at City Hall.

The draft ordinance would relax livestock buffers, make it easier to set up community gardens and allow residential produce stands without special permitting. Proponents say it would encourage healthy eating and give residents a stronger connection to their food.

Many of the roughly 35 people at the agriculture subcommittee meeting supported slashing a proposed $800 permit for new farms that are larger than an acre or would host frequent events. They said such a steep cost could be prohibitive for many.

Councilman Tony Kranz, one of the two councilmembers on the subcommittee, said $800 is a step in the right direction, because a minor-use permit for such farm operations is currently double that. But he stated he’s open to lowering the fee.

“A smaller fee makes sense,” Kranz said.

On that note, Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear, the other subcommittee member, said the permitting process for these types of farms has been greatly streamlined under the subcommittee’s proposal.

The ordinance would let homeowners sell fruits, vegetables, shell eggs and “value-added” products like jam from residential farm stands for up to 12 daylight hours a week without permitting. That’s provided the products were produced onsite and the stand is no more than 120 square feet in size.

Eric Larson, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, said residents should also be able to sell flowers from the stands.

“You have a lot of hobbyists who grow cactus and succulents around town,” Larson said. “Why should they be excluded from the opportunity?”

Others said residents should also be able to sell produce or goods from neighbors at their stands sans permits.

Blakespear said that could create issues.

“You don’t want to have grocery stores popping up, where they (the stands) sell bananas from Smart and Final,” Blakespear said. “Trying to strike that balance is what we’re struggling with.”

The ordinance also proposes to cut the buffer in all residential zones for raising chickens, goats or bees. Up to two beehives, for instance, would be OK if they’re at least 15 feet from property lines. For three or more hives, the distance jumps to 600 feet and a permit would be required.

One resident said he has a bee allergy and he would be at a greater risk of getting stung if the city approves the ordinance.

Kranz said the ordinance would demand that residents requeen beehives at least every two years to bolster the domestic bee population. This would mean fewer aggressive Africanized bees, he added.

“We need pollinators,” Kranz said.

Other residents said the ordinance should include more information about rules for farmers markets and composting.

The subcommittee began crafting the ordinance last summer. A community meeting will be held in the next month or two to gain more input. And sometime later this year, the Encinitas City Council will give it the final thumbs up or down


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