Farmer Needs Assessment Survey
Urban Ag Zoning Code Revisions - The following is a summary of the new rules being proposed for food growing and animal husbandry in Pittsburgh. Note that everything described as permitted in this document requires you to obtain an actual permit through the City of Pittsburgh’s Zoning Division. The process and requirements for doing that are outlined at the end of this document.
FULL TEXT- Urban Agriculture Zoning Code Amendments
EBT and the Pittsburgh Farmers' Markets - In 1994 the food stamp system transitioned from paper coupons to a debit card format. Farmers markets around the country lost their connection to food stamp users with the adoption of this updated system. Complementary technology has been slow to develop. Newer generations of wireless technology are being trialed by some markets with varying degrees of success. The PFPC is currently working to bring reliable technology to the Pittsburgh Markets and again provide food stamp users access to the healthy, affordable food that the markets offer.
In the past 15 years the number of farmers markets in the United States has tripled, increasing accessibility to fresh, healthy food to people across the country. But for the most part, low-income communities have not fully benefited.
Farmers markets not only meet the needs of growing consumer interest in and demand for local food, they also serve many other important needs in a community. Hospitals have used markets to promote healthy eating to their clients and staff. City governments have established or supported them as a tool for economic revitalization in a struggling downtown. And neighborhood groups have recognized farmers markets’ ability to create a sense of place and community.
One step that farmers market organizations across the country are taking to increasing their accessibility to these communities has been to accept SNAP (formerly known as food stamp) dollars through EBT cards transactions. EBT or Electronic Benefit Transfer cards function in the same way that normal debit cards do and thus require a terminal where the card can be swiped. While mobile vendors can now use the Square Card App to accept credit and debit cards without a traditional terminal, this technology is not yet available for EBT cards. Thus farmers markets can become SNAP accessible by: equipping each stall with a terminal or creating a centralized system where customers swipe their EBT, debit or credit card and are given tokens that they can use as currency at the market. Both have challenges.
In the 2013 Farmers Market season, Just Harvest began implementing a SNAP & Debit Card token system at two of the seven CitiParks Markets: East Liberty (Mondays, 3:30 - 7:30) and North Side (Fridays, 3:30 - 7:30). They hope to extend the pilot program to the other markets shortly thereafter.
The PFPC recieved a grant in October 2012 from the Heinz Endowment to create a marketing campaign for the CitiParks Farmers Markets. One important component of this campaign is to raise awareness of the new SNAP program especially among community members living near the markets.
Additionally, the following PFPC Members have also worked hard in 2012 to become food stamp accessible: Farmers at the Firehouse, Grow Pittsburgh, Clarion River Organics, and Garfield Farms.
photo credit: Penn's Corner Farm Alliance
Urban Agriculture Zoning in Pittsburgh - In February of 2011 Pittsburgh City Council passed its first ever Urban Agriculture Zoning Code. The Council along with some of its member organizations worked with the City's Planning Department to construct a code that was fair and reasonable for both urban agriculture enthusiasts and city residents at large. The code set regulations on chicken and bee keeping as well as the sale of produce, but also gave Pittsburgh's urban growers and farmers legal protection for the first time. The City Council's decision to pursue zoning code also speaks the expanding community or urban agriculturalists.
- The keeping of up to 3 chickens with 2,000 sq. ft or more of land (this includes the footprint of the home
- Housing of 2 beehives with 2,000 sq. ft or more of land and a minimum 10 feet from a neighboring property line
- On-site sale of produce grown on vacant land with permission from the owner
Many urban agriculture supporters expressed concerns over the $300 permit fee, the 2,000 sq ft property requirements, and the time consuming permitting process for bee and chicken keepers. These factors can be barriers to residents especially low-income residents in neighborhoods with large numbers of vacant properties.
The code has been in place now for over a year and the Planning Committee asked urban agriculture community representatives to review and provide feedback about the effectiveness of the new zoning code. The representatives are now working to adjust the ordinances appropriately to best serve Pittsburgh urban agricultural efforts. The PFPC will also be working to educate and raise awareness about changes to the zoning code and how it can help our urban agriculture community continue to grow in the future.
Community Outreach and Education - The PFPC is always looking to support our local food system through advocacy efforts and direct support as well as through outreach and education. The PFPC is currently planning some great programming around the connections between local farmers, health, and community engagement.