SANTA FE – The Santa Fe Public Works Committee has endorsed a plan for the city to start looking at ways it can better promote local food and urban agriculture.
The resolution directs city staff to draw up potential amendments to city code “related to the establishment of a permitted use in certain zoning districts for urban food production and farm stands.”
The measure also directs the city to work with local groups to develop a plan that would enable Santa Feans to sell and purchase food grown at community gardens and similar sites. Additionally, it wants to explore the potential for large-scale community gardens in areas such as a the new Southwest Activity Node Park in southwest Santa Fe.
Lurking on the edge of the committee’s conversation was how the resolution might relate to Gaia Gardens, a local urban farm located off the Arroyo de los Chamisos Trail that garnered attention this summer after complaints by some neighbors led to a city inspection and a raft of citations for various city code and other violations.
Councilor Chris Calvert said he doesn’t have a problem with supporting local agriculture but “I don’t want to promote bad behavior.”
Calvert said he doesn’t want the resolution to ultimately lead to helping a “private farm” – he never named Gaia Gardens – get around current code.
“I don’t want the goal of urban agriculture to be a cover for undesirable activity on certain people’s parts,” Calvert said.
He and others said they don’t want to rush the resolution, particularly since local food groups intend to unveil a Santa Fe food plan this fall. The Public Works Committee agreed that any amendments or changes to city code should be consistent with the new plan.
Katherine Mortimer, the city’s manager for Sustainable Santa Fe programs, said questions such as how community gardeners can sell their surplus product were being discussed among groups such as the Sustainable Santa Fe Commission and Santa Fe Food Policy Council before Gaia Gardens gained publicity.
Some of the issues involved with Gaia Gardens could potentially be resolved during the broader discussion called for by the resolution, Mortimer said.
Councilor Patti Bushee, who is sponsoring the resolution, told the Journal it was Gaia Gardens – notwithstanding the many layers involved in the farm’s unique situation – that got her thinking about how city code doesn’t really allow community gardener-types to sell their produce.
Bushee said she supports urban agriculture and believes its promotion, albeit with appropriate guidelines, would be beneficial for the Santa Fe community.
Councilor Rebecca Wurzburger said she’d like to put more emphasis on developing a strategic plan for locally grown produce and secondarily consider delivery methods such as vendor stands.