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Urban Farming Comes to Somerville, Aldermen Approve Agriculture Ordinance

The ordinance allows for raising hens, keeping bees, selling eggs and growing produce.

The Somerville Board of Aldermen Thursday approved an ordinance that allows for urban farming and agriculture, such as raising chickens, keeping bees and growing produce for sale.

In expressly allowing certain types of urban agriculture, the ordinance also outlines permitting, public health and best-practices requirements associated with farming in the city.

If you want to keep bees or raise chickens in Somerville, you'll need to get a permit to do so.

If you want to grow produce to sell, you don't need a permit, but you will need to get your soil tested for lead and other contaminants, and you'll only be able to sell fresh, unprocessed produce.

The ordinance does not apply to people who garden and grow fruits and vegetables for their own personal use—it's only when you want to sell your produce that requirements kick in.

The ordinance creates other rules that govern urban farming in Somerville. Here are just some of them:

  • You cannot have roosters 
  • You can only have two bee hives
  • Results of soil tests must be clearly posted at the point of sale
  • You cannot sell produce grown in community gardens
  • You must live in the residence where you are keeping bees or chickens
  • A person growing produce for sale in his or her yard must be a resident
  • You can have no more than six hens per lot
  • If you plan to sell anything other than unprocessed honey, eggs, fresh produce or maple syrup, you need a license as a food retailer
  • You can only sell your products three days per week, and no more than 25 days per year
  • The selling season is from May 1 to Oct. 31

Again, those are just some of the rules set forth in the ordinance, and the city plans to publish an easy-to-use pamphlet to guide people; the paphlet will include information about local resources like the Somerville Garden Club and .

The Somerville Board of Health was also expected to pass regulations Thursday night for growing produce and keeping bees and hens.

More on the urban agriculture ordinance:

jennifer D. August 17, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Oh this is so exciting!!!! I am very proud of the City of Somerville for being so progressive!
wenzday August 20, 2012 at 09:41 PM
urban farming was ALREADY happening in Somerville. Also, i am dismayed that the aldermen didn't even take the needs of existing urban farms into account when they wrote this regulation.

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