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City releases findings of citizen report on urban agriculture

By: Sara Wilson

  |  Posted: Thursday, Feb 20, 2014 06:00 am

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Some surprising and dramatic findings were released from the citizen engagement report of urban agriculture on Feb. 18.

The study was completed – via council directive back in March 2013 – to look at resident’s thoughts on how urban agriculture would affect their community. Administration surveyed 289 residents.

“Included in those numbers was a letter we received that (was in support) of urban agriculture from the Village Community Association,” said Amanda Ginn sustainability coordinator with the City of Airdrie.

Residents were asked how they felt about the development of urban agriculture within city limits and were asked to rank – whether they supported or opposed –keeping bees, hens, community gardens, edible landscaping, front yard edible landscaping and rooftop gardens in residential areas or in city owned lands such as parks.

The report indicated high levels of support for urban agriculture initiatives on public lands and City-owned spaces, and lower levels of support for initiatives on private property.

Residential support for City-operated community gardens came in at 94.3 per cent in favour, rooftop gardens received 88.6 per cent support, edible landscaping garnered 85 per cent approval rating and beehives on public lands received 57.9 per cent approval. The report indicated residents support for private/backyards were slightly lower at 81.6 per cent for front yard edible gardens, backyard hens received less support at 57.1 per cent and backyard bees just garnering 50.7 per cent support.

“The predominant concerns mentioned with regard to public/City initiatives included ongoing maintenance and vandalism,” Ginn said.

“Citizen concerns regarding private/backyard initiatives included allergies to bees and concerns about noise and odours associated with backyard chickens.”

Residents who supported urban agriculture suggested developing rooftop gardens on a future library building; partnering with the food bank to supply them with edible plantings from public gardens, creating signage for edible landscaping; locating beehives away from high traffic areas such as sidewalks, sports fields and playgrounds and developing additional community gardens.

“As you know, I’m all for this and I support it 100 per cent,” Alderman Candice Kolson said.

“I have full faith that you will do your research with regards to bylaws regulations. A large area like the Village would be a perfect spot.”

Members of the Village Community Association Pat McMann and Larry Skadden told council during question period that the homeowners in Village community are in favour of urban agriculture and suggested using their area as a potential pilot program.

“Many of the neighbours are interested in it and are keen to take part in it,” McMann said.

Council voted unanimously in favour to initiate steps to begin a pilot urban agriculture program.

A date for the public information sessions for the program was not known at press time.


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