Mayor Reed aims to reconnect Atlanta with Georgia’s agrarian roots

Office of Sustainability drafted zoning changes to make it easier for urban farms to operate
Illustration by Brian Taylor

Mayor Kasim Reed has grand ambitions for Atlanta—high-tech incubators, for instance. But his administration has another, more prosaic goal: to reconnect the city with Georgia’s agrarian roots. “The goal is to have every resident live within a half mile of locally grown food,” says Denise Quarles, who directs the mayor’s Office of Sustainability. That food could be grown in urban farms, community gardens, or our own yards.

To this end, Quarles’s office—along with Georgia Organics and the Atlanta Local Food Initiative—drafted zoning changes to make it easier for urban farms to operate in areas now zoned residential or for other commercial uses. The “Urban Ag” ordinance was introduced by city council member Aaron Watson last fall; it is working its way through the approval process and is anticipated to pass this spring.

Under the ordinance, urban farms could operate in—but not sell from—residential areas. The zoning will make it easier for homeowners to tend their own crops. Now, “there’s ambiguity,” says Alice Rolls, executive director of Georgia Organics. “There’s not a way to deal with the ‘lettuce police’ if a neighbor suddenly objects to what you’re growing in your front yard.”

This article originally appeared in our April 2014 issue under the headline “Citified Farms.”