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Chicago Urban Farming: City Council Approves New Ordinance

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The Chicago City Council approved a zoning code amendment allowing for more widespread urban agriculture Thursday.

As WBEZ reports, the zoning code has expanded the size of community gardens to 25,000 feet, thus accommodating commercial farms within city limits. The ordinance also trims some of the red tape both farms and gardens face.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel lauded the amendment as a "job creator" that will also capitalize on otherwise vacant land.

"This policy is about taking land that we have here in the city of Chicago that is literally sitting fallow both as land as well as a revenue base or tax base and turning it into a job creator and a revenue creator. And there's great parts of the city where that exists," Emanuel said, as reported by WBEZ.

"The City worked with its sister agencies, urban agriculture experts and community members in an effort to help strengthen community ties and turn available empty lots into viable, productive urban green spaces," the mayor continued in a statement commending City Council for approving the ordinance.

The new rules will also allow for limited produce sales in residential areas, relax parking and fencing rules for larger urban farms and allow for aquaponics -- sustainable, symbiotic food production systems -- to be used, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Emanuel announced his support for the urban farming ordinance at the Iron Street Farm in Bridgeport in late July. Though the mayor's predecessor, Richard Daley, was nominally a proponent of urban farms, farmers say the ordinance he supported sought to place too many restrictions on how and where urban farms could be established. The ordinance approved Thursday by the City Council, under Emanuel's tenure, is considered to reverse that course.

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