Indianapolis, IN - Events Local News Groups Contact
Hey there! If you stopped to read this, wow, you're awesome! And since you're that awesome, maybe you'd be willing to check out this super sweet, not-so-top-secret campaign to take Films For Action to the next level of awesome in our quest to change the world. All the details here. Cheers!
Smith: Indy Should Favor Gardeners in Clash over Urban farms
Smith: Indy Should Favor Gardeners in Clash over Urban farms
By Erika D. Smith / indystar.com
Jul 23, 2014

For the past 20 years, Kay Grimm has spent her days toiling on the Near Eastside, turning five empty lots in the shadow of the Indianapolis Re-entry Education Facility into a permaculture garden filled with exotic fruit, vegetables and livestock.

For 10 of those 20 years, Sue Spicer has helped her, tending to beehives and sheep that mow — translation, eat — the grass of another lot they own across the street.

To Kay and Sue and other gardeners, Fruit Loop Acres is a beautiful labor of love that should be allowed to grow. To others, it's an ugly mess, a tangle of untamed greenery interspersed with smelly animals, that should be shut down.

Who is right? It's hard to say, and the city's laws are largely silent.

Indianapolis hasn't updated its zoning code since the 1970s, but in that time, a cottage industry of urban homesteading has taken root. Agriculture is no longer just about large farms in rural areas. People own goats in Broad Ripple. They have chicken coops in their backyards in Downtown. Residents in the core of the city are finding safe ways to plant fruit trees and grow vegetables on contaminated lots.

It's a good trend, a healthy trend. One that can go a long way toward addressing the shortage of fresh produce in urban food deserts. And one that Mayor Greg Ballard's administration has been right to encourage by donating empty lots to neighborhood groups and nonprofits interested in starting community gardens.

But regulating urban homesteading is another matter entirely.

The plan is to wait until the city finishes overhauling its zoning code — a process that could take until next year. There will, for the first time, be a section covering "urban agriculture."

The problem is people have been making up their own rules for a long time, relying on parts of the zoning code that seem applicable and filling in the blanks when there's no guidance.

The results have been uneven.

The city, for example, cited Grimm and Spicer for having high weeds and grass on one of their lots while one sheep was grazing on it.

"We didn't argue," Spicer said of the citation. "We just mowed."

Weeks later, a neighbor reported the permaculture garden for high weeds and grass. After a lengthy inspection, city officials decided it was up to code.

That is one clash of many. Others are over the proposed zoning language itself. On Wednesday, homesteaders took city officials to task at two public meetings at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

On the livestock restrictions, they balked at rules that set a specific ratio of chickens to roosters, as well as limit the size and number of animals that residents can own. They wanted to know if goats and chickens could be grandfathered in if they owned more than the required number. And they talked about the potential for disease if they could no longer rotate male and female animals in and out of their livestock population.

On the urban gardening side, they complained about restrictions on when and how people can sell produce to neighbors.

What came through most is that the urban homesteaders know what it takes to be successful at urban agriculture in Indianapolis, and city officials need to listen them and make changes before moving forward with the new code.

What's most important is that we don't deter people from being homesteaders.

At a time when people in the urban core regularly steal food from gardens and eggs from chicken coops because they don't have enough to eat, we need to encourage people to come up with creative solutions to our food-desert crisis. We need more upstart farmer's markets and more residents working together to solve the problems of their neighborhoods.

Zoning is a tricky thing, but we must strive for a balance. And if we can't quite achieve that, we should err on the side of the code being too loose rather than too restrictive.

4.0 ·
1
Featured Films
Plutocracy: Political Repression In The U.S.A. (2018)
440 min Plutocracy is the first documentary to comprehensively examine early American history through the lens of class. A multi-part series by filmmaker Scott Noble, Part I focuses on the the ways in which the American people have historically been divided on the basis of race...
Fall and Winter (2013)
102 min This stunning film takes you on a hypnotic journey, reaching to the past to understand the origins of the catastrophic environmental transitions we now face. Over two years, director Matt Anderson traveled 16,000 miles to document firsthand our modern industrial world and the...
War Made Easy (2007)
70 min War Made Easy reaches into the Orwellian memory hole to expose a 50-year pattern of government deception and media spin that has dragged the United States into one war after another from Vietnam to Iraq. Narrated by actor and activist Sean Penn, the film exhumes remarkable...
Trending Today


Love Films For Action? Become a Patron.

The goal is to go 100% ad-free by next year and become 100% member supported. Would you be willing to make a monthly pledge? A few dollars per month times the power of a few thousand awesome people will get us to where we need to be. Click here to join.

If you'd prefer to make a one-time donation, you can do that here. Many thanks!

Join us on Facebook
Smith: Indy Should Favor Gardeners in Clash over Urban farms