Friday, July 2, 2010

We are under attack.

Not from slugs or bugs, but from the city.

We feel a little like Joel Salatin who wrote "Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal." This excerpt in particular caught my attention:

Every time a letter arrives in the mail from a federal or state agriculture department my heart jumps like I just got sent to the principal’s office.
And it doesn’t stop with agriculture bureaucrats. It includes all sorts of government agencies, from zoning, to taxing, to food inspectors. These agencies are the ultimate extension of a disconnected, Greco-Roman, Western, egocentric, compartmentalized, reductionist, fragmented, linear thought process.
He's talking about the difficulties of farming out in the country. We're just beginning to get a taste of the difficulties of farming in the city. It's bad enough that land is hard to come by, plots have to be smaller, it's hard to get compost and manure, and most city dirt is contaminated. No, we also have to contend with a city government that just doesn't get it. Worse, they pay lip service to understanding all about local foods and urban agriculture, but their policies do not back it up. People in other cities and states think we've got it made because we have Homegrown Minneapolis. Do not be fooled. That sweeping piece of work has not made many (if any) changes on the homefront.

Okay, I'm a little cynical. But you would be too if you'd been cited by the city four times in a year! Those of you who read this blog regularly know the incredible amount of work we've put into our house, yard, and landscaping. It's not like we're burning furniture in the front lawn or something!

Sometimes I think the city would prefer it if we razed everything to the ground and put in a nice normal chem-lawn - and then never stepped foot outside our house. That's the kind of citizens they want. Not us trouble makers.

We have two issues to deal with at the moment.

The slightly less complicated one is that we aren't allowed to have our "pile of dirt" in the backyard because of some zoning regulation. The "pile of dirt" being our terraced hill, which I haven't posted pictures of in so long (it doesn't look anything like this anymore).
It turns out there is a rule that you can't have any "obstructions" in your yard within five feet of the property line. I guess a tree or a garden is fine, or you could have a 6-foot privacy fence, but you can't have a terraced hill growing fruits, vegetables, herbs, nuts, and flowers. Because someone, someday is going to need that access space. For something. I don't know what or why. But there it is.
So we're supposed to dig everything out five feet away from the fence line and put in a retaining wall. Yeah. Our neighbors are going to love that. I'm hoping we can get a variance or appeal or something.

Now to the bigger problem. Some of you know that Jeremy has been keeping logs in neighbors' yards because we have too many to fit in our yard. One of our neighbors got sited for "improper storage of fire wood" so Jeremy had to move all the logs elsewhere.
Last week, along with the notice about the "dirt pile" we were cited about the logs in our yard. So, we aren't allowed to have the logs or screen structures (the shade cloth Jeremy uses) in the side or front yards. We also cannot use the yard for storing any logs, etc for the purpose of producing and processing food. In addition, our home occupation must be located within an enclosed building so no one walking by can see what we're doing. "Nor shall any home occupation be visible from a right of way." I'd love to know how that law got into the books. Basically, we are not allowed to grow mushrooms outside in the city.

The really ironic thing? We looked into purchasing a property earlier this year so Jeremy could build something to grow mushrooms indoors. The city wouldn't allow it because of zoning issues.

So they won't let us grow mushrooms indoors or outdoors!!

The problem with the building solution is location and money. The ideal property for us is located across the alley, two houses up. It's a vacant lot (they razed the house earlier this year). It's zoned residential and I guess the only use other than a house there would be a community garden. Never mind the fact that it's Cedar Avenue and NO ONE is going to buy a vacant piece of land and build anything there (they'll never get their money out of it) and the fact that half of Cedar is commercial anyway. Jeremy's mushroom building would be perfect there. The lot is probably going for 20K anyway, which we can't afford. But that's way more affordable than a commercial lot would be. And there aren't any commercial properties anywhere near us. For us, "near" is within two or three blocks. When Jeremy waters the logs he has to go over every 30-40 minutes to move the sprinkler around and this goes on half the day. It would not be cool if the logs were 20 minutes away.

Jeremy thinks he's going to have to move out to the country so he can keep doing this. But of course, as an extrovert, he'd go stark raving mad. So that's not really an option.

There is a small ray of hope in the log business. After demanding action from our city council person (who still has yet to acknowledge this) and some other folks, someone from the city said he'd work with us on the issue and try to get this sort of urban farming into the topical plan (or something like that). The inspector who cited us says this process will take a long time and probably some businesses [like ours] will just die in the meantime. Thanks a lot Minneapolis! Way to be supportive of urban agriculture! Geez.


Lauren said...

It has been too long since I said hello! You two have been BUSY. Pictures look amazing - I'm stunned! I'm sending lots of good mental energy your way, with plenty of lovin for your terracing.

Aimee said...

Thanks Lauren. =) I haven't caught up with your blog in awhile either. I'll have to head over and see what you're up to.
If you're up for a change of scenery, there are a couple places for rent really close to us. =)