The Berkeley Edible Gardens Initiative was founded in 2008 to change the permitting process for the sale and trade of home grown Edibles in Berkeley, CA. Resident Sophie Hahn and her family worked with Willow Rosenthal, Founder of City Slicker Farms and author of The Essential Urban Farmer, to grow food in Sophie’s backyard. They soon realized that the south-west facing yard, with intensive cultivation, could yield enough food for 20 people year-round.
Attracted by the health, community, and environmental benefits of homegrown food, they decided to maximize production and form a “mini-urban-CSA*” to share the garden’s extra bounty with a few neighbors – all within walking distance. They contacted the Planning Department to inquire about the possible need for a permit, and were surprised to learn that the “sales” activity of regularly delivering a few baskets of produce to neighbors, in exchange for an at-cost contribution, required a costly and time consuming permit – quoted at close to $3,000 and taking up to a year to obtain.
They teamed up with Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin and neighbor Austene Hall to form the Berkeley Edible Gardens Initiative, and set out to amend the City’s laws to reduce or eliminate the need for such a permit.
After studying the Berkeley code and reviewing laws in other cities, they drafted proposed changes, which were submitted to the City Council and referred to the Planning Commission for review. Martin Bourque, Executive Director of Berkeley’s Ecology Center, which sponsors the Berkeley Food Policy Council, contacted Arreguin and Hahn and offered to lend support.
A close partnership was formed, and the legislation moved forward as a collaborative effort from then on. The Ecology Center brought in a wide array of experts and organizations, whose input further refined the proposed changes and who rallied support throughout the process of moving things forward.
The rest is history: the Berkeley Planning Commission and City Council both unanimously passed new “Edible Gardens” legislation in the summer of 2012, ushering in a new era for locally produced food in Berkeley.
As of August 31, 2012, Berkeley residents can sell or trade home grown produce, eggs, nuts and honey without the need for a permit, with a few very limited restrictions.
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*CSA – Community Supported Agriculture – is a group of people who pay a set monthly or weekly fee to support a small farm in exchange for a regular share of produce
In the coming year we will be looking at possible changes applicable to Berkeley’s commercial and industrial areas (current changes apply only to residential), to ensure that food production and sharing is supported throughout the community!