Farms in the city? Denver says 'go'

DENVER— Like most cities, Denver has its share of concrete, glass and asphalt. But it's also home to an urban homesteading movement that's bringing small-scale farming to the urban core.

The city passed an ordinance Tuesday designed to enable urban farmers to sell their crops from home, taking advantage of Colorado's 2012 Cottage Food Act.

For Deb Neeley, it started with six cherry tomato plants she planted one summer.

They were a gateway. Soon she couldn't get enough of growing her own food.

"I just became addicted, right then and there," Neeley said. "And then the next year, more, more, more."

Neeley eventually turned her entire backyard near Sloans Lake into a mega-garden.

You'll find fruits, vegetables, herbs for tea, beehives, and a coop holding seven laying hens.

"She has a surplus," said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, touring Neeley's urban farm. "The opportunity to sell it to her neighbors is what the ordinance creates."

Despite the state law allowing sales of homemade foods, Denver's zoning laws did not allow for those sales to take place from residential parcels.

Starting Friday, the city will change that, allowing urban farmers to apply for licenses to sell their food.

The city charges a one-time fee of $20 for the licenses and state law caps sales for home-produced foods at $5,000 per item per year.

For safety reasons, the state law sets limits on the types of foods that can be sold.

Produce, eggs, honey, and some baked goods are allowed.

Canned goods, sauces, and dairy are not.

Detailed info on the state's rules can be found here, including labeling and food safety requirements.

The CSU Denver extension is also reaching out to urban farmers with training, soil testing, and advice for maximizing production on home parcels in the city.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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