Tag Archives: community garden

Improving Access to Local Foods in Texas

 

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Although local foods travel a short physical distance from farm to table, farmers travel a long road with obstacles: government laws and regulations made by and for the benefit of big corporate agribusinesses. The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) provides a voice for small/independent farms, working to protect their freedom to produce and sell local, healthy foods and provide access to consumers.

We’re working on common-sense bills to remove some of these barriers in Texas. YOUR support is needed to move these bills forward! Please contact your State Representative and Senator, and urge them to support these local foods bills in the next legislative session beginning January 2013. Don’t know who represents you? Visit www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us or call 512-463-4630.

PROPOSED BILLS

  • Encouraging home-based food production (“cottage foods”): Last session, a bill provided that producers could make specific low-risk foods in their homes and sell directly to consumers, up to $50K/year, without regulation by state/local health departments. The new bill would expand the law to cover more foods and allow for sales to occur at farmers markets, farm stands, and other agreed-upon locations.
  • Establishing fair property tax for urban farms and community gardens: Current state law provides that land shall be appraised as agricultural land if it’s primarily for “agricultural use.” Although defined broadly, it has been applied restrictively. This bill will help urban farms and community gardens qualify for agricultural valuation in a reasonable time frame.
  • Improving access to land for community gardens: This bill protects landowners from liability if they allow vacant lots to be used as land for community gardens.
  • Making it easier to offer samples at farmers markets/farm stands: Letting customers sample food is a great way to increase sales for small farmers and food producers, but current regulations are based on requirements for brick-and-mortar facilities. This bill provides clear, appropriate requirements for sampling at farmers markets and farm stands.
  • Limiting fees for farmers selling directly to consumers: Many local health departments require farmers and other food producers selling directly to consumers to apply for permits, and the associated fees create a financial burden on those who are small businesses with low profit margins. The bill proposes to cap health department fees at $50 per jurisdiction.
  • Improving access to raw milk: Texans can legally buy unpasteurized milk from pasture-raised cows and goats raised, but regulations limit sales to on-farm, which burdens consumers and penalizes farmers. HB 46 would allow licensed farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers at farmers markets/farm stand/fairs, or make delivery arrangements, while still ensuring safety.
  • Removing unnecessary fees: HB 254 protects urban farmers from the imposition of wastewater fees for water used for agricultural uses (this water doesn’t enter the wastewater system).
  • Removing barriers to on-farm and in-home food production: Current regulations require a separate building from the residence to get any kind of license, creating unnecessary expense and inconvenience for small farmers and small-scale food producers. This bill would allow in-home licensed facilities if they meet the applicable sanitary requirements.

For more information and to stay informed on what you can do to help, go to www.FarmAndRanchFreedom.org & sign up for free email alerts!

Vendor Profile: Urban Gardening Coalition.

The Heart of Texas Urban Gardening Coalition will be hosting a Cooperative Booth at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market.  But what does that mean???  It means that in addition to providing information about local gardening resources, the Coalition will allow school, community, and home gardeners to sell extra produce through the Coalition booth, rather than having to join as a regular vendor.  Weekly rates for participation in the UGC Coop Booth are $5.  Please contact Bethel Erickson-Bruce ([email protected]) or visit the Coalition’s website for more details (http://hotugc.org).

More about the Urban Gardening Coalition:

Since its inception in the spring of 2005, the Urban Gardening Coalition has served as a unique group facilitating discussion and organizing activities for individuals and organizations who are interested in gardening as a means of building community. Our current garden activities include after-school gardening programs partnered with CIS schools as well as coordinating gardening activities at many churches and community organizations across the Heart of Texas.  However, UGC is much more than growing gardens.  Our projects span from entreprenurial gardening to skill shares and food stamp outreach.  As a coalition, the role of the UGC is to encourage and support partners and interested individuals to carry out identified objectives – by providing support through shared resources of garden skills and knowledge.