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Of Goats and Gardens: Making Sense of Urban Agriculture in LA

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Until recently, if you wanted to find out the rules for raising goats in Hollywood, bees in Bel Air or squash in a community garden in South Central Los Angeles, it would have been pretty tough - like standing in various lines at the DMV.

Enter a dedicated group of urban planning graduate students at the University of California, Los Angeles. In six months, they waded through the bureaucratic nightmare of urban agriculture laws, ordinances and regulations in each of LA county's 88 cities, using old fashioned in-person interviews and that device called the telephone, so you won't have to. The result? A handy assessment of the city's urban agriculture scene.

Lots of people are excited about local food, healthier eating and sustainable cities these days. And that's sparked a renewed interest in the development of urban agriculture around the country. But few people actually know what it is or what's already happening around them. That is, unless they've been awoken repeatedly by a rooster in their subdivision and have to get rid of it.

"Urban agriculture is gaining momentum locally as well as nationally. Unfortunately, there is little research about the topic and many regulations have not caught up to this trend," Jaemi Jackson, co-project manager of Cultivate LA, tells The Salt.

For example, Jackson says, in Duarte, a small city in the northeast part of the county, the animal code prohibits bees, yet the zoning code allows bees with a Minor Use Permit. Who's right? It's hard to say.

So the students set out to create a baseline of data in the country's most populous county to help urban planners, regulators and agricultural pioneers make sense of it all.

Even defining urban agriculture was a challenge, Jackson recalls. Many of LA's grocery stores call anything made in the state "local." But the students eventually settled on products made or grown urban settings, according to the report.   

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