Somerville is evidently the first city in Massachusetts to pass an Urban Agriculture Ordinance. It establishes formal guidelines for urban farming and gardening, the keeping of chickens and bees, and other policies governing the growth and sale of agricultural products in an urban setting.
This is not a laissez-faire, "free ride" program that bows to a small group of urban gardening activists. It is a program that meets the fresh food growing interests of all Somerville residents and imposes some sensible citizen responsibilities.
For example, residents can now sell their crops, including at farm stands, but to do so, they must have their soil tested each year for lead and other contaminants, and post the results.
I don't know if they have filled the position yet but Sommerville has also advertised for a Lead Program Coordinator.
This being Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, it was good to read this news. Young children and recent immigrants should be a lot safer in Sommerville.
If you don't know about Somerville, it is just two miles north of Boston and is the most densely populated (75,754, 2010 census) municipality in Massacusetts.
Somerville is an eclectic mix of blue-collar families, young professionals, college students and recent immigrants from countries as diverse as El Salvador, Haiti, and Brazil. There are more than 50 spoken languages in Somerville schools. With a large immigrant population, Somerville celebrates its diversity through numerous ceremonies celebrating cultural traditions and holidays.
Read more about Somerville's Urban Agriculture Ordinance here.
I learned about Somerville's progressive ordinance in this article from Boston.com
The urban agriculture initiative is itself linked to Shape Up Somerville, a nine-year-old effort to promote healthy lifestyles in the city with a focus on ending childhood obesity.
Somerville resident Khrysti Smyth (left), known as "The Chickeness of Somerville," teaches her "Urban Chicken Keeping 101" class to City Hall employees and members of the team working on the urban agriculture ordinance. Pictured with her is her Chicken, Fleur, and summer intern Emily Monea of Harvard's Kennedy School.
Unlike eggs found in NYC community gardens recently, my guess is that the eggs from chickens raised by students of "The Chickeness of Somerville" are lead-free.