Local food advocate, Will Sellers of Atlanta, believes that urban agriculture and urban farming are all about innovation, and that fresh ideas for the local food movement are based on sound policy.
As he describes it, Will's work is to ensure “the right regulatory system is in place to encourage innovation and remove barriers.”
While Will is more likely to be found in suits and ties than gardening gear, he is still hard at work cultivating our local food system.
Will was part of the Georgia Organics team that worked with Atlanta leaders and other local food organizations for three years to update the City of Atlanta’s urban agriculture zoning ordinance. This amendment was developed through a joint effort of Georgia Organics, Atlanta Local Food Initiative, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and Office of Planning, Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University and local growers.
Until the Atlanta City Council made zoning changes in 2014, there were serious barriers to urban agriculture. The ordinance now enables urban gardens and market gardens to apply for business licenses, request loans and sign legal lease agreements, which was a relief for urban growers who had been working in a state of uncertainty.
"Before the ordinance, people just followed their own practices," says Will. “Whenever there’s not a lot of definition, then people just kind of operate on their own free will, and that isn’t always good.”
That’s why Will is already thinking ahead in terms of policy change that would encourage legitimacy in the local food system, including a land bank and product labeling. He appreciates the ingenuity of the urban agriculture movement that is “taking land that is not being used or may have been neglected for some reason and putting it to use in a productive way.”
“One of the innovations that we talked about in the process of doing the urban agriculture work, was some type of land bank in which farmers could actually identify and quickly access parcels of land,” Will says. “Another is coming up with some means in which local farmers can quickly market their products with labeling and other tools they can use.”
Whenever we enjoy local fruits and vegetables, we can think of Will, the man in the suit working behind the scenes to make it easier for others to grow and deliver healthy, local food to our tables.
About the Urban Agriculture Zoning Ordinance
In June 2014, the City of Atlanta adopted the urban agriculture zoning ordinance to define urban gardens and market gardens as permitted use.