A small vegetable garden in a California city. Courtesy University of California

County supervisors Wednesday unanimously approved an ordinance to establish urban agriculture incentive zones, under which a tax reduction is given to residents who set up a small farm on their property.

In exchange for a tax reduction, eligible landowners would enter into a contract with the county to dedicate their land for agricultural use for a minimum of five years.

Those who qualify must have vacant parcels measuring between 0.1 and 3 acres, containing non-residential structures, and be located within unincorporated urban areas of at least 250,000 people.

According to proponents, the goal is to increase farming opportunities, community access to healthy foods and support local businesses.

The UAIZ program will take effect in 30 days, according to county officials, who said the ordinance complies with the state Environmental Quality Act and county guidelines.

The board also approved a second ordinance that covers a $1,264 application fee waiver for up to 50 property owners who participate, costing the county around $63,200, according to county documents.

In 2013, the state Assembly authorized a program allowing local governments to encourage urban agriculture.

In November 2018, county supervisors first directed the chief administrative officer to begin the groundwork for establishing a UAIZ program, along with an assessment of blighted properties, a fee structure and environmental analysis.

Last year, county staffers conducted public outreach sessions to measure support for the program, by meeting with residents and groups such as the Farm Bureau.

Board Chairman Greg Cox recently said setting up these types of zones “is the right action to take.”

“Anything we can do to encourage people to eat healthier, we should do,” he said. “By waiving the fees, we’ll find out if there’s an interest.”

–City News Service