Pasco County could soon be the first in the state with a countywide ordinance to permit residents to grow community gardens.
The proposed ordinance also would be the first countywide ordinance of its kind for Pasco.
At a June 6 Pasco County Commission meeting in Dade City, county staff members explained what a community garden is and how it would operate.
Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the proposed ordinance at a July 11 meeting in New Port Richey.
“This not only helps our agriculture in Pasco County, but this could be a big tourism thing, too,” said County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey. “There are so many cool benefits this can bring.”
Community gardens are gardens where crops and ornamental plants, including flowers, are grown and harvested, as described in the proposed ordinance.
Daily vehicle trips to tend the gardens generally are more than 14 per day but less than 100, with limited use of heavy vehicles, the county estimates.
Community gardens may be any size.
Applications will provide information such as location, operating hours, the number of parking spaces and a designated garden manager.
Members of the Pasco County Food Policy Advisory Council spent about two years discussing and gathering public opinions on community gardens before submitting the ordinance for review.
The council is one of only three in the state.
“It’s really exciting to see it really coming together,” said Travis Morehead, the council’s chairman. “I think we have something here that is very powerful.”
Three to four community garden requests have been stalled because the county didn’t have a process for community gardens to take root through the permit process.
A permit process would be an easier and less expensive route than having to rezone property to allow the gardens, Morehead said.
Some community gardens already are flourishing, including ones in New Port Richey, which approved a city ordinance. In 2016, a community garden sprouted on land owned by Florida Hospital Zephyrhills.
The Pasco County Extension Office has discussed a community garden as part of its proposal to relocate from the Pasco County fairgrounds to the Stallings Building in downtown Dade City.
The proposed ordinance also defines other types of gardens.
For instance, a market garden primarily sells and buys produce grown on-site or off-site, and is less than 5 acres.
A community farm grows produce, including fruits, vegetables and other edibles, for sale off-site. Farms may be any size.
Discussion on community gardens in Pasco began several years ago.
A master marketing and redevelopment plan for The Harbors district in west Pasco included community gardens and the concept for a food policy council.
Starkey also gives credit to another community movement.
“The food policy council’s history began with emails from residents who wanted to have backyard chickens,” she said.
She is a proponent of permitting the backyard fowl, but no ordinance has been drafted as yet.
The emails and community activism led to discussion of how to use public space and Starkey said, “All these people came out of the woodwork to start the food policy council. This is just the first ordinance that has come out of the council.”
Published June 14, 2017