If buying local is good, growing your own food is even better. So all you need to do is dig up your backyard and plant some veggies. Maybe you’re into the idea of fresh eggs every morning. Looks like you’re getting a chicken coop too. Now we’re talking.
It sounds like a great plan, doesn’t it? Grow some food, tend to your chickens, or bees (or goats!). Well we think it’s a great idea. But, before you get started, it’s probably best that you consider the rules and resources related to urban farming and animal keeping in Pittsburgh.
Thankfully, the whole progress got a little easier earlier this year when the City Planning Commission voted unanimously in favor of changing the zoning code that regulated urban agriculture. The new rules are more lax, making it easier for Pittsburghers to grow, farm and raise animals on their property. But just because the rules are more favorable doesn’t mean it’s an urban farming free-for-all out there. As much as we wish it were, there’s still a permitting process every urban farmer must adhere to.
If you’re not planning to sell the produce you grow, you’re in the clear. The Planning Commission does not regulate the fruit and vegetables you grow, just the ones you plan to sell. That said, if you’re interested in selling what you grow, you’ll need an onsite food stand and the $70 permit. You’ll also be asked to submit a plan for your farm stand, with sufficient space for customers purchasing produce that doesn’t interfere with public or private right of way.
A full on farm is a little different than the average garden or farm stand. The total area must be at least two acres, including the growing, point of sale and animals (if you have any). You’ll also have to make sure that the animal housing is at least 50 feet from the property line. Include your site plan, taking these regulations into consideration, along with the $70 permit fee to the City of Pittsburgh’s Zoning Division. Once you’re official, with permits and all, keep these requirements in mind.
If you have at least 2,000 square feet, you can keep up to five chickens or ducks. With each additional 1,000 square feet, you can add one more chicken or duck. Keep in mind, you’ll have to build a pretty big house for your birds, at minimum it will need to be six square feet in size. And regardless of how much space you have, you’re not permitted to keep roosters.
Similar to chickens and ducks, goats require at least 2,000 square feet. In that space you’ll need to keep two dehorned, adult female or neutered male miniature goats, because single goats are not permitted. And one more thing, if you’re thinking about keeping chickens or ducks along with miniature goats, you won’t be able to do so unless your property is over 10,000 square feet.
Keeping bees on your property in Pittsburgh requires 2,000 sq. feet, which can play host to up to two beehives. If you’re interested in having more hives, you’ll need more spaces – each additional 2,000 sq. feet, allows for two additional beehives. These hives can be ground or rooftop mounted, and must be at least 10 feet from your neighbor’s property.
Okay, the above information should be enough answer your most basic questions. And more detailed explanation of rules and regulations can be found here. But even then, there’s a lot more to becoming an urban farmer than reading the rule book and paying for a permit. When you’re ready for some pointers and looking to connected with some passionate and knowledgeable folks, this list of growing and farming resources will come in handy.
Grow Pittsburgh. By transforming vacant land into small working farms and community gardens Grow Pittsburgh is increasing the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods like Braddock. But that’s really just the start. Grow Pittsburgh also offers educational workshops and a Garden Resource Center which provides tools, supplies and advice for individuals and groups growing food in the Pittsburgh area.
The Pittsburgh Food Policy Council. This group of local stakeholders is working to shape state and local policy to support sustainable food systems. By convening a collaborative advisory organization the Council is examining, developing and improving Pittsburgh’s food system. Their work supports the creation of a sustainable food and urban agriculture system that improve food production, access, distribution, health/nutrition education and urban planning.
Burgh’s Bees. In an effort to educate beekeepers and promote beekeeping as part of sustainable agriculture, Burgh’s Bees offers seminars and mentorship programs to help teach newbie beekeepers how to responsibly keep their own hives. And if you’re looking to getting hands-on (be careful!) with some bees, Burgh’s also develops and maintains urban apiaries where you can hone your beekeeping skills.
The Urban Gardener. If you need some advice or tools to get your urban garden off the ground, stop by the The Urban Gardener in the North Side. From tools to tips this full-stoked, independent garden center has everything you need to plan, design, plant and maintain a garden of your very own.
City Grows. Here’s another place to start exploring what it will take to get your garden going. City Grows in Lawrenceville is a one-stop-shop for growing a garden on your patio, stoop, or tiny kitchen window with container and verticle gardening. See, you don’t even need backyard to grow your own food!
Steel City Grazers. Are you a wannabe goatkeeper? Well then, you should get to know the go-to goatkeepers at Steel City Grazers. In addition to providing goat-grazing services to help with vegetation management of unwanted plants, this group also consultations and assistance with getting some goats of your own.
Pittsburgh Pro-Poultry People. As the name suggestions, this group is pro-poultry. More specifically, they’re in favor of chicks in the city or urban poultry-keeping in Pittsburgh. From education and outreach to advocacy and advice, contact the Pro-Poultry People to chat chicken and see what it takes to start a coop of your own.
Pittsburgh Canning Exchange. When you garden starts to take off, you’d better be prepared to preserve the fruits of your labor. The folks at the Pittsburgh Canning Exchange can help you here. They’ll teach you how to can, plan your canning season and connect you with other local growers to build community and trade your newly canned goods.
The Food Bank Community Harvest Program. Let’s say you’ve mastered the art and science of urban gardening. Only problem is, no you have too much food. So much, in fact, that you can’t eat it all. Instead of letting it go to waste, consider sharing it with your neighbors in need as part of the Pittsburgh Community Food Bank Community Harvest program. Simply donate your food at designated drop-off locations and they’ll take care of the rest.
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