August/September 2016 — From the Appalachian Farm School in Western North Carolina to non-profit Working Landscapes in Warren County, cities, towns, and rural areas are finding innovative ways to support economic and business development through local foods.  A series of case studies compiled by NC Growing Together highlights the range of unique, place- and asset-based solutions emerging across the state to meet the need for jobs and investment in rural and urban communities alike.

One of the examples is Matthews NC, a town of 30,000 in the Greater Charlotte area.  In Matthews, the local government and its planning department are being strategic in how the town responds to increased development pressures and community needs. One aspect of that strategy is an innovative approach to land use flexibility coded within the town’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).

Critical to any town’s approach to growth and development, the UDO determines zoning and subdivision regulations alongside design guidelines, stormwater management standards, and other development directives. As such, the UDO translates the community’s values into what type of development is allowed.

In response to growing interest in urban farming and home gardening, the Matthews planning department added new language to the UDO to explicitly define “Urban Farm” and allow for its use in nearly every zoning district.  The revised regulations also feature relaxed restrictions for fencing, minimum yards, and accessory uses.

Planning Director Kathi Ingrish remarks, “The intent was to allow significant flexibility in how a small farming effort may operate within a neighborhood. We have a private school that has delved into aquaponics, and a local business and property owner who offers classes and boxes of freshly harvested items for sale to the public.” Town leadership appreciates the economic benefits these endeavors offer to the Town of Matthews and are committed to the positive social outcomes of local food and community gardens.

The above example is from Matthews, NC: Allowing Room For Desirable Growth, a case study prepared by Taylor Smith, a UNC City & Regional Planning Master’s Candidate and 2016 NCGT Summer Local Food Supply Chain Apprentice.

Please visit the CEFS website to read the rest of the Local Food Economies case studies.

This article originally appeared in the August/September 2016 NC Growing Together Newsletter.