Novella Carpenter, from Ghost Town Farm

Last week, we posted about Oakland cracking down on urban farmer and writer Novella Carpenter. Well, Carpenter has posted an update on her blog Ghost Town Farm. She says after the uproar over her story in the SF Chronicle, an Oakland planning official paid her a visit and cleared up the finer points of where zoning and urban farming intersect.

It turns out that growing any food on an empty lot in the City of Oakland is illegal. But not for long. On April 14th, new urban agriculture laws take effect under the city’s zoning update, and it will become legal to grow veggies on empty lots.

Carpenter says her chickens, ducks and rabbits will still be illegal, since the new laws don’t apply to livestock. But Oakland will revist that issue in 6-8 months. And judging by the comments on Carpenter’s blog, Oakland can expect an earful when they ask for public comment.

Related Bay Area Bites posts

Update on Urban Agriculture Laws in Oakland 4 April,2011Kelly Wilkinson

  • JP

    Oakland code: “8.40.080 – Offensive places and occupations. It is unlawful for any person to establish or maintain any slaughterhouse, to keep any hog, to cure or keep hides, skins or peltry, to slaughter cattle, sheep or any other kind of animal, to pursue, maintain or carry on any other business or occupation offensive to the senses or prejudicial to the public health or comfort, within the limits of the city.”

    8.14.010 – Supervision of meat preparation.
    It is unlawful for any person to sell, have in possession, keep or expose for sale for human food, the flesh of any cattle, hogs, sheep, swine, goats, rabbits, or any other animal, poultry, fish, or meat food products, unless the same shall have been slaughtered or passed under the supervision of the United States Government Inspector, in accordance with the regulations relating to the inspection thereof as prescribed by the Department of Agriculture of the United States, or under the supervision of the state of California, Department of Agriculture Inspector, in accordance with the regulations relating to the inspection thereof as prescribed by the Department of Agriculture of the state of California, or under the supervision of the Health Officer of the city of Oakland, in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.
    Apparently, it is illegal to raise ANY animal for slaughter and to slaughter them in the city of Oakland and it most certainly is illegal to SELL animal meat and other animal products to the public without licensing and following appropriate codes which the health department has in place to protect public health.

    I assume the laws are similar in most other cities. They are in place to protect the public’s health from pathogens and bacteria and assure standards of hygiene regarding production of meat and dairy.
    Carpenter crossed the line when she started to sell to the public and knew full well that what she was doing was illegal. She hoped to fly under the radar because of the squalor of her neighborhood.
    Imagine if someone got e.coli or salmonella from this meat or dairy.
    Everyone would be howling at the city for allowing this person to sell tainted meat or dairy.
    The USDA codes and standards and local laws around meat and dairy production are there for a very good reason.
    The various codes regarding animal husbandry and slaughter cannot be satisfied by someone on a small plot in the city (even if the city did not have the above code against growing veges on an empty lot).
    And yeah, I am aware of factory farming and the awful conditions which livestock endure and the inherent cruelty of these methods.
    This does not mean that ever person with a plot of land can now raise, slaughter, and sell meat or dairy products which comes from their backyard without following codes and standards. It would become a code enforcement nightmare, more animals would end up abandoned to local shelters, there’d be rats and eventually someone would get sick.


Kelly Wilkinson

Kelly Wilkinson is a radio journalist living in San Francisco. You can hear her reporting frequently on KQED FM and The California Report. In addition to covering California and Bay Area news, Kelly writes the (mostly) crafty blog Make Grow Gather. There she chronicles her love of making things like lemon curd from foraged fruit, spray-painted lampshades and cut felt placemats. The projects she creates are regularly picked up by national websites and magazines. Kelly grew up in a renovated barn in Virginia and is constantly trying to bring a little bit of her rural upbringing to her now-urban life. By day, she catches the N-Judah out the front door. By weekend, she tends bees and grows vegetables in the backyard.

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