As an avid supporter of sustainable living, I try to frequent my local Travelers Rest Farmer’s Market to buy locally grown vegetables and products made by other local residents. This not only helps the local community but also provides a healthier meal plan for my family. Burlington, North Carolina has realized these benefits and has agreed to amend their ordinance for residential produce markets.
Under the previous ordinance, plants, fruits and vegetables could only be sold in a residential area if the crops were physically grown on the same property. Former City Manager Harold Owen says is just not realistic given the city’s population density. He knew changing the ordinance was not going to be easy because people are apprehensive about change. Residents tend to look for reasons for a proposed amendment, not to work.
Burlington, which is one hour Northwest of Raleigh in Central North Carolina, was once home to the first cotton mill built in the south. In 1908, textile entrepreneur, E.M. Holt opened his mill, which eventually led to 30 mills along the Haw River, now known as Burlington Industries. The town has always been a headquarters for manufacturing and Owen says his proposal will bring back a successful sense of satisfaction for buying local and supporting their community.
The proposal would allow farmers to sign a written lease with property owners to sell their produce for no more than 120 days per year, which means mostly the summer months. The proposal requires ample parking and the produce stand cannot impede traffic or become a hindrance for the neighborhood.
In May, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved Mr. Owen’s proposal, without much debate. The ordinance change recommendation was on the June agenda for the Burlington City Council. No one spoke in defense or against the change, therefore, the city council accepted the recommendation and the ordinance amendment was passed.
The change should bring back local stores that once were thriving in the city. Local farmers will be able to build the local economic system, provide more jobs and avoid senseless food waste.
Places like Iseley Farms, a NC Department of Agriculture Certified Roadside Farm Market, have been helping strengthen local communities since 1790. Now protected by the Piedmont Land Conservancy, the farm has over 150 acres dedicated to organic farming. Offering tomatoes, assorted vegetables, beef and tobacco, Iseley Farms was named North Carolina State Soil and Water Conservation Farm Family of the Year in 2013 and is a staple in the community.