Edmonds urban gardens gets OK

EDMONDS — What Michael Mearns wanted to do was to feed his neighborhood from his neighborhood garden, Rubberneck Farms.

The sticking point was a city code calling for a $500 conditional permit fee for farm stands in the city of Edmonds.

Mearns was hoping to reopen his stand, hardly bigger than a card table and often operated on the honor system, in a few weeks when the first seedlings might start producing.

During a public hearing earlier this month, neighbors and city residents allayed fears about heavy traffic and late night hours.

As a result, the City Council unanimously moved to eliminate the fee requirement for urban farmers.

Mearns now will return to his 150-square-foot growing space within his 3,000-square-foot property and grow produce.

“It was great,” Mearns said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect. People could have reservations. Those who spoke, and those who came to the meeting, really showed how important urban farming is to a neighborhood.”

Rubberneck Farms will still have to follow city regulations regarding signage and hours.

“The garden is really defined as a hobby farm, making less than $10,000 per year,” he said.

Last year the garden produced more than 1,000 pounds of food, from arugula to zucchini.

Mearns and his wife Melissa are involved in the suburban farm movement. They are committed to the idea of feeding the neighborhood from the neighborhood.

“It’s a lot of work,” he said. “It’s a big commitment and we work nonstop.”

However, food is a part of their life and culture. They both work in the industry.

Michael Mearns is a chef at Tom Douglas’ Serious Pie restaurant in South Lake Union.

Melissa Mearns works in the PCC Natural Markets Edmonds deli department. She has also taught others from the United States and Brazil how to maximize production in small garden plots.

Learn more

To watch a video of a suburban yard transformed into a farm, go to http://tinyurl.com/RubberneckFarm.

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