Memphis: New Development Code Promotes Urban Food Production and Access to Healthy Food

Memphis, TN, August 10, 2010 – Urban farming can reduce crime, improve nutrition, clean up neighborhoods, and build community.  Thanks to Memphis and Shelby County’s new Unified Development Code, growing and selling local food will be easier to do in Memphis, TN.  Passed by the Shelby County Commission on August 9 and the Memphis City Council on August 10, 2010, the new code will impact urban food production and access to healthy food in several ways, including new ordinances related to chickens, farmers markets, and neighborhood gardens.

The revision makes it easier for farmers markets to be established if they meet certain requirements, such as being managed by a neighborhood based non-profit and having at least 50% of sales area dedicated to fresh fruits and vegetables.   More farmers markets means increased access to healthy food – an important issue in a city peppered with food deserts.

The past few years have seen an upsurge in neighborhood gardening across the country, and Memphis is no exception.   Where previous codified ordinances were silent on the issue, the UDC explicitly allows neighborhood gardening in all residential, commercial and industrial districts, and most open districts.

Although Memphians have been keeping chickens as long as Memphis has been on the map, city ordinances were ambiguous as to whether keeping chickens was in violation of the zoning code.  Generally, Code Enforcement looked the other way unless there were complaints about sanitation or abuse.    Now, residents can legally keep up to three to six hens (depending on the size of their lot and the chicken enclosure) to produce eggs for household consumption.  Roosters are prohibited due to concerns about noise.

“The UDC shows the positive impact that sound urban planning can have on the food environment,” says Renee’ Frazier of Healthy Memphis Common Table and member of the Food Policy Working Group, “These changes will no doubt help make Memphis a healthier city.”

For additional information contact Josephine Williams, Mid-South Peace & Justice Center at 901-725-4990 or

In 2005, the City of Memphis and Shelby County began the process of preparing the Unified Development Code, a single document containing existing zoning and subdivision regulations, along with any other development-related regulations found elsewhere in the City or County code of ordinances. This is the first major revision of the zoning ordinances sine the early 1980’s.

The Food Policy Working Group is a collaborative effort among local agencies and citizens seeking to inform policy in order to create a more sustainable food system through research, education, and advocacy which promotes food security for, economic development, and social justice. The Food Policy Council Initiative has received support from the Healthy Eating, Active Living Initiative of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis in partnership with the Assisi Foundation, Plough Foundation and the United Way of the Mid-South, through the Convergence Partnership Fund of the Tides Foundation.  For more information go to


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