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(WBIR) The City of Knoxville is asking for the public's input on a growing interest.

More people than ever before in Knoxville are hungry for locally produced foods through community gardens and urban farms.

The city is ready to propose changes to a zoning ordinance that would encourage more community gardens on privately owned land.

Changes to the ordinance could also allow gardeners with a "Seasonal Sales of Produce" permit to sell produce on-site in personal and community gardens.

"We've been working together to provide the resourcing, the training, for people to start growing food on their own properties, in their own neighborhoods. What's been missing is the permission basically to say, 'You've got private property, now you're allowed to grow food on it and sell food to your neighbors on that property,'" said Robert Hodges, director of the Center for Urban Agriculture at the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum.

The zoning changes would apply only to privately owned lots.

"There's increasing requests about having a garden on a lot where there's not a home there. So the way the codes are written, there's no explicit way to allow such a use of that lot," said Jake Tisinger, project manager for the city of Knoxville's Office of Sustainability.

A community garden would be allowed as a "use by right" in all zones, up to a maximum of 10,000 square feet. Gardens larger than 10,000 square feet would be considered a "market garden" that would be allowed as a primary use with a "use on review" in all zones. The Metropolitan Planning Commission would need to approve market gardens.

"Essentially, we're trying to make the regulations for these gardens clearer for the existing and new gardens. Trying to get some sort of regulation that everybody understands," Tisinger said.

On Washington Avenue, in the Parkridge neighborhood, Brenna Wright has started a small-scale urban farm. She planted the first seeds in March.

"It gets really sticky because you don't know exactly... I'm zoned for this, so does it mean I can do this or can't do this? This is private property, not public, so does that mean there are certain things I can't do?" Wright asked.

The urban farm is for-profit. Community members buy shares of the farm. As far as Wright knows, it is the first of its kind in Knox County.

"Knoxville is great because it has not really been done. Everybody sees how it can be good and are interested," she said.

The city's Office of Sustainability will host a public meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Monday, July 14, at the Cansler Family YMCA (616 Jessamine Street).

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