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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Planning for farmers markets and sustainable food systems Jacobsen, Catherine Tove


The case has been made by a growing number of authors for the inclusion of food system planning within the responsibilities of municipal planners. However, few specific tools or strategies for planners to use in supporting sustainable food systems have been outlined by these authors. This thesis explores ways in which local government planners can become engaged in food system planning by addressing the establishment, operation and expansion of farmers markets. Farmers markets, it has been established in previous studies, offer significant potential for contributing to sustainable food systems. The thesis is based on a study of experiences and perceptions related to planning for farmers markets in three major cities. The cities, which share a common bio-region, are Vancouver, B.C., Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. Interviews were conducted with market proponents and municipal staff; relevant local government documents were analyzed. The study finds that planners can address farmers markets in five functional areas: 1) policy making and regulation; 2) land use planning and urban design; 3) site planning; 4) administration, and; 5) facilitation. Within these five areas, planners can make substantive contributions by: 1) defining farmers markets in zoning regulations; 2) streamlining permitting processes; 3) addressing issues with health regulations; 4) integrating infrastructure, amenities and services for farmers markets into the design of public places; 5) assisting with financing and advertising; 6) communicating among stakeholders; 7) conducting community consultation; 8) carrying out research; 9) responding to complaints; 10) educating colleagues, the public, and market organizers about issues relevant to farmers markets; 11) advocating for farmers markets within the City and the community; 12) building relationships with market associations; 13) addressing affordability issues; and 14) connecting planning for farmers markets to a broader food system planning agenda. The study suggests that one major opportunity for planners to support farmers markets lies in their ability to facilitate the interaction between market organizations and local governments. A second major opportunity lies in their ability to promote attention to farmers markets when public places are being designed. A third key opportunity lies in their ability to consider policy and regulatory changes that promote farmers markets as unique and legitimate uses of public space, and provide them with longer term security.

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