Urban Farming in Arlington

Updated 05-14-2012

Urban Agriculture Initiative

As part of Arlington's ongoing sustainability efforts, the County is focusing attention on urban agriculture. We will develop an inventory of existing programs, identify gaps, and explore new options -- such as rooftop gardens, land exchanges, demonstration gardens, and backyard hens … and investigate issues concerning food security, health and fitness benefits.  We hope this information will help you be able to bring healthy, nutritious food to your family. Visit our Urban Agriculture webpage to learn more, including information on our Urban Agriculture Task Force.

Backyard hens

Residents and reporters have been asking: what are Arlington County's rules on raising "backyard chickens?" As part of the burgeoning urban farming movement, folks living in urban communities across the nation are asking whether they can raise chickens, ducks, geese and even livestock such as goats on their residential property. To read the regulations, visit the County website, click on Section 5: R-20 One-Family Dwelling Districts.
In a nutshell, here's what is and isn't allowed in Arlington:
  • The law: Arlington's Zoning Ordinance says that you can raise poultry on residential property inside the County lines.
  • The caveat: The poultry -- chickens, ducks or geese -- must not be allowed to roam free and their enclosure must be 100 feet from the lot line.
  • The bottomline -- you would need more than a half-acre of land to meet the requirement and keep poultry on your property in Arlington County.
The County currently has no plans to reduce the setback restrictions that apply to raising poultry on residential property. The County is, however, beginning the first comprehensive review of the Zoning Ordinance in decades, starting with the sign ordinance. There will be lots of opportunities for advisory commissions and members of the public to weigh in on various aspects of the ordinance as it is systematically reviewed. Ultimately, any changes will be voted on by the County Board, after extensive public review and comment, and a public hearing.

Urban Farming in Arlington

Community gardens and farmers' markets are two of Arington's most popular amenities. The County's community gardens are filled with the flowers, fruits, berries and vegetables tended by dedicated urban gardeners. Crowds flock to farmers' markets across Arlington to buy locally grown, organic food. Many residents also grow edible plants in their yards (you can plant them right up to the lot line). Others who live in condos or apartments often tend to container gardens.
A growing number of restaurants and grocery stores in Arlington offer an ever-widening array of locally grown/organic foods. The County offers workshops on how to make rain barrels, how to compost at home and other tips for green gardening. The County also picks up leaves and other garden debris, mulches it and offers it to residents — for free!
The County welcomes and encourages all of these practices. We think it promotes healthy living, builds community, reduces our carbon footprint, and helps the environment.

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