Understanding how local food systems function and how people can get involved has become a hot topic within many communities. This page is designed to provide you with different resources for accessing and growing fresh food within the community, to help you learn and find resources about regulations for growing and distributing your own food, and to provide individuals who are experiencing food insecurity to find the resources they need. This page also has resources for establishing native lawns and pollinator gardens to boost habitats for the creatures who help pollinate the plants and food we eat.
Why is the City focusing on food?
In 2022, after several years of public engagement, the City Council adopted the Onward Moorhead Comprehensive Plan which contains a chapter on Sustainability and Resiliency. Strategic Policy C of Goal 5.3 (Advance the health of individual residents and communities in adapting to a changing environment), recommends developing policies that support individual and community projects such as local food production.
A short survey was developed after the plan was adopted, asking residents to provide feedback on what areas of the plan the City should prioritize and local food production scored high.
GARDENING AT HOME
I want to start growing food in my backyard garden. Do I need to do anything special?
Growing a backyard garden is a great way to make sure you have access to fresh and healthy food! However, you should contact Gopher One at 811 before you start digging your garden to locate any underground utilities.
I want to build a greenhouse so I can garden year-round. Is that allowed?
Yes, greenhouses are permitted in all residential districts. If you are interested in building a permanent greenhouse, you will need to check your zoning to verify requirements. Buildings over 200 sq. ft. require a building permit and all structures must meet building code requirements. Please contact Community Development for more information.
Can I construct a temporary structure to extend the growing season?
Yes, backyard season extenders, also called hoop houses, are similar to greenhouses, except they are temporary in nature and are typically constructed of plastic or similar temporary materials. If the building will be up for less than 6 months it does not require a building permit. These structures still need to meet zoning and building code setbacks. Please contact Community Development for more information.
I want to garden but live in an apartment/my yard is too small for the size of garden I want. is there anywhere in the community I can garden?
Yes, you can find privately operated community gardens throughout the F-M Area. Please contact the garden of your choice or visit the Cass-Clay Food Partners 'Let's Eat Local' food page for more information about local community gardens.
I want to keep chickens so I can have fresh eggs. How can I do this?
Chicken keeping can be a fun activity, great way to learn where food comes from, and an egg-cellent way to get fresh eggs. Please keep in mind, keeping chickens in many ways is similar to having a dog, cat, or other care-intensive pet. You will need to make sure they have adequate space to exercise, ensure they have access to fresh food and water, take time to clean the coop and run, arrange for vet visits if they get sick, and find someone willing to take care of your chickens if you are out of town.
You can find the application and requirements for keeping chickens here.
I'm on the fence about keeping chickens. Do you have any more information about how to provide proper care?
The U of M Extension has put together an extensive resource for raising chickens including care, maintenance, wellness, and safety. The Cass-Clay Food Partners also has a "Beginners Guide to Raising Chickens."
What does it mean when it says, "Coop and run must be maintained and kept in good repair. Manure must be removed frequently to prevent issues with odors, pests, or other nuisances."
This means the coop and run should be free from any major damage or defects which could endanger the safety of your chickens or create a nuisance. In order to prevent issues, it's recommended to clean and inspect the coop and run at least once per week.
Different circumstances (weather, sick chickens, etc.) may require more frequent cleaning and changing of bedding, which is why there isn't a more defined standard. A good rule of thumb is if you can smell it, it needs to be cleaned.
Pro-tip! Talk to your neighbors before you get your chickens. Ask them if they have any concerns about about where you plan to locate the coop and run and ask them to notify you if they notice any odors. This can help address any concerns your neighbors may have and reduce future complaints.
How do I dispose of the chicken litter?
Chicken manure must be bagged and disposed of in the trash. It cannot be composted with yard waste items collected by the City.
Can chickens be slaughtered for meat consumption?
Yes, provided it is out of view of the general public and for consumption by your household. Slaughtering and selling/distributing to others is prohibited.
Can I sell/distribute any extra eggs or meat?
Eggs - Yes, provided you follow applicable regulations. Please see Selling Food below for more information.
Meat - No.
My Property has covenants which prohibit chickens. Who do I contact in order to get permission?
If you live in a neighborhood that has covenants restricting chickens, you will need to talk to the developer or Home Owners Association (HOA) in order to get approval or to change the covenants. If the covenants are not clear, it is best to reach out and clarify with the developer, HOA, or legal representative. If you are unsure who the developer is or if your neighborhood has an HOA, you can ask your neighbors or contact the Clay County Recorders Office.
The City of Moorhead does not enforce covenants and it is up to you as the property owner to review your property for covenants prior to submitting an application. If your property has covenants and your application is approved without first getting permission from the developer or HOA, it could result in a fine or penalty. You will be responsible for any fees/fines or actions that could be levied against you for the violation and will be responsible for finding a suitable home for your chickens.
BUYING LOCAL FOOD
Are there any local farmers markets and how do I find out more about them?
Yes! Moorhead is home to two farmers markets - the Moorhead Farmers Market and the Old Trail Market. Please contact the farmers markets for more information for dates.
There are also farmers markets in Fargo and West Fargo to visit. Check out Cass Clay Food Partners resources for more on local Farmers Markets from the 'Let's Eat Local' page.
Can I purchase food through community supported agriculture (CSA)?
Yes! Community supported agriculture is a crop sharing membership program that allows people to buy food directly from farmers. Members share the risk with the farmers by purchasing a share of the farms production before harvest and in return members receive regular food distributions. Check out Cass Clay Food Partners resources for more on local Farmers Markets from the 'Let's Eat Local' page. Foods available vary depending on the season and farmer.
I want to sell some of the food that I grow and make. Am I allowed to?
Yes, Minnesota Laws allow people to sell foods that are considered Cottage Foods. Cottage Foods are items that are baked, canned, pickled, and other low-risk foods (foods with a pH of 4.6 or lower) that are sold directly to consumers without a commercial kitchen. Cottage foods are typically sold at farmers markets.
If you are interested in getting started in selling your own food or would like more information, check out MN Cottage Food Laws from the MN Department of Agriculture.
I want to sell my home-grown food, but don’t want to sell at a farmers market. Can I sell it from my home?
Yes, however it may require a Home Occupational Permit. Please contact Planning and Zoning for more information.
What does it mean to be food secure or insecure?
Being food secure means that you are able to consistently access affordable and healthy food or do not need to worry where your next meal will come from. While being food insecure means you are unable to consistently access affordable healthy food and may be worried where your next meal will come from.
I’m experiencing food insecurity and need help finding a food pantry. Where can I go?
I'm experiencing food insecurity and need a meal. Is there anywhere I can go?
Yes! There are places in the F-M area where you can get a meal from. Here's a list of F-M Area Soup Kitchens.
I grew a garden, but it’s way too much. Are there places I can donate my excess food?
Yes! Many local food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters will gladly take any excess food you have. Make sure to contact these places ahead of your donation to find out about any rules or drop off times these places may have.
CULTURAL FOOD OPPORTUNITIES
I'm an immigrant to the United States and am having a hard time finding foods that I have traditionally used. Is there anywhere I can buy foods that are part of my culture?
Yes! Fargo-Moorhead has lots of cultural grocery stores which will hopefully allow you to find foods that are part of your culture. Check out this list of F-M Area Cultural Grocery Stores.
Can I start a backyard compost to recycle fruit and vegetable waste for my garden?
Yes, composting is a great way to get nutrients back into the soil and a great way to recycle food waste.
- Composting containers must be located in the backyard
- Containers cannot exceed two-hundred fifty (250) cubic feet
- Container must be made of durable materials such as wood, plastic, fiberglass, or metal fencing material
- Container must be twenty (20) feet from residential buildings
- Container must be twenty (20) feed from the street on a corner lot
- Compost must be mixed periodically to promote efficient biological deterioration
- Must not create a nuisance to neighboring properties
What can be composted?
Compost bins should have a mix of brown and green materials and water. Brown materials are rich in carbon such as leaves and twigs. Green materials are rich in nitrogen such as lawn clippings and fruit/vegetable scraps. Other compostable items include:
- Garden and Yard Waste - flowers, small shrub trimmings, twigs (1/4 inch diameter maximum)
- Fruit and Vegetable Waste
- Coffee Grounds
Are there things that cannot be composted?
Items which can attract pests, cause odors, or create harmful conditions for people, plants, and animals should never go into a compost container. Some examples include:
- Meat and bones
- Diary Products including whole eggs
- Diseased Plants
- Charcoal Ash
- Human or Pet Feces
If you want to learn more about composting check out these composting tips from River Keepers or consider taking a class about composting. You can also learn more about composting from the U of M Extension, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), or US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
What is a natural lawn?
Natural lawns are lawns consisting of plantings such as wild flowers, native or non-native grasses, forbes, ferns, and shrubs that exceeds 8 inches in height. A turf grass lawn left to grow unattended is not considered a natural lawn.
What are the requirements to convert my lawn into a natural lawn/pollinator garden?
- A Natural Lawn on private property, or a lawn consisting of plantings other than turf-grass or weeds (such has wildflowers, native or non-native grasses, forbes, ferns and shrubs) are permitted with the standards noted below.
- A Natural Lawn must be less than 24 inches in height when it is within 5 feet of a driveway/alley, within 30 feet of an intersection or within 3 feet of a fire hydrant.
- A Natural Lawn may not overhang on the sidewalk, curb, street or adjacent property.
- A Natural Lawn must be maintained as to not include noxious or invasive weeds or plants.
- A Natural Lawn may not be planted on a levee or other flood protection structure or within 20 feet of flood protection infrastructure.
- The City may order cutting of a Natural Lawn at any time when it is determined that the growth does not meet the standards outlined in the City Code.
- Property owners that plant a Natural Lawn are responsible for requesting utility location and ensuring that no plantings interfere with utilities. Utility providers may access and perform work on properties and any damage caused to Natural Lawn areas is the responsibility of the property owner.
I would like to plant something in the boulevard. Am I allowed?
Yes, boulevard plantings are allowed but they require a boulevard planting permit from the Engineering Department. Please also know that if the City or a utility company need to dig within the boulevard, the boulevard will only be restored to the condition it was in prior to any planting.
- Plantings may be up to 36 inches in height, however cannot be taller than 24 inches when within:
- 3 feet of a fire hydrant
- 5 feet from a driveway or alley
- 30 feet of an intersection
- Double-shredded hardwood mulch must be used around the plantings to prevent soil erosion.
- Mulch must be one (1) inch below the curb level.
- River rock or other similar materials are prohibited.
- Must be maintained as to not include noxious or invasive weeds or plants, removal/replacement of dead plants, and clear of debris.
- May not overhang on the sidewalk or right-of-way.
- Plants must be able to tolerate salt and snow storage.
- Must call Gopher One at 811 at least 48 hours before digging to locate utilities.