Urban Agriculture

Requirements for Application

This Urban Agriculture ordinance:

  • Applies only to sites that are in the city limits of Winston-Salem
  • Applies to projects developed after May 4, 2015
  • Does not necessarily apply to sites that have a residential or commercial structure

Application Process

If your project meets the above requirements:

  1. Contact the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Inspections Division at 336-727-2624 to determine the eligibility of the site you are interested in using. You will need the address of the site. You can also provide the Tax Block and Tax Lot or the Parcel Identification Number (PIN).
  2. Depending on the zoning district of the site, you may be required to go before the Winston-Salem Zoning Board of Adjustment for a Special Use Permit (see the Zoning Districts Chart [PDF]).
    • If a Special Use Permit is required, you will need to attend the public hearing where your request will be heard and voted on. (See the Citizen's Guide to Evidentiary Hearings [PDF]).
      • If your request is approved, continue to number 3.
      • If your request is denied, you cannot use this site for Urban Agriculture. However, rezoning the site to a zoning district that allows Urban Agriculture without a Special Use Permit may be an option. Contact the City/County Planning Department for additional information on rezoning: 336-747-7069.
    • If approval from the Winston-Salem Zoning Board of Adjustment isn’t required, continue to number 3.
  3. Complete and submit the application along with any required documents to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Inspections Division at planning@cityofws.org.
  4. The application and documents will be reviewed and a zoning permit will be issued to establish the use Urban Agriculture. The fee for the permit is $25.
    • Payment should be paid to the Revenue Department, also located in the Bryce A. Stuart Municipal Building.
    • Payment can be made in person or over the phone at 336-747-6953.
  5.  Once the permit fee is paid, you are ready to get started!

Urban Agriculture slideshow (PDF)

  1. Recommendations
  2. Garden Types

The following are some general recommendations you should keep in mind if you are interested in beginning a community garden in your neighborhood. You can also check out the Urban Agriculture Toolkit (PDF).

Community Gardens

If you’re looking for an activity that people of all ages can enjoy, you may be interested in starting a community garden. Community gardens are a great tool for not only producing food but also provide areas for community socialization, therapy, education, open space and even job creation.

Get Your Neighbors Involved

There is a lot of work involved in starting a new garden. Make sure you have several people who will help you. Survey the residents of your neighborhood to see if they are interested and would participate.

Form a Garden Club

If you have enough support, form a garden club. This will help in making decisions and dividing up the work effectively. It also ensures that everyone has a vested interest in the garden and can contribute to its design, development and maintenance. Also give your garden area or club a name. Names can provide a means of association and a sense of ownership.

Find Land for the Garden

Look around your neighborhood for a vacant lot that gets plenty of sun - at least six to eight hours each day. A garden site should be relatively flat. A site without pavement, relatively free of trash and debris is best. Also choose a location within walking distance, or no more than a short drive from you and the neighbors who have expressed interest in participating.

Find Out Who Owns the Land

It is illegal to use land without obtaining the owner’s permission. In order to obtain permission, you must first find out who owns the land. You can obtain this information from the tax office or by using Forsyth County’s GeoData Explorer.

Contact the Land Owner

Communicate with the owner of the land you desire to begin a community garden on and ask their permission to use the land. If necessary, establish an agreement (in writing) with the owner stating such things as the intent of use, hours of operation, maintenance, liabilities, fees for use, etc. Anyone who participates in the gardening of the site should be required to sign this agreement.

Obtain Any Necessary Permits

Refer to the zoning ordinance and Inspections Division to determine any required permits, site plans, or public hearings that may be required before putting any seeds in the dirt. This will also include the construction of any fences, storage buildings, and additional amenities that you intend to have within your garden.

Other Useful Suggestions to Keep in Mind

  • Check for water availability and establish how water fees will be paid. The type of irrigation system you will use will go a long way in determining how much water will be necessary for the garden.
  • If the site is located in an area of known soil contamination, get your soil tested. Contact a private lab, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), local health department, or Forsyth County’s Cooperative Extension Office to learn how to take soil samples. The quality of soil can have an effect on the products your garden produces as well as the type of garden you may eventually use.