Vancouver city council is voting on a proposed bylaw Tuesday that would regulate urban farms, an industry that has been operating in a legal grey zone for years.

Urban farms in Vancouver sold $418,000 worth of produce to residents in 2013, according to the city. The proposed bylaws will give urban farmers legitimacy and stability while the city monitors the growing industry says one urban farming representative.

"Having a business license, it garners you legitimacy, you're able to secure insurance," said Marcela Crowe, director of Vancouver Urban Farming Society.

"It also creates more stability. We're talking about growing an emerging sector."

The proposed amendments to zoning and business license by-laws will split urban farms into two categories: residential and commercial.

Residential farmers will be required to apply for a $10 license.

Commercial urban farms will have to undergo a more lengthy process that includes obtaining a development permit and submitting a farm management plan.

Urban farms are defined as operations that grow fruit or vegetables for sale, not private use. But urban farms come in all shapes and sizes, from a small backyard garden to whole agricultural systems built in shipping containers, parking lots, or on rooftops.

Community building

Big or small, urban farming plays a critical role in community building, said Crowe.

Social enterprise farms in Vancouver have demonstrated they produce $2.40 in social benefits for every dollar invested, she said.

"As part of the greenest city strategy, this is just but one very important element."

People can sign up for weekly delivery of produce grown by urban farmers on the Vancouver Urban Farming Society website.

To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Vancouver looks at regulating urban farms.