Urban Agriculture in Winston-Salem

Application and Process  
General Standards  
Community Gardens  
Urban Livestock  

Legacy 2030, the comprehensive plan for Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, recommends encouraging healthy food production in urban areas as well as rural areas. It also calls for removing barriers to using urban land and buildings for various forms of urban agriculture production. The City of Winston-Salem adopted an Urban Agriculture Ordinance on May 4, 2015, to encourage urban food production and gardens in areas throughout the City. 

Urban agriculture is defined by the ordinance as: “The growing, processing, and distribution of food and other agricultural products through cultivation. It may include plant cultivation and the growing of non-food crops such as herbs and ornamentals. This use may include accessory structures and buildings used for agriculture-related storage or field packing. Urban Agriculture does not include the accessory cultivation of plants on residential lots solely for use and/or consumption of the occupants of said lots or on-site accessory sales" [Section B-2.6.5(B) of the Unified Development Ordinances of Winston-Salem].

The Urban Agriculture Ordinance applies only to plant cultivation. Livestock is regulated under Chapter 6 of the City code. 


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Application and Process

This ordinance applies only to:

  1. Properties within the City of Winston-Salem,
  2. Projects developed after May 4, 2015, and
  3. Not located on the same lot as a residential dwelling, institution, or other use which allows urban agriculture as an accessory use.

If your project meets the above requirements:

  1. Contact the Inspections Division to determine the zoning designation of the property you are interested in using.
  2. Fill out the application and pay the $25 application fee. Applications must be submitted to the Inspections Division located at: 
  3. Depending on the location of the project, you may be required to go before the Board of Adjustment (see Zoning Districts table below),
  4. If applicable attend the public hearing (see Public Hearing – Board of Adjustment),
  5. If approved, purchase zoning and any other necessary permits from Inspection Division.

General Standards

  • This ordinance only applies to properties within the City of Winston-Salem
  • The application cost for all gardens is $25.
  • The on-site sale and distribution of produce grown on site is allowed.
  • A minimum setback of 5 feet from neighboring property lines and right-of-way is required.
  • Certain structures (such as greenhouses and storage buildings) will require additional permits and fees as determined by the Inspections Division. Contact Inspections staff for more information.
  • Site plans may be required.
  • One parking space is required per 20,000 square feet of lot area for sites in nonresidential districts.
  • Parking requirements will be determined on a case-by-case basis by the Board of Adjustment for sites in residential zoning districts.
Zoning Districts Which Allow Urban Agriculture
Single-Residential Zoning Districts Multifamily Zoning Districts  Nonresidential Zoning Districts 
RS-40, RS-30, RS-20, RS-15, RS-12, RS-9, RS-7, MH
RSQ, RM-5, RM-8, RM-12, RM-18, RMU  PB, LB, HB, GB, LI, GI, CI, MU-S, IP, C, AG 
Residential zoning districts require Board of Adjustment Special Use Permit (see Public Hearing – Board of Adjustment).  Nonresidential zoning districts require a permit from the Zoning Officer. 

All of the information above can found in the Urban Agriculture Toolkit [pdf/868kb/2p], your guide to navigating the urban agriculture process. Included in this document are images, resources, information and useful tips for starting your own community garden.

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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. Below are some general recommendations you should keep in mind if you are interested in beginning a community garden in your neighborhood:

  • 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 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. 

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Sample of Garden Types

Raised Bed Garden. A form of gardening in which soil is formed in a bed which can be of any shape or length. The soil is raised above the surrounding soil, and is sometimes enclosed by a frame generally made of wood, rock or concrete blocks.

Aquaponics. Any system that combines conventional agriculture with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment.

Greenhouse/glasshouse. A structure with walls and roof made chiefly of transparent materials, in which plants requiring regulated climatic conditions are grown. Additional permits may be required for construction of such structures.

For more information on community gardens, different types of gardens, and general agriculture related questions please see the Resources section following.

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Urban Livestock

The City of Winston-Salem allows certain types of livestock to be kept within city limits. Citizens interested in keeping urban livestock must obtain a permit (in most cases) and must meet shelter, setback, and sanitation conditions. Please refer to the brochure linked below for more information and resources.

Backyard Livestock Brochure [pdf/564kb/2p]

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City-County Planning and Development Services

Planning Division
Tiffany White


Inspections Division
Donna Guffey
Permit Office Supervisor


Forsyth County Foods Consortium
Marcus Hill


North Carolina Cooperative Extension - Forsyth County

Mary Jac Brennan

Forsyth County Health Department


Environmental Assistance and Protection


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Revised 5/16/2017

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