When "Urban Farms" Cross the Line

There is increased press and interest in the concept of “urban farms.” The preached benefits are community support, less fossil fuel use and the ever popular “its safer food.”Where I think we have crossed the line of common sense is that some cities in Ontario allow back yard chicken coops for urban egg production. People have we lost our minds? What would ever possess you to start an egg farm in your backyard? It surely is not food safety or trying to make your neighbours happy. Have you never heard of the grocery store? In the linked story an Owen Sound city councillor justifies this nonsense by stating,

€œIt speaks to food safety. It speaks to food security. It speaks to so many
things.€


I would say that it speaks to human kinds apparent lack intelligence. For those of us that are reasonable, it is fairly well understood that urban farms are not going to improve food security and safety in a country, city, town, or village anytime in the future.

For the sake of interest I called the City of Lethbridge Regulatory office and asked if I would be able to start a chicken farm in my back yard. The lady laughed and said no!! I told her who I was and asked her if this was a common request. She replied that they do get some requests every year from Lethbridge residents to have chickens, goats, sheep and ponies in their backyards. Do some of the urban residents of North America not trust the food system or are they thinking this will save them a dollar. Why not support the experts and buy from farmers and the grocery store. What is next, we don’t trust doctors and so we allow people to give each others surgeries.

Farming is a serious occupation that some discredit by thinking they can just do it themselves in a safer fashion. Lets not discredit the hard working people of rural areas by calling some lady that has 10 chickens in her back yard a farmer. This is no different than someone who has a 10 foot by 10 foot corn crop in their back yard is not a farmer….they are a gardener. Lets let some common sense prevail and quit this nonsense of cities like Guelph, Brampton and some US cities.

Support the REAL farmers!!

 

Shaun Haney

Shaun grew up on a family seed farm in Southern Alberta. Haney Farms produces, conditions and retails wheat, barley, canola and corn seed. Shaun Haney is the founder of RealAgriculture.com. @shaunhaney

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32 Comments

Ryan

I'm pretty sure you're the one crossing the line here in suggesting that the average person is somehow unable to raise a few chickens in their backyard. I know my great grandparents did it up until they were too old to take care of themselves–roughly their mid-80's. Saved them a lot of money and no fossil fuel burned. They never poisoned themselves, as far as I know.

And yes, I'm sure most people who are interested in backyard chickens know what a grocery store is. I would have thought that you, as a self-proclaimed "real farmer" would understand the urge to be a producer, rather than simply a consumer at times.

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Kevin Serfas

Grow a garden. Have a pet dog and maybe a cat, but don't ever think that you are going to feed the world with backyard petting zoo's. I have little issue with so called "urban farms" but as a farmer myself I am a little bit insulted when people use the phrase and try and fool people into thinking it is a viable way feed the masses. Lets please call it what it is. Simple gardening. I know many people who hobby farm with a goat, maybe a cow or two and some chickens, but certainly not in the city. If I lived in the city and my neighbors had a hen going "cock-a-doodle-do" at the crack of dawn, I would be having a lot of roast chicken. There are alot of things in this world that I can handle, but when they border on the line of pure stupidity, I am glad that there are people like Shaun to call them out. I don't think he is saying the average person can't raise a chicken, trust me, it's not rocket science, he's just saying there is a place for it. And it is not in the city.

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Joya Parsons

@Kevin Serfas: You're joking, right? Surely you realize that hens don't crow.

As for reasons people might want to raise chicken for eggs in their own backyards, as a backyard poultry grower myself, I can probably offer some insight. First, I doubt anyone is trying to set up 'urban egg farms to feed the masses' Rather, they're raising eggs to feed their own families– just a couple of hens. Most cities that allow poultry have a limit on the number you can own, anyway.

Second, a lot of people are concerned about what goes into their food. Pastured eggs, as from backyard chickens, have been proven to be lower in cholesterol and higher in omega-3 fatty acids than those from caged hens. Plus, with backyard hens, there is no need for prophylactic anti-biotics which are a concern for many.

Third, many people are upset by the treatment of egg farm hens. Now, I'm a fan of the food chain and I heartily endorse eating animals, but I think the animals that provide us with food should be treated humanely and with a modicum of respect. Layers in conventional egg farms are caged their entire mature lives with barely enough room to stand and turn around. At the end of their peak productivity (about 2yrs) they are thrown alive into composting pits. By raising my own eggs, I don't have to participate in that practice.

Lastly, raising poultry, in cities and otherwise, has been a part of our culture and experience for thousands of years. It is only in the very modern times that raising chickens for meat and eggs has been relegated to Big Ag. Keeping chickens is getting back to your roots! My grandmother kept chickens in town until the late '60's and I'm just following in her footsteps.

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Megan Oleksyn

Kevin and Shaun, I agree with both of your comments. There is a place for animals and food production and it is not in a suburban sprawl 40 sq. foot backyard. Not only from an animal welfare standpoint, but from a quality control point of view. Shaun, I liked your analogy about surgery.. which is a perfect example. People need to view agricultural food production and farming as a profession, which it is, not discredit it by thinking they can do it just as well or better. Our families have been perfecting the techniques and practices necessary for efficient, safe food production for generations. There are reasons food is produced like it is currently, both for the producer and consumer.

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Kevin Serfas

@Joya Parsons: Going to the washroom in an outhouse and getting around by horse is also at our roots. The thing is the majority of the population isn't going to warm up to it.

You may have me on the hens don't crow part, but regardless they are not pleasant neighbors. I do know this because we I was a kid, we used to have a few chickens running around and we soon found out it was less annoying tojust buy a few dozen when we needed them from the nieghbor. I am just saying, if I was paying taxes to a city and all of the sudden my neighbor had chickens in their back yard, I would not be happy. If you are concerned about what is going into the eggs you buy, I think that there are smarter ways of getting what you want than growing them in the city on your own. I know plenty of hobby farmers in rural areas that raise chickens and sell the eggs. For the most part, they are raised without antibiotics and other things deemed unhealthy by some.

I do take issue with your account of live chickens being thrown into compost piles. I am curious as to where you get this information from. There is so much garbage information out there from unreliable resources. People will watch something like "Food Inc" and take everything they say as the gospel truth. I think that we need to sort fact from fiction before believing many of the things we hear or read.

Once again, all I am trying to say is common sense has to win out on an issue like this.

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Joya Parsons

@KevinSerfas: I get that info from my FIL, who worked his entire life as a laborer in the chicken industry. I'm from the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake, and boy howdy, if we don't know chickens, nobody does! Sorry you find them annoying, but not everyone does. I think my chickens are kind of awesome, and they feed me breakfast every morning to boot.

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Anonymous

"I do take issue with your account of live chickens being thrown into compost piles. I am curious as to where you get this information from."

Kevin, this actually occurs in some of the large US operations. I am from Canada and never heard this happens here but i have visited large farms down in the States and this does occur.

Sick, crippled chickens do get thrown out.

I beleive Canada has one of the best food a safety & regulatory system in the world. The US would be wise to follow our lead.

A question to all…

How is it that there are not more BSE infected cattle being found in the US?

The US had the same feeding system as we have in Canada and a cattle population many times greater than Canada yet very little cases found / reported?

Let me tell you with my statistical background, it is statistically impossible…

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Anonymous

I think the "common sense" of this is that people want to eat quality food and have the satisfaction of raising a few chickens of their own to provide some of that food. Nobody thinks 4 backyard chickens are going to feed the masses, but it is in our history to have the right to grow our own food and raise our own animals. Nobody that I am aware of thinks urban backyard chicken farmers are akin to what you call "real farmers" but one does not "garden" chickens. Perhaps we might coin the phrase 'Urban Poultrymen.' I am also certain that 4 chickens in a backyard does not a petting zoo make. Many cities that do allow chickens do not allow more than four, and some of these cities allow hens only. Perhaps there is a middle ground upon which the white flags might be raised in truce. The BIG AG industry can continue to churn away for those who fail to "warm up" to getting around by horse, and those of us who wish to take back our right to make choices for ourselves in this free country of ours can frequent the farmers markets and share eggs with our families.

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The Almond Doctor

The only concern I have about "urban poultrymen" is their inability to control foodborne contamination. Due to the inability to inspect each and every home which contains chickens, who can ensure the safety of the food produced from the backyard coops. If a UP gives eggs to a neighbor, the neighbor becomes sick, where does the liability fall?

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Anonymous

I personally have no problem with people producing their own food. If they have the time and feel it is safer then go right ahead.

What I do have a problem with is people who have some chickens or a 10×10 garden and use no anti-biotics or pesticides, then think large scale farmers can or should do the same. In the garden for example, most are weeded by hand, but this is not possible in a large scale operation so pesticides are needed. Sure there are some organic farms, but most land is not clean enough to do it, and in a lot of cases it is not economical.

In the case of eggs, to meet consumer demand there has to be some bigger operations, and with that many birds in one place anti-biotics are needed.

Reply
Anonymous

I am not a producer or "urban farmer", but I do support the right of people to produce their own food.
I do not buy into the notion that we need to leave food production to the "experts" since there are no qualifications or certification for becoming such an expert (at least here in Alberta, and I believe all of North America). No sanitary certificates, no medicine administration certificate, not even a high school diploma is required (and apparently not even a test to know the differences between hens and roosters).
I think people who are passionate enough to produce food for themself and their family are as or more fussy about the quality and safety of the produce than farmer who sells into a untracable commodity market.
Regarding this notion of neighbors, I think that Kevin and Shaun should realize that the situation is no different for a urban farmer with four chickens and a neighbor 15 feet away than for a "big ag" farm with 25,000 head of cattle and neighbors a mile or two away. The same would apply to large hog or poultry operations.
I will also challenge Shaun's notion of food security. By raising 4 chicken in my backyard I would not increase the food security of my town, however I would give my family another option for eggs and chicken, thus increasing my food security. Also related to food security is nutrition security. Chickens raised eating insects out of a garden and grass and supplemented with grain have been shown to have higher levels of Omega 3 and other valuable nutrients (this is why pastured chickens produce much nicer almost orange yolks). Backyarding a couple chickens may help families to capture these nutrients at a lower cost than the premium eggs in stores.
Similarly I don't think it is fair to say that people should not be allowed to raise chickens in a 10' by 10' backyard, when "REAL" farmers are allowed to confine them in 67 square inch cages.
With respect to the comments about liability, I wonder who is liable for cases of antibiotic resistance. Links have also been made between giving drugs to animals and the development of resistance in humans. Is this risk greater than the risk of salmonella poisoning from contaminated eggs (which would be reduced when chickens are not raised in dense confinement)?
I think people deserve the right to produce all or part of their own food if they enjoy it, wish to save money, and/or disagree with the methods of commercial production. You "real" farmers should not worry – not everyone wishes to produce their own food, and you will still have a large role. I do agree that we need a different term for these people much like gardeners as both groups may not like to be confused with the other.
God bless the farmer and everyone who produces food.

Reply
Kevin Serfas

If people want to leave messages rebuking comments that are made on a blog, why not put a name to it. I have no problem with people disagreeing with what I have to say, (and I'm sure neither does Shaun). But if you are going to specifically pick out points in my comments, then at least put a name to your comment. Trust me, it will garner a lot more respect. What do you have to hide?

Reply
Sinclair

This was my anonymous comment. It was anonymous because I did not intend to get further involved in the discussion:
I think the "common sense" of this is that people want to eat quality food and have the satisfaction of raising a few chickens of their own to provide some of that food. Nobody thinks 4 backyard chickens are going to feed the masses, but it is in our history to have the right to grow our own food and raise our own animals. Nobody that I am aware of thinks urban backyard chicken farmers are akin to what you call "real farmers" but one does not "garden" chickens. Perhaps we might coin the phrase 'Urban Poultrymen.' I am also certain that 4 chickens in a backyard does not a petting zoo make. Many cities that do allow chickens do not allow more than four, and some of these cities allow hens only. Perhaps there is a middle ground upon which the white flags might be raised in truce. The BIG AG industry can continue to churn away for those who fail to "warm up" to getting around by horse, and those of us who wish to take back our right to make choices for ourselves in this free country of ours can frequent the farmers markets and share eggs with our families.

Reply
Sinclair

However, since the concern over safety was raised by The Almond Doctor… "Due to the inability to inspect each and every home which contains chickens, who can ensure the safety of the food produced from the backyard coops"…
I have to say that I am in the U.S. and there is a "food safety" bill running through Congress right now fueled by just this sort of fearmongering. The fear of the people is causing them go hand over their rights in return for a (false) sense of safety. I, personally, would take exception to my house and chickens being inspected if I am not selling to the public at large. I have a right to grow and raise my own food, and I have a right to personal privacy. I should have a right to share my bounty with others. If my next door neighbor knew less about my crop/bird hygiene than an inspector who arrived once or thrice yearly, then that would be a sad day. Government should stay out of private affairs, and as we have seen numerous times, the laws and inspections already in effect have failed to yield food safety for the masses. Peanut factory WAS inspected multiple times, yet a salmonella outbreak did occur. Meat processing plants are routinely inspected, yet there is still an e-coli recall going on…I would rather rely on my own safety precautions, thank you very much. And, if all persons were allowed to grow and raise their own, they wouldn't have to share or sell, would they? Those people who are not interested in pastoral pursuits will still rely on Big Ag and the grocery store, so there will still be work for the "real farmers."

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The Almond Doctor

I never thought questioning the liability of an issue would raise so many emotions. Of course, everybody says they wouldn't sue their neighbor if they gave them a bad egg. Everyone says they wouldn't sue anyone until they are sick, I cite the following cases and investigations from http://www.pritzkerlaw.com/salmonella/.
A lawsuit for a small family farm cider producer in Iowa.
A church being investigated for foodborne illnesses associated with a church picnic. From what I can read, this was a pitch in picnic at a church – and they sue…the church?

Do I need to go on?

The liability of backyard gardeners is of great debate in local communities and town councils. For example – should a food bank accept produce grown in a backyard garden when they have no idea about the production practices?

These are practical questions in relation to food safety — not an attack on a type of food production system.

The comment about "fearmongering" is a little out of line – as the people who are sponsoring gov't bills about food safety are urban democrats whose clientele are most likely to be home gardeners. It is a shame to see lawmakers completely out of touch with the reality of food production.

Bill Info:
Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009
Bill # H.R.875
Original Sponsor:
Rosa DeLauro (D-CT 3rd)
Cosponsor Total: 41
(last sponsor added 03/19/2009)
41 Democrats)

Reply
Jan Hoadley

I normally pretty much agree with you and have deferred to your knowledge in some things but I gotta say – this is the most insulting, condescending thing I've read in a long time. A farmer is someone who cultivates land, crops, livestock etc. Why is it assumed that someone producing food for themselves is any less serious than someone farming commercially?!!

No discredit to the full time farmers – have worked enough full time hours to understand that too. It's further insulting to be further admonished by a full time farmer about hens cockle-doodle-do – I can assure you none of my hens crow and I don't have roosters so there's no crowing to it! Indeed the birds are quiet and do not disturb anyone, nor do the rabbits in their hutches also in the back yard. The pullets are in a 20X25 pen and bother no one. They are quieter than the dogs in a 4-5 block area barking all night long.

So on one hand we're told those who aren't "REAL farmers" lack common sense and intelligence and on the other it's not rocket science to raise food.

Further why are "real farmers" so intimidated by the small flocks that it even warrants such comments?

I'm reminded of the story of a man who showed up at a farmer's meeting and the "real farmers" started laughing at him for having 8 acres – until he said it was 8 acres of organic tomatoes. Perspective!

For what it's worth it isn't the farmers many distrust as much as the processors. The "shut up & just buy it at the store" mentality has been backed increasingly with 'it doesn't matter what's in it as long as it tests safe'. As I said in a recent article – would you prefer drinking water that had diluted antifreeze in it or NO antifreeze in it? Safe might be diluted – but I prefer NO. And I've been told recently that safe is good enough and therefore that's what the consumer will get. That kind of comments doesn't inspire consumer confidence.

Further in the bigger picture for any legislations farmers can not get things done alone anymore. Alienate those people with a garden and hens in the back yard and you lose numbers that, like it or not, farmers NEED.

And Megan's comment about animal welfare is equally insulting. Who are you to critize without looking at an individual situation that people are abusing their animals for lack of animal welfare? Animals that are healthy and productive DO thrive in both environments.

Honestly this makes me wonder why I even attempt ag education via articles – clearly the only right thing is shut up and buy it at the store and don't ask questions! I can guarantee you one thing – when consumers stop trusting their food supply it will not be pretty. Division does not help anyone but there's a reason in IL and CA what those in the city want gets voted in – they carry the vote. Division makes for a rocky road ahead for farmers – and waving the red flag in front of the consumer is just not a way to get their backing for times it's needed.

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Culinary Hatchet

You're an idiot!

Ever hear of battery caged chickens? Broiler factory farms?

San Jose allows 6 chickens 20' from my neighbors homes and I'm reviewing plans for my future chicken coop now.

That's not a chicken farm.

Where do you think that your great grandparents got their poultry? Walmart?

You don't have to feed the world, just save some fossil fuel and some mistreated animals and feed yourself.

-Signing my comments,
Culinary Hatchet

http://www.culinaryhatchet.com
http://twitter.com/CulinaryHatchet
http://culinaryhatchet.ning.com
http://culinaryhatchet.yelp.com

Reply
Colin

There isn't really an argument about the ability of people to raise chickens in the back yard. It is an issue of trust. Obviously these "Urban Poultrymen" don't trust their current source of food. What they don't realize is that, while there is no qualifications to be a farmer, one does not just stumble into the trade. I keep reading arguments "where did your grandparents get their poultry from" but again you are missing the point. Anybody who produces agricultural commodities, be it in the now or the then, has had years of experience or generations to learn from through the trial and error method. There are regulations on food safety for the same reason. People who are producing our food have learned how to do what they do so that the masses don't have to. If you want a quality product visit a farmers market and meet the people who produce your food. We don't police ourselves, we don't design our own cities, we don't build our own houses… These are all general comments and yes there is exceptions, but the point is that everything is specialized so that one person doesn't have to do everything. I suppose after writing this I have realized that I am not against Urban Agriculture, but if you are going to do it, do it right and learn from the people who know what they are doing.

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Anonymous

Personally, I see no harm in this. And perhaps much good might come of it. Bringing people back closer to their farming roots, allowing them to realize how much work it is, how much it will really cost them, all this could bring back an appreciation for the "Real Farmers". I seriously doubt any of them see this trend (fad?) as a threat to their being.

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Kevin Serfas

Holy crap. Someone remind me to never get my hens and roosters mixed up again. I wouldn't want anyone else to know what a stupid farmer I am. Oh well, I think I'm gonna go to bed, but first I'm going to call myself a dentist and brush my teeth.

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Anita (Married... with dinner)

>>Do some of the urban residents of North America not trust the food system or are they thinking this will save them a dollar. <<

yes. yes, exactly. you've got it.

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Shaun Haney

One of the key points is "trust." Why do people not trust todays farmers. Why should I trust an urban egg producer more than the neighbouring farm. Are they untrustworthy becasue they are a family corporation or have multiple chicken barns. No becasue that would be rather presumptious on my part. FoodInc has done more harm to the farmer than good while food activists have taken the good work of Will Allen to extremes. I do believe that this current urban farm movement is trendy and cool for people that want to feel like they are #profood. The reality is that we have millions of productible acres that have proud stewards looking after it that will produce what the consumers want in the long run. The trouble is that in most cases (especially in a recession) people want cheap food.

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Shaun Haney

In response to "Culinary Hatchet" I would like to say that this is typical. I'm an idiot because I am defending the high quality products that farmers produce. You are quick to jump to conclusions that animals on today's farms are mistreated. Your suggestion is completely invalid and warrants little consideration from those that choose to be informed and engage in a debate.

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Sinclair

1. Regarding lawsuits bordering on frivolous, or at least moronic; I personally believe that people need to understand that not every unintentionally inflicted wrong need be remedied by legal redress in a costly court battle. The cost to society has been extremely steep already. Grocery stores cannot give their past-prime produce to food banks for fear of liability, kids in school cannot have homemade cupcake parties, communities cannot hold bake sales, and children cannot have lemonade stands. Ridiculous!

2. Re: Bill Info:
Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009
Bill # H.R.875
Original Sponsor:
Rosa DeLauro (D-CT 3rd)
Cosponsor Total: 41
(last sponsor added 03/19/2009)
41 Democrats)

SHE SPONSORED THE BILL; she did not write it. It is extremely flawed, and slants heavily in favor of big businesses whose names I will leave out, and I will say not more there.

3. @Colin: some do build their own houses, in increasing numbers, and some do not like the way the "people who know how to do it" manage, grow, and produce food. Gardening, farming, and animal husbandry carry steep learning curves, but those who wish to take it on do not need "generations to learn." There are books, universities, vocational and extension programs, and yes, even mentors.

4.I have not seen Food Inc., and while I believe that they are on the right track, the sad outcome will be MORE support for HR875 and other ill-advised legislation.

5. Do you use organic, sustainable, biodynamic methods? More than a lack of trust in specific farmers, there is a lack of trust in "safety" ratings from the FDA and the EPA. Have you a firm grasp of the physiological harm [potentially] caused to human organisms by herbicides pesticides, and [possibly] GMO crops? Some of us do not want to be anywhere near a crop that uses any of these.

I use the terms 'possibly' and 'potentially' because I realize the attack of that comment is: anecdotal evidence does not equal "hard scientific fact." Regardless, the fact remains that in the U.S. people have rights and freedoms to make choices for themselves and their families, and a most fundamental of these is the choice about what we use to fuel our bodies. The choice to break from the pack and produce 4 or 6 eggs per week for one's family to consume ought to be among the available options, and in no way derails "real farmers."

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The Almond Doctor

I view organic production as a means of growers taking advantage of a niche market. Organic production is an interesting aspect of agricultural use, but the organic movement has relied upon mis-information to maintain its popularity. For example, a major component of organic production disease control, whether a small farm or large farm is the use of copper for control of plant pathogenic fungi. Copper is mined, sometimes not in a very environmentally friendly way, milled, and hauled from a foreign source to the farm. Furthermore, copper is a biocide, meaning that enough of it will kill anything – too much on a plant will not only kill the micro-organisms on the plant, but the plant as well.

This is a long way to say that organic crops are sprayed with chemicals too, but most people think that organic means "no spray."

Organic production has been a big intertest to researchers. It appears that for every report in which the conclusion is that organic produce has more "health benefits," a report comes out saying that there is no difference. I think there may be a difference, but I do not have evidence to back up that claim. A true difference between the production practices and quality of produce lies within the vegetable varieties that are selected for production. Organic producers, especially members of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), tend to use varieties that taste better but perform poorly on the shelf at a store. I believe that "taste" in regards to produce is a good indicator of a healthy product. It is a shame that the best varieties do not store very well.

I think the last report I read out of UC Davis was that fresh produce, irregardless of its production practices (I.e. conventional, organic, etc.) contains more flavonoids and antioxidants that produced shipped into the grocery store. The conclusion was that for healthier produce, buy or produce local.

Biodynamic farming is another way to accomplish a niche market and charge a higher premium for a product. It requires more intensive inputs of labor. I have not came across any scientific evidence that suggests that biodynamic farming is "better" than organic. One of the few biodynamic products I have tasted was a wine out of Napa, CA – it was better than the organic version, but I think the oenologist blended it different as well. Plus it was a $500 bottle of wine. Don't worry, it was a free tasting for a class I was participating in – I dont make that much money.

Sustainable. The buzz word of agriculture at the moment.I do not know the direct definition of sustainable production practices as there has not been a group of people that agree on one definition. I understand the principle of the system, which is similar to integrated pest management practices that were instructed by America's University Researchers over 25 years ago. It is clear to me that sustainability is just another means to label produce to increase a market share.

My personal belief is to grow produce with as minimal amount of inputs necessary to maintain healthy soils, a healthy environment, a healthy farmer, and a healthy consumer. Now to define "healthy"….

Its personal, but it is my thought. I think each consumer needs to think of their own definition of sustainable, and buy produce in which the production practices most closely align. I feel that this is a better idea than having the gov't define "Sustainability."

Reply
Sinclair

From the Almond Doctor: "My personal belief is to grow produce with as minimal amount of inputs necessary to maintain healthy soils, a healthy environment, a healthy farmer, and a healthy consumer. Now to define "healthy"…."

@ the Almond Doctor: Now there is a statement upon which we can agree. Let us not split hairs about the definition of 'healthy' or we will diverge again. And, though it is following off the path of the original post re: chickens, here goes…
I realize there will never be a perfect solution or a completely chemical free way of cultivating crops. I do believe, however, that we are on a slippery slope with GMO crops and rampant use of herbicides and pesticides. I especially have issue with "roundup ready crops" but that is for another day. People need to redefine their idea of "acceptable" looking produce in the market, and then there could be a larger market for truly organically grown (even without organic chemical compounds). Much of what is culled as unacceptable for retail markets is only aesthetically unacceptable, with no actual compositional defects.
In my humble garden, I use ladybugs, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, chickens (to eat pests and weeds), chicken manure, compost, and my hands to ward off unwanted elements. Certainly this will not work to feed the masses, but at least I can supplement our needs and feed the family. Thankfully, I do not currenlty reside in the city limits proper, so I do not have to worry about the "urban chicken" issue, but I would fight to own them were I in the city. I realize that some see the requests for organically produced food a 'niche' market opportunity, but I personally believe that food grown without chemicals is healthier food. I also believe that all people should be able to afford to make this choice, and that the cost should not be so high that it precludes some from the ability to purchase. We ingest enough chemicals in our everyday environments without eating them for every meal also. As for the cost and an earlier comment that people right now just want cheap food, that is not true of all. I have been hit by this economy, and I choose to purchase organic and local organic food only. I forgo anything I must to be able to do so.

Reply
Colin

If today people want chickens in their urban farm, why not pigs tomorrow and cows the next day. I realize that both of those are ridiculous, but where is the line?

Reply
Shaun Haney

Colin,
I think that is one of the key points in all of this. For many food radicals there is no line. Pigs and cows are fully within their scope and future in terms of urban backyard farms.

Reply
Colin

Shaun,

These food radicals clearly do not know the requirements of handling such animals. I would also argue that these people probably currently feel that these animals are being mistreated on real farms, so instead they adopt the "cow standing in the backyard" approach. Really, you can't even call them free range. If ever an animal is being mistreated it would be in an urban farm setting. I'm not saying that there aren't farms that mistreat their animals, but there is a large portion of the agricultural community that treats their animals humanely. In an urban agricultural setting it is impossible to treat a chicken, cow, pig, goat, sheep, (am I missing any?) the right way. In Canada, at least, there are regulations on how much land is required for x# of cattle, not too sure about chickens and pigs, but there is likely regulations on area and proximity to urban settings.

wow I am seriously flabbergasted that you, Shaun, suggest that people might actually bring cattle and pigs into an urban setting. I posted it as an absurd example of what should never happen.

Reply
Zachary Cohen

What is wrong with people wanting to have some chickens in their yard? at the very least it will teach them how hard real farming is, and they will appreciate commercial farming more? no?

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Anton

Commercial farms have existed for millenia. I will go out on a limb and say that urban farms have existed for just as long. Neither is going to displace the role of the other any time soon.
To the farmers: Most urban farmers raise veggies and maybe chickens for their family's consumption. They don't generaly do it to save money. If that was the point, they could work the time they spend in their garden and buy the produce they need. It's about getting out of the house, pottering around in the dirt, maybe teaching the kids a bit about reality and feeling that maybe they're helping the environment through their efforts. Some urban farms are set up for unemployed or low income families to help put food on the table.

To the urban farmers: I have almost always lived in a rural town and have met and know many farmers. They are, in general, hard-working folk who take pride in their work and care for their crops and livestock. I think the culprits here may be large farming corporations that are more concerned with the bottom line than the process. My advice to you is: Adopt a farmer. Meet a local farmer, get to know them, ask if you can see the farm. Once you have found out they don't keep the chickens in 1'x1' cages and they don't dose their crops in every banned substance known to man, buy your produce from them – that way you reduce the carbon footprint of your food significantly because it doesn't travel hundreds of miles to reach you. And it doesn't mean you can't keep chickens in your back yard.

It doesn't have to an either/or situation – heaven forbid a farmer should give an urban farmer advice on better farming practices, or an urban farmer should buy produce from a farmer, thereby cutting the carbon footprint and making sure more money reaches the farmer, who does most of the work.

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