The Farm Next Door: Urban Animal Husbandry

Going green, Peachy — By Stephanie on August 13, 2009 at 9:25 am
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Urban animal husbandry has its challenges - and rewards (image from TheTim on Flickr)

As an outgrowth of the local food movement, some people are not just growing their food – they are raising their own livestock.  Urban animal husbandry is on the rise across the nation, from Seattle to Saginaw.  Today in American living rooms, you may now find a pygmy goat snuggled up next to the family dog.  And why are chickens crossing the road… in the middle of a busy intersection?

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Raising farm animals in the City is a new trend (image from Linda N. on Flickr)

In part to address rising food costs, environmental concerns and even safety issues, people are taking control over the source of their nourishment by overseeing its production.  The concept of Victory Gardens has become popular as people declare independence from greedy corporations that do not have the public’s best health in mind.  Now, urban animal husbandry allows a wider range of food products to be grown for your own use, even if you don’t live in a rural setting.

From milking goats to producing fresh eggs, farm animals can provide a regular source of nutrition – without the concerns of antibiotics, hormones and even the CO2 impact of trucking food across many miles.  Some urbanites are taking it a step further, raising chickens, pigs and rabbits for meat consumption.  They support the practice as being a “sane carnivore,” but I can’t help but wonder whether I’d rethink converting to vegetarianism!

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Is there a farm next door?

In fact, I’ve known a few urban farmers who’ve raised animals within the city limits.  A former colleague had a couple of pigs that he kindly named: “Bacon and Sausage.”  I never did ask him about their fate, though it might be obvious.  My husband, too, has memories of his childhood that include a chicken coop in Portland, Oregon, and an eventual relocation to a 40-acre parcel in Sisters on which he and his brother helped with raising farm animals for the family.  While eggs and milk were regular faire, things were a bit more difficult the first time chicken was on the menu.  Pete recalls his brother and mom breaking down at the dinner table, recalling memories of the chicken that was no longer roaming the property.

Still, urban farming is catching on in many locales for a number of reasons:

Before you bring in a few goats, pigs or even rabbits to your home, be sure to check local ordinances and covenants.  While growing your own crops is generally acceptable, not all areas are happy about your bringing in farm animals to the backyard.  This is particularly so, if you live in a homeowners association with strict rules and regulations.

Nonetheless, people that are interested in urban animal husbandry are working to change laws to allow them to operate a farm next door.  So next time you hear a rooster crow down the street, it may just be the dawning of the local food movement, coming to… um, roost… in your neighborhood!

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