Sunday, May 25, 2008

"South LA Barnyards" article from the LA Times

Check out this story in the LA Times this morning. South LA is becoming heavily populated with a new wave of Latino immigrants, and they are bringing their farm animals with them.,0,45789.story?track=ntothtml

The article kinda got my ire up. The reporter seems to side with the city and the anti-farm-animal neighbors, but I could just be looking for that.

I actually wrote the reporter a letter-- nice-sounding, I hope--

"Dear Ms. Garrison- Thanks very much for reporting on this interesting trend. I would point out to you, though, that it's only been the last 60 years or so in this country that people have not kept "barnyard" animals on their small properties. Many early suburban developments in this country welcomed chickens and small herds of goats- it was often a selling point by builders to let people reconnect with "country" life. And around the world, keeping a small farm menagerie near, and sometimes in, the home is the norm, and greatly desired. This has been true for as long we have kept domesticated animals.

"Keeping loved and well cared-for farm animals in the city on such a small scale is not a health risk, even when they are slaughtered in the backyard. 20 billion meat animals a year are slaughtered using the Big Ag model. At that inhumane scale, it is anything but safe or healthy, and it is terribly polluting. And certainly, animal welfare is often the last consideration on these factory farms.

"Small backyard flocks of chickens provide eggs, nitrogen for the soil and pest control for the garden, and when their time is up, a lovely Sunday meal and a week's worth of soup from the carcass. Living this way reconnects us to our food cycle- something we have become deeply disconnected from in the last three generations, to our and our childrens' peril. It is my sincere wish that this intimate and gentle method of home farming become our national model for sustainability and humane living. We have a lot to relearn."

I decided that this letter is the bones for my Toastmaster's Speech next month...


lamarguerite said...

Way to go Ilex. One of my fondest childhood memories is of going in my grandparents chicken coop, and fetching eggs every morning.

I know our town has an ordinance against chicken coop and backyard farm animals. Amazing how far we have gone along the path of disenfranchising from nature!

I should add chicken coops and barnyards to my vision of a sustainable world:

ilex said...

Thanks very much, Marguerite. You definately should add chicken coops and urban barnyards. Watching a few chickens scratch around in the morning really can make the whole day so much better.

The ridiculous ordinances exist in this country because of greed, I am certain. There's always one idiot who ruins it for everyone else, and if he keeps it up (& you can bet it's driven by profit), that's what leads to new restrictions. Greed truly is the heart of all our troubles.

Ian said...

Hi ilex, maybe you should copy the letter to your senator, with a list of the ordinances!

ilex said...

Ian, I think I just might do that.

And, once the speech for Toastmasters is written and well-rehearsed, I just might take it before city council. Or state legislature.

Ridiculous rules ought to be fought.

Rabbits' Guy said...

Holy wow ... from a shy stammering scardeycat to the leader of the barn-yard activists!! That Toastmasters must be something!

I think it would be good to get in with a group of like minded ones ... banding together gets more done and makes more of an impression I think.

PS ... we made a tag on you for a meme ...

Oh .. and find the Crafty Green Poet in Edinburg (?) Scotland. She/he just got a new job working on a town farm type deal and he/she says they are quite popular there. Maybe there is some precedence there.

Robbyn said...

What an awesome letter to the editor! These city restrictions reflect the big disconnect (and a lot of propaganda) on the part of Joe Citizen and his food. Some folks have actually been to those big Ag places and no wonder they think of chickens as stinky and disease-ridden, etc. A lot of folks never dirty their hands...their lawn guys do all the "icky stuff"...and children are not let BE children and dig in the mud and get covered in sand, dirt, sweat, and mosquito bites...they are so insulated in front of their video games and bowl of chips. I was from the generation that was told to "go play outside!" :) We drank from water hoses and rode bicyles and hunted bugs and did chores...I have to tell you, if I'd had chickens in my backyard in those days, my parents would never have been able to drag me inside at bedtime :)

Carolyn said...

Amen Sister! Great Letter!


ilex said...

Rabbit Saint, thanks for the tip about Crafty Green Poet. I added her to my faves. Sounds like a great gig.

Madam Robbyn, I know exactly of which you speak. The weeuns' disconnect from the natural world makes me downright fearful for our species' future. True story-- last Spring, I drank from a hose at a community garden, and the teens and 20-somethings gasped -gasped!- in horror. And made that "EWWWWwwww!" noise. I was just astounded.

Carolyn- so, when are you getting chickens?

Hillary said...

A couple in Ypsilanti with goats, chickens and rabbits is expecting to receive a notice to appear in court any day now. The neighbor complaining is a landlord and doesn't actually live on the property.

(I'm homesteading in Hamtramck and found you through the map at Love what you're doing!)

ilex said...

Hiya Hillary! I bet we know some of the same people. Are you gonna start blogging about homesteading in Hamtramck?

It's illegal to keep "farm animals" (state law wording) anywhere in MI that isn't zoned as farmland. I'm working up the gumption to take the issue to my state rep and give him the whole pitch. He's a cool young guy. Though, of course, I know that chickens in the backyard isn't exactly the image Deee-troit wants for itself...

I'm so glad you stopped in and said hi. We should have coffee!

Margo said...

Yay!!! (cheers for the letter you wrote - great!)

And for those interested, here are two links:
one on a handy "chicken tractor" that someone on myfolia is using and says works well, and one on chicken/city ordnances.

Hillary said...

Thanks for the warm welcome. If we don't know the same people, we surely know people who know each other. For a city of 140 sq miles and a population of 1 million, it sure seems like a small town in that respect. (My husband often rides his bike past your building on the way to work.) I always mean to write more about my homesteading efforts, but most of my time tends to be spent on Hamtramck City Council meetings. The posts about worms and crochet are always the ones that people want to talk about though, so I really should try harder this summer.

Is it really against state law to have chickens on non-farm property, or are they just not protected? I know Ann Arbor is considering a change to their ordinance that would allow a certain number of chickens, and a teenager in Troy was given a variance to local ordinances a few years ago that allowed her to keep chickens as pets. If they are against state law, I'd happily work with you on a campaign to change it. I'm very well known by both of my state representatives, and urban chickens seem like a popular cause in my area. Many people don't know that they're illegal, and occasionally loose goats and chickens in the neighborhood have made the news.

Sorry about going on and on. I'd love to have coffee with you some time!