If you’ve not read Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life,” I highly recommend that you pick up a copy right away. As the Boston Sunday Globe puts it, “This book will change your life… Perhaps never before has [food] been written about so passionately.” While it’s not always easy to eat and grow food the way that Kingsolver and her family do, this book has certainly changed the way that I purchase and consume my food. Kingsolver has left me excited for the summer, and with a new appreciation for farm life. I look forward to planting my herbs and to growing a few other vegetables on our small back porch. One of these days I hope to expand my garden beyond a few pots and to participate in a few other farming activities of my own.
There was a community garden in Boston that Jacob and I would sometimes pass on our way to one of our favorite markets. I always loved seeing that vast space of green in the middle of a sea of grey. It served as a reminder that farming is no longer confined to multi-acre lots; today even city-dwellers have some of the same opportunities that farmers do. As more and more municipalities relax their rules, the number of people who practice backyard farming steadily continues to grow. While larger cities such as Boston, Chicago, or New York, have limitations on what kind of farming can take place, other urban spaces like Austin and Denver, allow a bit more, such as chicken farming and/or beekeeping.
Photo By: Kara Isham
While I love the idea of producing my own honey, the thought of beekeeping terrifies me, but for years now, I’ve pictured myself one day owning a few backyard, feathered friends. No one knew this about me, really, besides maybe my hubs, so imagine how surprised (and excited) I was to receive an email asking if I would be interested in writing an article about urban chicken farming in my area. I said yes, of course, eager to learn more about this farming trend. I have always thought I would eventually raise a few hens of my own, so here was my chance to figure out if I really have what it takes.
While it might seem like a large undertaking, I learned that it is less work than one might think. It only takes about 15 minutes a day to attend to a chicken’s needs, and about one hour once a month to see to greater demands. I loved getting to meet all of the different families and their feathered friends. Each family had a funny story to tell about their chickens, and most had beautiful coops that they were eager to show off. Like myself, the people I interviewed decided to raise chickens so that they could know where their food was coming fun. Plus, most just thought that they were fun animals to have around.
“I like watching them run across the yard,” said one woman I interviewed. “They look like little, old ladies running with their skirts hiked above their knees.”
I’m not so sure that I will be able to look at chickens, or little old ladies for that matter, the same ever again.
Hard work is an inevitable part of raising any type animal, but even after seeing the ugly side of chicken farming, I think that I am still interested in raising a few hens of my own. I like the idea of having fresh eggs, and can’t help but chuckle at the thought of seeing little old ladies with hiked skirts running around my yard!
To read more about chicken farming in NWA, please see this month’s issue of CitiScapes Magazine!