I burst out laughing when I saw this headline on Twitter:
Are urban chickens a gateway drug for urban cows and pigs?
Of course, I had to click through to the article on treehugger.com.
And when I did I laughed even harder.
The article is about my hubby’s hometown of Campbellford, Ontario.
You probably don’t know where that is.
Before I met Jeff, neither did I.
Apparently the town is in a flap over two residents keeping hens on their “urban” lot (which is an entire acre.)
The mayor is quoted as saying:
I think it’s just wrong to have animals in the urban centres. What’s next? Where do we draw the line? Cattle, swine, sheep?
Now no disrespect to Campbellford or Trent Hills region in general, but “urban” is the last word I’d use to describe it.
As someone who keeps chickens on a 30 x 108 lot on a busy East Vancouver street, I find the entire situation laughable and more than a little sad.
Northumberland County is made up of beautiful rolling hills, century old farmhouses and tiny towns where the streets are named after the families who have lived there for ages. We were home for a visit in early July and I was struck by all the locals out on their ride-em’ lawnmowers in the 35+ degree heat, mowing their acres and acres of lawn. All I could think was – What a waste! What I could do with so much space!!
And really, as we drove around the countryside visiting friends and family, I also realized that despite all the farmland, I saw very little FOOD. Lots of soybean and corn as far as the eye can see, but other than the odd dairy, Grandpa’s cattle and a few chicken operations, no actual food.
Grandma’s always abundant garden was one of the few exceptions:
Rural Ontario isn’t the only place pushing back against the growing “urban” farming movement. (I use the term urban with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.)
Closer to home on Vancouver Island, Dirk and Nicole are fighting to keep Compassion Farm operating. Lantzville (outside of Nanaimo) doesn’t allow urban farming for profit, and Nicole and Dirk sell the veggies they grow on their TWO ACRE “urban” lot. Rather than commend the couple for their contribution to their community’s food security, they’ve been dragged through a bueareaucratic nightmare. Read more about Compassion Farm here.
The insanity continues in Oak Park, Michigan, where a mum of six was actually threatened with jail time for growing tidy plots of veggies instead of grass in her front yard. (If that freaked her neighbours out, I can only imagine what they’d say about the chaotic abundance in my front yard!)
It gets me thinking not so much about gardening, but about the nature of democracy.
In a time where we can watch daily as others around the world give their lives for the democratic freedoms we all enjoy, it is well to remember that with freedom comes responsibility. (And not in a – we have to go bomb the tar out of the rest of the world kind of way.)
What I mean is, we are obliged to participated in our democracy – breaking the laws if that is what is needed. We need to view these acts for what they are – civil disobedience.
After all . . .
An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so. - Gandhi
It is our responsibility as citizens to reject laws that do not serve our communities or that insult our sense of justice. Some argue that a citizenry that picks and choses which laws to follow amounts to anarchy. I don’t believe that. If we did not break unjust laws we would not have civil rights or human rights and places like India would still be under colonial rule.
The right to farm, to provide your family with food that is good, clean and fair, must be viewed as a human right worth fighting for. If asserting that right means breaking the law, so be it.
Paper-pushers in city halls around the world can write anti-”urban” farming legislation all they want. In the meantime, I’ll keep raising my backyard hens and growing cabbage along the sidewalk.