Recently, a dear friend and several people she knows began a grassroots effort to shut down a local puppy mill. It all started with pictures posted on Facebook at the beginning of January. Within a month, the dogs were seized and the “owner” (hesitate to use that word) has been charged. I did my part by helping get the word out about these dogs.
Now, I’m trying to do my part again.
Earlier today, I shared a blog post by Collingwood Farm about the proposed zoning changes that would affect them directly. You can read all about it here. In an effort to help them and keep their farm going, here is the letter I sent to their city council members:
Dear Council Members:
I am writing on behalf of Collingwood Farm. I have been informed of the proposed changes to local zoning laws and would like to speak on their behalf in opposition to those changes.
My husband and I run a small farm outside the Capital District of New York. We are life-long supporters of self-sustainability and agriculture. When so much of the meat and produce in local grocery stores comes from corporate concerns that use various chemicals and unsavory business practices to provide the consumer with the staples of a balanced diet, it is refreshing to see community supported agriculture (CSA) thrive. Even on a smaller scale, having a personal vegetable garden and a few chickens can provide enough for one family to reduce costs at the grocery store. When a farm has an abundance to share with the local community, as in a CSA, they should be applauded.
However, limiting the number of small farm animals and banning animals over 30 inches not only deprives the community of natural resources but limits or eliminates people’s livelihoods. Selling produce at farmer’s markets or through CSAs keeps the community connected versus purchasing similar products through a less personable chain grocery store. If a family is relying on a maximum of only two chickens to sustain themselves, it is an unrealistic scenario. Two chickens, even in the most ideal circumstances, cannot produce enough eggs for the average family. Animals such as chickens are flock animals by nature and thrive in small groups. This is reflected in how they can be purchased; the minimum order for spring chicks is six. Additionally, the ban of animals over 30 inches is illogical and contradictory. Why allow a horse (the average quarter horse is around 60 inches, or 15 hands) but not other animals? If it is a cleanliness or noise issue, how neat is the average garbage truck, how loud is a souped up car stereo? It is my understanding that little to no elaboration was given as to why these sanctions were suggested. One can conclude it has to do with personal vendettas or misinformation about what small scale farming and CSAs are about.
The farm my husband and I run has aspirations of becoming a CSA. Right now, we provide for just ourselves and a few friends. Collingwood Farm has been a great model for us to gauge timing of planting, conditions for planting, and community outreach. The C in CSA is for community, an aspect that seems to be lacking in the proposed zoning law changes. Farms get a bad rap: they’re smelly, the equipment is loud and cumbersome, they take up valuable real estate, etc. I’ve heard it all. But during World War II, did communities object to Victory Gardens? In fact, they were encouraged; nearly 40% of American’s daily vegetables came from such community-run agriculture. Why spend for “designer” fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other CSA-supported items at a grocery store – don’t forget to add in the round trip cost of gas to get these items! – when you can meet the farmer face-to-face and find out just how the chickens were raised, the vegetables grown. It’s hard to believe the minimum wage clerk at the grocery store can answer those questions!
I don’t claim to have any grand ideas on how to resolve this zoning issue. My suggestion is this: before making sweeping changes that affect everyone, allow those being affected to have some input into the law. Reach out to them to see what suggestions they have. Don’t allow the minority affect the majority. The sad truth is, regardless of anything said at any upcoming public meetings, the board has already made up their mind about this issue. All I ask is that time is taken to carefully consider each side, any compromises that can be made, and to do what is best for everyone involved.
Tara L. D****
This is another example of why my husband gets so fired up about limitations put on farmers trying to make an honest living. It’s his biggest fears coming true: that farming and agriculture are being phased out and wide-open spaces will be taken over by mini malls and house developments. Will our daughter have no coherent memory of running through a hay field, climbing an apple tree, or collecting her own eggs for breakfast? Will all the farm animals she remembers be at traveling petting zoos? Will the family farm be sold and broken up into cookie cutter houses?
Not on our watch.