Being A City Farmer Is Not Always Easy, by Kathy Smith

Do you know anyone who lives in the city and longs to be a farmer?  We have some relatives and friends who have farm backgrounds but are now urban dwellers.  Being a city farmer is not always easy.  They have an entirely different set of problems than we do.

We are so lucky to live here in Ashtabula County where nearly all of us can wake up one morning and decide to expand the garden, raise a pig or take the goats the friend has been offering you for months.

A cousin who was with the Air Force for about 20 years was stationed in Albuquerque, New Mexcio, several years ago.  He decided to raise chickens and had a very successful flock in a city of about 500,000.  And yes, it was completely legal.

Now a resident of Yellow Springs, Ohio, he continues to raise chickens and has tried several different breeds. He says that the city of Yellow Springs is very farmer friendly.  There are some rules (your livestock cannot total more than 350 pounds, for example) but on the whole there are not too many restrictions.  As the city of Yellow Springs expands, it has grown around several small farms, so there are now. One of his biggest problems was raccoons who enjoyed dining on his chickens.

The military has always been supportive of city farming.  When my husband was in the Army, we were stationed in several different states and overseas.  There always seemed to be the opportunity to have your own garden plot whether it was in Kentucky or West Germany.  We really enjoyed planting and eating from our own garden no matter how far away and would not grow in the very different locations.

According to a recent Associated Press article in the “Farm and Dairy”, the city of Pittsburg has just rewritten an ordinance making city farming there much more reasonable. Instead of fees totaling about $340, the new ones would be about $70 for a permit allowing residents to have chickens, ducks or even miniature goats.  The number of animals allowed is based on your lot size and 2,000 square feet is the minimum for five chickens or ducks or two goats.  As your lot size increases, the number of animals you may own also increases.  In recent years, several cities around the country have eased rules for city farming including Oakland, Calif.; Dallas,Texas; and Chicago, Ill.

City farming isn’t just for someone who wants a fresh egg for breakfast.  It also could help families on tight budgets grow their own vegetables and even berries to add more nutritious food to their diets.  The Ohio State University Extension Service has several urban programs to teach people how to grow their own vegetables and also how to prepare them for their families. They also conduct classes on Yes, growing fresh greens and vegetables on a roof top, in a container on the porch, or in a flowerbed is becoming the new norm for our city cousins.  And I say good for them!

Kathy Smith is a farm wife from Wayne Township. She writes for the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau.