Wilmette’s animal code, as of yesterday, has now made it explicitly illegal to raise egg-bearing chickens.
According to top insiders in the organic industry, such as Martha Stewart, (www.marthastewart.com), sustainable urban agriculture has been increasing over the years. In Stewart devoted an entire episode of her show to showcase the benefits of urban agriculture.
Currently, the City of Chicago allows and encourages the practices of urban agriculture, such as keeping chickens. Other cities, like Milwaukee are also considering allowing chickens in the city limits.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Evanston has reversed its ordinance to permit up to 20 residents to raise hens. And, just north of Wilmette, Winnetka allows urban agriculture as well.
The economic and social benefits that urban agriculture has brought to the forefront in an ever-increasing poor economy are vast.
• UPA (urban and peri-urban agriculture) expands the economic base of the city through production, processing, packaging, and marketing of consumable products. This results in an increase in entrepreneurial activities and the creation of job opportunities, as well as in food costs reduction and products of better quality.
• UPA represents an important opportunity for women to be part of the informal economy of a city. Farming and selling activities can be combined more easily with household tasks and child care.]
• UPA provides employment, income, and access to food for urban populations, which together contributes to relieve chronic and emergency food insecurity. Chronic food insecurity refers to less affordable food and growing urban poverty, while emergency food insecurity relates to breakdowns in the chain of food distribution.
And, UPA also plays an important role in making food more affordable and in providing emergency supplies of food.
According to Wikipedia, market value or produce grown in urban gardens has attributed to a community garden plot a median yield value of between approximately $200 and $500 (US, adjusted for inflation).
In a community gardening program as well established as Seattle’s P-Patches, this can account for up to 1.25 million dollars of produce cultivated annually.
A popular Yahoo group has many members posting their thoughts on yesterdays urban chicken ban. Several citizens are working to promote social change and awareness on the benefits of chickens in regards to urban agriculture. Ref: (http://groups.google.com/group/chicago-chicken-enthusiasts/browse_thread/thread/4daadf964ffe9a31?pli=1)
One chicken enthusiast in the Yahoo group named Diane posted, “I’ve been mostly lurking for a long time now, planning on starting a flock of my own, researching, networking, pretty much resigned to seek forgiveness rather than permission with regards to the fact that the keeping of fowl is prohibited in my burb. When suddenly, a couple of weeks ago I jumped right into the fire after a former village trustee who is sympathetic to the cause forwarded me an article from TribLocal (www.triblocal.com) about Wilmette revising their animal code.
While the gist of the revision is geared toward specifically prohibiting all kinds of dangerous exotic pets, for some reason they felt it necessary to get a little clearer about livestock as well (the current code prohibits livestock except as “household pets” which are defined as living within the primary residence) and will clearly prohibit the keeping of chickens, period.”
Judy Evans of Wilmette said, “I have come up with this so that you can publish it. I am mother-plucking angry with these elected officials. It’s a step in the wrong direction. I just can’t understand why it is such a big problem to have chickens. Times are hard, and eggs fill the stomach. Not to mention, chickens make a pretty nice dinner themselves.”
Advocates of urban agriculture are welcomed to write to Willmette’s elected officials to try and reverse the new city code.
Write to the Wilmette Village Board:
Christopher S. Canning–[email protected]