13 June 2011

So, about those chicken books...

I do not remember the exact day I decided I wanted to have chickens. I certainly never really thought about them growing up. I knew that my mother grew up on a farm, and that the house (where my aunt still lives) had an old chicken coop that we kids were told to not go in (yeah, right) because the floorboards were rotten (and they were, whoops).

I never thought about my food growing up either. I was limited to what came home in the grocery bags, and what my grandfather grew in his garden. I was more focused on avoid the Japanese beetles and lamenting about shelling another pea pod than to appreciate that this was grown by him, for us. But it must have settled somewhere in my head.

Fast forward to now: I have been in Massachusetts for almost seven years now. Starting in western MA I got to experience more pick your own farms (besides the apples that are so prevalent in upstate NY), more roadside stands, more people talking about local food. When I picked up Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, I think that is when my perspective shifted. My memories of what I had actually been provided came back, and I was determined to make things better for me and my niblets, any way I could.

I started growing herbs and vegetables in containers. I dug up a small strip of flowers in front of my apartment and planted tomatoes and basil. I canned jam and apple butter. I made applesauce. I started buying more local. I got my first CSA share.

In the house I am living now, I made sure my landlord would allow me garden space (which he did, thank you!) and put in two raised beds. I traveled to farmer's markets and bought syrup, vegetables and milk. I bagged up flats of canning tomatoes to make ketchup and sauce. I joined MA Local - a central MA online food co-op and have a local source for eggs and meat. But I wanted more.

I have seen the benefits of local, fresh eggs. When I worked in Holyoke, I had a volunteer who would bring me eggs from his chickens. They were various sizes and colors, but the eggs were the best tasting ones I ever had. I have seen a friend living in co-housing work with her neighbors to build a coop and raise chickens. I know that outside my city lines, there are lots of people owning small flocks for their families. When I started looking into it a couple years ago, I discovered that you cannot own them here in Worcester. Not that it has stopped some people, but anyone discovered has had the chickens removed. After a few conversations, I was put in touch with one city counselor who was interested in this endeavor also.

After a year of meetings, research, contacting people I never met: we are on the brink. Tomorrow night I will attend a City Council meeting to show support for a committee to look into approving an ordinance (based on one that I wrote) to allow residents to own chickens within city limits. I will speak to government officials and others who will gather that night and hopefully support this action moving forward. It isn't definite, but it is possible.

I am not the kind of person who usually says "Why not?" I am not the person who tries to initiate change. But something has happened in my old age: I have started to care. Somehow I learned to drop the fear of "what if they say no and think I am crazy?" to "what is the worst that can happen, I already KNOW I am crazy!".

I have found my voice.