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Why Urban Farming Reporting Doesn’t Include Animals

There has been a lot of talk about the merits of urban farming recently in the news, but very few people have actually made the leap of conscious thought to understand that a huge amount of the food we eat as western civilizations is meat or animal products such as dairy or eggs.

So why are none of the reports of urban agriculture touching on this critical fact?

Because they think its a joke. Surely, in their mind, no one in their right mind would actually attempt to grow enough food for their family on their land, or even in any way reach a worthwhile percentage of the food they consume on an annual basis. “Folks”, I hear them say, “its called gardening not farming”. Farming in their mind is what happens out of town, you know “out of sight – out of mind”, and that is exactly why the return to a sense of ownership over the food we consume.

With E-Coli outbreaks, listeriosis, trans fats, chemical additives, hormomes, antibiotics, cloning and genetically modified products is it any wonder that many thoughtful people are considering alternatives that just might be healthier? And what about the price of fuel? Can we really expect to get bananas for 50 cents a pound in the middle of BC in the dead of winter?

But animals such as goats, chickens and cows have been a key part of the food system for centuries, and it’s only in the last 120 years that there has been a shift away from associating the food with the animal it came from. Most adults don’t give a second thought to the animals and effort behind a bacon and egg roll, and many kids are so far removed from the agricultural roots of their food that they just aren’t sure where milk comes from or beef, or maybe even chicken and fish. I’m not saying that everyone needs to go out and learn how to slaughter a chicken this week, (although it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea!), but a major shift is on the way, from perfectly cut meat neatly packed on little white Styrofoam trays with special packs to absorb the blood, cause that just might be too much of a reminder of where it all comes from. The shift is, out of necessity going to move towards a diet with less meat, but the meat that is eaten will likely be raised and slaughtered locally.

With all the “happy talk” about urban farming goodness – lets not forget that animals play a large role in agriculture, and maybe there should be more reporting on how people are trying to get animals back into the cities.

Not the most fun post I’ve written, I know, but with all the mess of giant processing plants, meat regulations that screw the small producers, a culture that has an aversion to blood and animals, but eats beef and chicken in ever increasing quantities, some thing has to be said about it, and something has to be done. Support local agriculture, including animal production, and support urban dwellers who have enough land to happily raise a few chickens, goats, pigs or cattle, we can all learn something from farms in the city.

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.