ypsi chickens

I was sworn to secrecy a few weeks ago about an impending act of civil disobedience. A fellow here in Ypsi, I was told, was getting ready to challenge the city ordinance that says we cannot raise chickens within the city limits. I was told the chickens were going to arrive on Memorial Day… Well, I guess the cat’s out of the bag. The “Ann Arbor News” just recently ran a story on Peter Thomason and his nefarious plan to disrupt Ypsi civic life. Here’s a clip:

…The Ypsilanti City Council already told him no last year. But Thomason, whose hens are due to arrive by Memorial Day, says he has state law on his side.

Since the council’s rejection, Thomason said he has been researching the issue and discovered that the Michigan Right to Farm Act permits farm activities in residential areas. “I don’t need the city’s approval,” Thomason said. “(State law) trumps everything.”

But assistant city attorney Carl Barr does not share Thomason’s position, saying that he is not interpreting the law correctly. Barr said the farm act only deals with zoning, whereas the city’s animal ordinance – which covers health and safety issues – states that no one is allowed to keep domestic fowl within the city limits…

I personally like the idea… or, to be more specific, I like the idea of responsible people being able to raise chickens on their property. I add that note about it being done responsibly because of personal experience. There was this house I used to pass every day on my way to school when I was a kid in New Jersey. The family there raised dogs, goats, chickens, ducks — you name it. They’d nail cardboard signs to the trees facing traffic announcing the various critters they had for sale. The place was a wreck. I remember seeing goats and chickens passing through the front door of the ramshackle house, being chased by filthy children, on many occasions. It was a madhouse, and there were always dead things laying about — people, chickens and dogs who had run out into traffic. Anyway, when I hear about people pushing for the right to raise chickens within the city limits, I’m tempted to throw my enthusiastic support behind them, but then I remember this dilapidated house, covered in its rich patina of chicken feces. For the record, however, I’m in favor of downtown chickens, if there’s a way to police it. Anything that brings food production closer to home, and removes factory farms from the cycle, I think, is a good thing. I just think we need to be ready for the inevitable — one of our neighbors doing a really shitty job of it.

This entry was posted in Observations. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

121 Comments

  1. Kate L
    Posted May 19, 2007 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Hens and bees: Now more than ever!

  2. UBU
    Posted May 19, 2007 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    possum taste better!

  3. schutzman
    Posted May 19, 2007 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    When i was little, I didn’t live next to a chicken farm, but when I was 15, I went to an “Art Theatre” and saw “Pink Flamingos,” which probably had a similar effect on my psyche.

    I’m against the ordinance, myself, because I don’t have the faith in a circa 2007 american human being to handle something like this. In ypsi, specifically, I’ve seen too many people who can’t even handle owning a dog, and in a city that reportedly has several dozen pet alligators (which should technically violate our exotic animal ordinance), I doubt that our “code enforcers” could handle keeping up with making sure everything was being done correctly, safely, humanely, etcetera.

    In the interest of full disclosure, i should clarify that I’ve worked with chickens, i’ve lived with several for short periods (including a rooster), and I have nothing against them, personally (which, I might add, is why I don’t eat them). They just seem like a bad idea here, now, by my estimation.

    oh, and since somebody else is bound to mention it:

    AVIAN INFLUENZA

  4. Kate
    Posted May 19, 2007 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Ooh, boy. Like Mark, I have reservations. Chicken feces have – let’s see, what’s a polite way of putting this – an odor all its own and being downwind can cause serious inhalation problems, plus watering eyes, because ammonia makes up a great part of it.

    Plus, bird feces are great breeding grounds for the histoplasmosis fungus and if a person breaths some of that in – which one is likely to do if the feces dry and the fungal spores scatter – that person can get very, very sick. Often, scarring of the hungs occurs. And histoplasmosis is really very common in the U. S.

    Of course, the trick is to make the chicken feces are properly disposed of. But, if Mr. Thomason plans to let his chickens range free, I’m not sure how he would do that.

  5. Ol' E Cross
    Posted May 19, 2007 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve wanted to be a chicken thief. And to think, I’d almost given up on the dream…

  6. dan
    Posted May 19, 2007 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Get a chicken or two or three! They’ll eat your excess
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoM4WWrxgr0

  7. Deadhand Dan
    Posted May 20, 2007 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    “I’m a one-eyed Teague and I got one eye.” – Fly Fornification Jones, circa 1989.

  8. mark
    Posted May 20, 2007 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    Deadhand Dan is referring to a song that I we wrote many years ago about the family that lived in that house… If I can find a digital version, I’ll post it here. It’s pretty terrible, even by my standards.

  9. mark
    Posted May 20, 2007 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    OK, here’s a version.

  10. murph
    Posted May 20, 2007 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I don’t know where Thomason lives, or how big his yard is, but the 12 chickens (stated in the article) sounds like a lot. I’d think something like 2 or 3 to a household would be a lot more defensible in terms of household economics vs. nuisance potential. A dozen chickens in a backyard is unnecessary unless you’re planning on selling eggs, and also creates waste management problems. Two or three chickens in a backyard can supply your household with some eggs; disperse some of the waste around the yard enough during forage that it serves as “fertilizer” rather than “pollution”, and create a small enough amount of concentrated waste in a coop to be manageable.

    As someone who has raised chickens before, and who is familiar with other small scale poultry raising, I can say that, yes, they do have the potential to create a nuisance, but they can also be taken care of well and not create a nuisance. (Also as someone who has raised chickens before, I give about a 50/50 chance that coyotes take care of Thomason’s first batch of chickens before the City Attorney has a chance to…)

    IANAL, but I’m extremely skeptical of Thomason’s reading of the Right to Farm Act – I think that buying 12 chickens and citing the Right to Farm Act as defense is cruising for a losing lawsuit. Buying 3 chickens, and sticking to some of the other legal rationales he’s proposed in the past would probably be less likely to result in his winding up in court. In my mind, 3 backyard chickens constitute an essential part of an urban food system; 12 backyard chickens constitute in-your-face grandstanding meant only to tempt a test case.

  11. dan
    Posted May 20, 2007 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Small flocks of 305 is probably what a backyard can handle. If people compost their chicken poop, the smell will be mild and they will have amazing compost! Austin doesn’t allow roosters, which is probably smart.

  12. paulg
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Come on Mark, post the real version of One Eyed Teague. :)

  13. Kurt A>
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I grew up in Ypsilanti and when I was a kid (mid/late 70s) the Ypsilanti Farm Bureau would bring in thousands of birds. My guess would be that many would end up in backyard ‘farms.’ On more than one occasion my sister and I would bring home chickens or ducks (surprisingly they would sell them to a 6 and 7 year old). There was one house on River St. that kept 20+ chickens and it was never a problem. Get your chickens and let your neighbors decide if they can stay or go. I don’t think the city has the money for a poultry inspector.

  14. jason
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    “It was a madhouse, and there were always dead things laying about –people, chickens and dogs who had run out into traffic.”

    Seriously, there we’re dead people lying about? I mean I know you grew up in New Jersey;), but dead people?

  15. Posted May 21, 2007 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I grew up in South Jersey and I’d have to confirm the dead people. They were turning up all the time in the meadowlands. (That’s our polite term for swamp, btw.) Cruising back through those creeks and bays as a teen, I was always terrified some body would bob up. Actually, the worst that ever happened was getting bitten on the toe by a blue crab and getting pinged by those lil green jellyfish…

  16. Posted May 21, 2007 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    And I’m for the chickens. Not that I would ever house any in my garage or fenced back yard. Nope. Haven’t been pricing out nest boxes either. Nor has anyone mentioned to me that THEY might be planning any similar civil disobediance. Not hardly. Nor have I been browsing any chicken catalogs. Nor debating meat birds over hybrids over egg layers.

  17. Anonymatt
    Posted May 22, 2007 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I’ve driven by the house in my lifetime at least as often as Mark has, and I don’t remember seeing any corpses lying around, either animal or people. It’s conceivable that Mark saw some dead animals at some point, but to say “there were always dead things laying about” is an exaggeration. The rest of his descriptions seem accurate to me, though.

    I immediately thought of the same house when I started reading this post and wasn’t surprised that Mark brought it up as an example.

    There were not lots of murders and bodies turning up in Northern New Jersey where we lived. South Jersey may vary.

  18. schutzman
    Posted May 22, 2007 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    anonymatt, clearly mark must have the sixth sense.

  19. dr. teddy glass
    Posted May 22, 2007 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Why couldn’t they have had YouTube back when I used to smoke dope? That “chicken eating a pancake” thing would have kept me entertained for hours.

  20. paulg
    Posted May 23, 2007 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    Regarding the chicken house, I did take some pictures of it the last time I was in NJ, and I have to say that it was much improved from how I remembered it. I later found out that it had burned down (maybe a goat knocked over an oil lamp?) and the local community had pitched in funds to rebuild it. In the process the house was considerably gentrified. The new place had grass in the front yard rather than dirt, and no longer was actual livestock for sale- the only items available were a truck trailer, some firewood, and a rabbit coop.

    There was, however, a rooster (but only one) strutting across the front yard in one of my pictures. So the occupants had not completely changed their ways.

  21. Anonymatt
    Posted May 23, 2007 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    And now those photos are the most treasured part of paulg’s art collection.

  22. mark
    Posted May 23, 2007 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    I actually didn’t misspeak when I made the comment about there being dead people. I did exagerate a bit though. There was at least one death that I know of. I was driving by as they were putting a member ofthe family into an ambulance. He was struck by a car and killed, right in front of the house. And, as for animals, there were always one or two on the side of the road.

  23. Peter Thomason
    Posted June 1, 2007 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Hello all –

    There will be an open house to meet the chickens in the near future. Will try to answer any and all questions you may have at that time. Will keep you posted. Thanks for your interest in sustainable urban agriculture and home economics!

  24. Rodneyn
    Posted June 6, 2007 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I’m no friend of chicken poop, but a few chickens seems like a fairly innocuous activity. With the unholy speed that my grass keeps growing this spring, I’m considering bringing in several goats to keep it short. With gas prices these days, who can afford to mow twice a week!???

  25. Robert
    Posted July 11, 2007 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Good, phase one is nearly complete.

    Next, we follow the Key West model and push an ordenance through that allows them to roam the streets of Ypsilanti, unmolested.

    Well, I doubt the chickens in Key West are all going unmolested, but you know what I mean.

    Cats and Chickens are protected wild animals in Key West. I know there is a hilarious joke in there somewhere about cocks and pussies roaming free, but I’m not smart enough to have thought of it.

    True story:
    I actually had to stop my car at an airport crosswalk in Key West to allow a rooster to cross from the parking lot to the terminal. So, why did the chicken cross the road? Apparently to catch the 7:30 shuttle to Miami.

  26. Posted January 23, 2008 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    For those who came on the Tour de Fresh in the Fall, I believe that most fears about the chickens have been put to rest. Visit our blog to see how we are doing it(lots of pictures there). Most people have no idea that we have chickens or goats or rabbits because they are very quiet and we manage the manure well. If you would like to come for a real visit instead of a virtual one just call ahead or send me an email

  27. egpenet
    Posted January 23, 2008 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Exactly. The phrase “little pecker” comes to mind. Who cares? Gobble, gobble.

  28. Daniel
    Posted April 11, 2008 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    I happen to be a neighbor of the “chicken man”. And while I support his efforts to feed himself and his family I have to disagree with his reading of the law and his right to maintain a farm within the city limits. He is eager to sell his eggs ($3.50 a doz. was the price I was quoted) whick makes it a “business” and not the “sharing” he described in his hippie blather which was recently published in the A2 news.

    I run a four unit rental property next to his and I cannot assume my current or future tenants are going to be as happy about the livestock next door. This reduces the pool of potential tenants for me. And my house is zoned as a rental and was a long time before Pete got the silly idea into his head to have his own chickens, lay their eggs in his own back yard…

    So much for gauzy haze of nostalgia Pete sees much of the world through. It would be nice if his sense of “interconnectedness” extended beyond his own tomato vines.

  29. egpenet
    Posted April 11, 2008 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I’d like to know what Pete “pops” to obtain that “gauzy haze.” Come’on, Pete, share!

  30. Posted April 12, 2008 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Hello Daniel-

    The eggs are $3 a dozen not $3.50 for those who want to buy them. We also sell produce that we grow here. We are a farm business – you are right – and I have been very upfront about that. We meet the IRS and the USDA definitions of a farm and so we file a Schedule F with our 1040. Is there something wrong with that? You have a rental business to supplement your day job, so do I.

    We are doing this to feed ourselves but also to demonstrate what is possible to do on a small piece of land instead of just accepting the negative forecasts of those who say we are running out of resources. We share what we are doing freely with others who are interested in doing the same thing. If you actually knew us you would know that. Why not get to know us before making comments on a public forum about my seeing things through a “gauzy haze.” I may choose to see possibilities where others only see negativity but that is what motivates me to action instead of apathy. We have been taxpaying citizens of Ypsilanti for twenty years. We co-founded Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley; we both served for years with HOPE clinic, a free medical service for the uninsured. We’re normal people involved with our family and friends and jobs and working to make our community a better place. We have invested heavily in restoring our home so that when people like yourself came looking for investment property here in Ypsilanti a few years ago property values were far greater than what they were when we bought ours.

    As I said to you the other day, if you want to talk about something I’m more than happy to have a conversation with you. There is no need for ad hominem comments here. I’m easy to talk with. And, remember, by your own admission, my dog (a perfectly legal animal according to the city’s ordinance) is more annoying than any of our other critters have ever been because she barks occasionally at people she does not know or if she sees something suspicious going on.

    By the way, what is “hippie blather?” I teach building technology and construction management at EMU so that term is a little too esoteric for me. I do appreciate that you identified yourself. I find it disingenuous and pretty silly that so many people take potshots at others with inane comments on blogs by hiding behind either anonymity or unintelligible pseudonyms. At least I can reply to you and know that you will still wave hello to me in the morning.

    Your neighbor

  31. Posted April 13, 2008 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    We get our eggs from a family we’ve known from years in Ypsi Twnshp. The eggs are much fresher than what we get in stores and we appreciate the difference. I’d love not to have to drive as far to get our eggs. I’d love chickens next store to me. (I’ve said too much. Now it’s apparent that I am unnaturally delighted by chickens.) I want chickens, too. The homey noises they make would help drown out or counter act those cars that drive by with that earth thumping low base booming into the neighborhood, and the harsh, gutteral noises a neighbor makes to control his poor dog’s existence.

  32. egpenet
    Posted April 13, 2008 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Still haven’t discovered what gives Peter that “gauzy haze.” Love some.

  33. Daniel
    Posted April 14, 2008 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    Hey Pete,

    A few points of clarification.

    1. I didn’t attack you ad homimen. I referred to your writing as “hippie blather”. And I described your perspective – “gauzy haze of nostalgia”. But I did not attack you as a person. If for example, I called you (and this is for demonstration purposes only) a “selfish jerk” – that would be an attack on your person.

    2. Definition of Hippie Blather:

    From Ask.com: A person who opposes and rejects many of the conventional standards and customs of society, especially one who advocates extreme liberalism in sociopolitical attitudes and lifestyles.

    Blather:
    To talk nonsensically.

    3. At no point in your business development did you talk to me about how this might affect me – both as an actual neighbor and as a business owner. Isn’t that something a good neighbor might do? Particularly when your business might negatively impact mine.

    While I admire your civic involvement your good guy resume’ does nothing to change the fact that you are violating city code. Period.

    In your reply you said:

    “We are doing this to feed ourselves but also to demonstrate what is possible to do on a small piece of land instead of just accepting the negative forecasts of those who say we are running out of resources.” [hippie blather]

    What the heck does that mean…? The negative forecasts of “those” who say we are running out of resources?

    So you’re doing this to make a point? My neighbor, the rebel with a farm. Geez, I think if you would have put this kind of time and energy into your house you would have surely found a buyer by now.

    I think you should appreciate my “seeing possibility where others only seen negativity” in buying my house when others are not exactly rushing to invest in Ypsi. Ironically, your vision of opportunity could impact mine negatively and reduce it’s actual value. (Yes Pete, not everyone loves god’s creatures as much as you and may not want to live in close proximity to them. Or buy an investment property that is right next to them).

    Ultimately, I admire what you are doing – just not WHERE you are doing it. I recently read “in defense of food” and it made me think of you. I have a lot of respect for anyone who takes the time to grow their own food. I love chicken eggs – I buy mine from Whole foods – only $2.70. Who knows, if you move to the township and do the farm thing where it’s allowed – maybe I’ll buy some eggs and support the cause…

  34. Posted April 15, 2008 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Daniel-

    Thanks for the clarifications. Aside from the ideological or hypothetical questions, what actual or real problem is being caused from your perspective? You do not appear to lack for tenants and many of them are fond of the animals. The question of “where” I do this is ultimately important, you are right. But what do you find objectionable?

    pt

    pt

  35. Posted April 15, 2008 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Oh, by the way, I was under the impression that we had been talking all along. We have had very pleasant conversations about goat-milk kefir, eggs, rain barrels for harvesting rain water from your garage roof, your donations of organic material to our composting efforts, etc. As for discussing a business plan, I’m not sure that good neighborliness requires that level of disclosure. If I have a state protected right to grow and raise my own food wherever I am – as I contend – then the issue, it seems to me, is whether I am doing two things: 1) following GAAMPS (generally acceptable agricultural management practices)like other city property owners engaged in agricultural activities and, 2) being aware of my neighbors’ rights to enjoy their property.

    As far as I can tell, I have not been remiss in either regard.

    pt

  36. egpenet
    Posted April 15, 2008 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Ah, Spring!

    If the birds would just get TO IT, I can resume climbing the trees along our Riverside Park hillside, raiding nests for Chikadee, Robin, Cowbird and Oriole eggs for my morning omelets. Takes about fifty of those little buggers for a decent breakfast. But it IS worth the effort.

  37. Daniel
    Posted April 15, 2008 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Pete,

    I don’t think it’s wise to wait for a problem to happen before I raise my concern. In fact it would be foolish to do so. As a builder I would assume you could appreciate this. Would you construct a building with inferior materials and say “well – I haven’t had any problems yet”? Who knows – maybe you would.

    You are right – we have talked all along. I might go as far as to say I’ve enjoyed some of your eco-friendly yibble yabble. I wouldn’t have expected you to inform me of your actual business plan – but at least have a discussion on how this might impact your neighbors. I recall you informing me of your plans – but not asking how I felt about it or how it might fit along side my rental situation.

    But no, Pete’s got a point to prove. City ordinace won’t stop him, his neihbor’s concerns (apparently) are irrelevant and gosh darn it – the grandkids think the animals are so “cute”…

    Touching…really touching.

    You can waive around the RTFA all you want. I’ve spoken with the dept. of Agriculture and they don’t seem to concur with your premise. They even referenced this section of the law:

    (5) Except as provided in subsection (6), this act does not affect the application of state statutes and federal
    statutes.

    Also..(2) A farm or farm operation shall not be found to be a public or private nuisance if the farm or farm
    operation existed before a change in the land use or occupancy of land within 1 mile of the boundaries of the
    farm land, and if before that change in land use or occupancy of land, the farm or farm operation would not
    have been a nuisance.

    You see, your property (did not exist as a farm) is not a farm and probably won’t ever be zoned for agriculture. I think the law was meant to protect existing farms from others trying to limit thier activites. But what do I know about the law.
    Perhaps we’ll need to get some clarification on this matter.

    I look forward to future discussion.
    Your neighbor,
    Daniel

  38. Posted April 15, 2008 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    Hmmmm, Pete, I guess you’re gonna have to drag the potential problems out of Daniel, since he’s not going to offer any thoughts on how he’s impacted. If my neighbor was up to something that I found so objectionable, I wouldn’t wait to let him know what I felt, even if the subject was rain barrels, goat kefir or something else!

    Personally, I think calling these ideas “yibble yabble” and “hippie blather” is just plain disrespectful and, frankly, childish. Belittling and dismissing his ideas doesn’t change their merit. The twin challenges of global warming (changing our growing conditions) and oil depletion (causing higher and higher shipping prices) might mean we’d all do well to explore options beyond the industrial food system.

  39. Posted April 15, 2008 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Well said Lisele.

    Daniel, I really am glad that you started this public discussion because these are important questions for communities to talk and think about. I could have talked a lot beforehand about what to expect in theory but you would still not have known the reality. I still do not know what your actual objections are.

    As for the RTFA, the Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld its protections three times in the last few years for agriculturally-based businesses located in residentially zoned urban areas whether or not they were ever or are now farms. The principle issue is whether GAAMPS are being followed. I tried to do my homework.

    The bottom line to me is not whether the city allows me to do this but whether I have a natural, legally protected right to do it. If I do have that right, and I am not doing anything that violates common decency, creates noise problems or other concerns for my neighbors, what’s the issue?

    pt

  40. Daniel
    Posted April 15, 2008 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    The two main problems. To be precise – are the fact that a homegrown farm next door might deter future tenants. Secondly, the value of my home is being impacted. If I needed to sell other investors might not want to buy a rental next to a mirco-farm. That is a very real threat to the value of my home – period.

    Once again, this is not personal – it’s business. As a tax paying citizen I have right to complain.

    I like Pete and his family they are pretty cool neighbors – but I also have a vested interest in the value of my home.

    Hippie blather and yibble yabble were not used in a pejorative manner. C’mon have a sense of humor. Then you turn around and call me “childish” – that’s kinda funny. Using childing. I don’t feel that’s a particular insulting either.

    Hey if Pete and I engage in some lively banter – so much the better. If that’s all people did – exchange some tersely worded emails – the world would be a better place.

    I think even Pete would agree.

  41. Daniel
    Posted April 15, 2008 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Wow, that’s funny. That last email was written before I saw Pete’s last reply. I was replying more to Lisele.

    I agree, this is just an issue that needs to be clarified. If Ypsi does not have the right to enforce it’s own code then so be it. I’ll do my best to co-exist.

  42. Posted April 15, 2008 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Well, ANY neighbor might have any number of practices that might impact who wants to rent from you, Daniel. I have a bright pink house near me. I wouldn’t want to buy or rent next to that. But I certainly wouldn’t deny the owner his right to choose the color of his house. What about people who have objectionable kids? Bad pets? Poor taste in garden statuary? An Aztek? I have a neighbor who cemented a tombstone into his front stoop — yet, I don’t object because that’s his right. It’s the nature of living in a diverse community. I actually like the diversity, if not the tombstone.

    I think those terms were definitely used in a dismissive, objectionable manner. But childish only means “in the manner of a child.” Perhaps you intended to act that way, but I don’t find it a respectful way of communicating.

  43. Stella
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    OK I would like some clarification, how many chickens are we talking about here? Is there a rooster on site? I assume that the chickens are the main issue? There is some extensive gardening as well? Is that part of the issue? If so is it because of “natural” fertilizers?

    I am, for once, not being snarky or facetious. I am genuinely interested.

  44. Posted April 16, 2008 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Lisele-
    I agree. The art of civil discourse is important. Many bloggers don’t know or practice it nor do we learn it in school for the most part. I also find other properties in my neighborhood not to my liking but there isn’t much I can do about them either.

    Stella-
    If you visit my farm blog you should be able to see most of what we are doing. We also invite people over all the time to see the real thing. We do not have a rooster but we have a number of pullets (young, egg-laying hens), dairy goats, extensive raised garden beds, and composting systems (that do not smell). We also do some rain-water harvesting.

    As part of my research work in urban redevelopment, building systems, and sustainable building practices, I have constructed various temporary structures. I incorporate what I am learning through my research into various courses I teach at EMU and in a private school. I also write about my research and publish it while engaging in dialogue about urban agriculture issues with others around the country who are doing similar research.

    Daniel-
    I hear your concerns, I really do. There are many forces and variables at work in the matrix of calculating property values. However, appraisers really only look at what other similar houses are selling for in an area when giving their bottom line. A lot really depends on whether a particular property appeals to a buyer – for a whole lot of reasons. The interesting twist here is that another house in our neighborhood, that had been on the market for a long time and had lost value because of the generally depressed housing market, just sold. I spoke to the buyers because they came over to see the animals and fell in love with them. It is my impression that they bought here because of the wonderful and unique qualities of our little south-side urban neighborhood. Our micro farm seems to be one of the unique features that clinched the deal for them.

    Value is an interesting thing and often hard to quantify in monetary terms.

    pt

  45. Stella
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Thanks for some clarification Peter T. I will check your link later to get a better sense of what it entails
    Now if Daniel would be willing to relate to me his concerns I would be genuinely interested to know.
    Is it an aesthetic issue? A noise issue? A smell issue? A property value issue?

    I ask because I have tried to do a lot of community building in my own neighborhood and have found it difficult to try to help negotiate what is important and valuable to very different people. I feel like the more I can learn about peoples expectations and desires will help in my own future efforts. I guess that means I am being a little selfish here in asking. But I like to think I’m being selfish on behalf of all the people in neighborhoods who need to build community to get us all through the next squeeze.

  46. Posted April 16, 2008 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Stella-

    If you would like to visit just let me know. That goes for you too Lisele.

    pt

  47. Daniel
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Lisele, The comment about the Aztek was very funny. I thought I was the only person who thought they were kinda ugly.

    But the rest of your argument was specious. I could care less if Pete painted his house pink, or if he had tombstones in his yard. He doesn’t – he has livestock.

    As Kate said above: “Plus, bird feces are great breeding grounds for the histoplasmosis fungus and if a person breaths some of that in – which one is likely to do if the feces dry and the fungal spores scatter – that person can get very, very sick. Often, scarring of the hungs occurs. And histoplasmosis is really very common in the U. S.”

    This is not a trivial concern. It is very real and should be taken seriously.

    Stella, my concerns have been detailed in the last few posts. Aesthetics are a non-issue. The property value, noise and
    smell are my main concerns.

    Pete, I think you have quite the imagination if you really believe that some people were willing to plunk down over a hundred thousand dollars because they “fell in love” your animals. Perhaps they do apprciate a diverse neighborhood – but I really doubt your animals clinched the deal.

  48. Peanut Gal
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    I just wanted to chime in and keep the contestants informed as to spectator reaction, since you can’t hear applause or boos on these blog thingies.

    Peter is winning, because he seems more amiable, and people like animals. Daniel is coming across as hostile, or at least dour. Also, people don’t like landlords as much as animals. You might want to work on your crowd-winning skills, as this is a democracy and stupid people like me still get to vote. I mean this criticism constructively, as I’m not sure Daniel is actually in the wrong. Just something to chew on.

  49. egpenet
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Daniel isn’t dour, exactly; but his trash is always filled with KFC buckets … and THAT’S got the chickens worried.

    Me, I’m worried about H5N1.

    BOTH sides of this issue have me concerned.

  50. Daniel
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    I certainly can sound hostile. I realize that – but I’m trying to work on it. Anyone who knows me knows I’m pretty laid back in most respects. I also realize that “landlords” are seen as unforgiving and cold. But once again as anyone who knows me knows I have two small properties that I spend a lot of time and money to improve – and my only intention is to protect them. If anyone would like to visit the house I’m open to visitors….

    Also, the KFC is from my tenants… I don’t eat junk food. I’m a somewhat recent convert to whole foods. Which makes this whole situation even more ironic. As I said, I respect what Pete does for his family and his business. I just think he is doing it inappropriately on a city lot – against city ordinace – just to make his point.

    H5N1 is also a big concern…

  51. egpenet
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Humor, humor. (Mark, the LAUGHTER light is broken.)

  52. Stella
    Posted April 16, 2008 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Daniel, for clarifying. I was just having difficulty extracting the sort of, bottom line, concerns.

  53. Posted April 17, 2008 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    As someone who knows a little bit about histoplasmosis – I work in the construction industry as an IAQ (indoor air quality) consultant when I am not wearing my farming hat, I can and will speak to those concerns.

  54. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Peter, Daniel, it may be frustrating for you to have this conversation in public but I’ve been reading and find it helpful. So, thanks.

    Peter, as someone still trying to decide how I feel about urban chickens, could you help me with a couple things you’ve said?

    Your refer to the RTFA and that you believe you have the right to farm wherever you are. If the RTFA trumps local zoning, are there any limits the city could place on what types and quantities of likestock someone could raise? I’m little concerned about generally accepted practices being the standard.

  55. Posted April 17, 2008 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Dear Ol’ E Cross-

    I’m glad you have found this helpful. The issue is not a closed book at all. I believe that as free people we have a right to raise and to grow our own food. It goes with the rights to LLPH enshrined in our national charter alongside those specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights. The RTFA codifies it in Michigan and, from what I understand, there are versions of it in all fifty states.

    Rights like these are constantly being discussed in our national conversation, it’s part of being a democracy as I see it. How the right to farm plays out in a urban area is subject to various constraints, some natural some man made. A gated community or subdivision that has specific covenants which are voluntarily binding on its residents is different, as I see it, from a chartered municipality. In the evolution of our cities agricultural activities have always been allowed. Why certain cities have chosen, over time, to disallow certain things is an interesting topics as is zoning in general. I am not big on statutes and a lot of onerous ordinances. I believe, with the right tools, most people of good will can work out their differences non-violently and make concessions to each other. It’s part of living close to each other.

    I admit that I chose to do this, in part, to test the waters because I believe the future health of our communities depends on our ability to feed ourselves. It’s similar to the vital importance of having a good, reliable, local source of potable water.

    I think Ann Arbor is going the way of creating a beauracracy of it. I don’t know the whole answer to your question but I am enjoying the process of working it out on the grassroots level.

  56. Brackache
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    As we can see from the following source, which I’m sure we all accept as a credible authority, not only is histoplasmosis a threat regardless of whether urban chickens are outlawed or not, but it also makes you cooler:

    Johnny Cash – Beans For Breakfast

    I couldn’t hear you for the TV, I didn’t know you said goodbye
    I saw your cancelled check for the airfare, didn’t know flyin’ got too high
    Beans for breakfast once again, hard to eat ’em from the can.

    I’ve run out of clean utensils, I’m a hungry nasty lonesome man
    I heard the crows outside my window, guess it’s me they’re talkin’ about
    The fire you lit has burnt to cinders, every good things fizzled out
    Beans for beakfast once again, hard to eat ’em from the can.

    Wish you’d come back and wash the dishes, I’m a hungry nasty lonesome man
    Caught a cold with the window open, crow droppings on my window sill
    Probably got histoplasmosis, got no gun or I would kill them crows

    Beans for breakfast once again, hard to eat ’em from the can.

    Plastic forks are a dime a dozen I’m a hungry nasty lonesome man
    Finally made it to the mailbox, felt so bad I thought I’d die
    All I got was a bill from my doctor, well I guess flyin’ ain’t so high
    Bean for breakfat once again, hard to eat ’em from the can.

    Blue tick mattress cold and greasy, I’m a hungry nasty lonesome man
    The house burned down from the fire that I built, in your closet by mistake
    After I took all them pills, but I got out safe in my duck head overalls
    Beans for breakfast once again, I’m a hungry nasty lonesome man.

  57. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Peter,

    You said earlier that “I am not doing anything that violates common decency, creates noise problems or other concerns for my neighbors.” But, I’m a little unsettled by your relying on the RTFA because it was created precisely to allow farms to create the usual noise, dust, and odors without being shut down by the new subdivision down the road. I can appreciate that you’re not creating these problems for your neighbors but, if you’re correct about your application of the RTFA, you could create whatever nuisance you wanted and Daniel would have no recourse. I’m not saying anything about the benefits of urban farming, just that I’m concerned about implications of applying RTFA to urban settings and making farming activities the one thing exempt to nuisance laws.

    And Brackache. You’re right. Johnny Cash was the only man alive who could use histoplasmosis in a song and still come out sounding cool as hell.

  58. Daniel
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I’d just like to add that I’m really impressed with all the responses to my posts and the back and forth between Pete and I. I’m certainly not known in the community like Pete is and I prefer to keep to myself and mind my own business.

    Ol’ E Cross, you have hit the nail on the head. If one can simply cite the RTFA – then there is no way for me to address my concerns. But that is precisely what city ordinances do – set standards for “urban” communities.

    Pete is choosing to take a city lot and create his own “micro” farm. I happen to think Pete missed the class on how to calculate proportion. If you consider the facts: 6 goats, 12 or more chickens – an untold number of rabbits on a 1/10 acre – hmmm that might not qualify as “micro”. If anyone has any idea of the number of animals per acre on a conventional farm I’d love to hear it.

    Pete is very adept at wrapping his arguments up in friendly, non-threatening terms like “self-sufficiency” and “sustainability”. He speaks as if he needs to prove that you can feed yourself on a small plot of land. It’s quite possible and happening within a few miles of where we live…

    I agree with Pete, small, independent farming makes for healthy communities. I don’t think anyone is challenging that idea. It just happens that our townships allow it and our cities do not.

  59. thirdcity
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Peter, I for one would love to be a neighbor! I think that it’s way cool you don’t have to give up your lifestyle to live in the city.

    Our family lives in the township and though we have more acreage, we were told that ten were required to keep livestock. I am excited and impressed with your information and the management of your farm.

    Thanks for the inspiration, and taking on the challenge.

  60. Posted April 17, 2008 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    thirdcity,

    If you want to move into our neighborhood, there is lovely house right across the street from Peter. There are also several other homes in the area for sale, some with significant land as part of the property. So let us know if you are interested, be glad to give you a tour.

    Cheers!

    – Steve

  61. egpenet
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Steve:

    Perhaps an incentive of one she-goat and ten pullets if they make an offer that’s accepted. Small price to pay for repopulating the Historic Southside.

  62. Posted April 17, 2008 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Third City makes an important point: even the townships are very restrictive. The first time I heard about the RTFA was when a woman used it to defend having goats on a three or four acre twp site and was told she could not. Apparently she invoked the RTFA and won.

    As for relying on the language of the Michigan RTFA completely to defend what we are doing, I do not. What it does, and let me be clear about this, is to provide legal protection of a “right,” in the same way that the 1st amendment does. Obviously it goes into much more detail but so does all of the case law that we have as a result of debating the Bill of Rights for 200 years.

    If I relied just on the protection of the RTFA I would not be concerned about odors or noise but I am. The reason no one complains about these coming from our place is that I carefully tarp our compost to accelerate the “cooking” process but also, just as importantly, to suppress odors. I am doing this for myself and my neighbors. I also keep our hens in their coop until ten in the morning because they make noise when they are laying.I tell them they can go out and play when they have all of their work done. We are currently pondering how to deal with the possibility of more-than-desirable-noise from the mother goats if we separate them from the four kids during the night in order to be able to get 9 – 12 hours worth of “morning milk.”

    My point here is that common decency and respect for my neighbors plays an important role in informing how we operate. Dave Askins (Homeless Dave of the award winning Teeter-Totter Blog in Ann Arbor) suggests that having animals in the city does not need to be regulated by more ordinances and statutes. He says there are enough on the books already to address possible problems that might arise. I’ll try to put a link to his comments on another post unless someone else has it already.

  63. Posted April 17, 2008 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    I like the idea of micro farms and self reliance and sustainability. I also have a libertarian streak that thinks I should be able to do what I want on my own property. That said, I don’t think I’d want someone raising livestock next to me in the city.

    The idea of a few chickens in town sounds charming, and if it is done as Peter describes and there is really no odor or significant noise, it probably wouldn’t be a problem. However, if the practice was widespread, you know not all micro-farmers would be as conscientous. I imagine this is why local ordinances forbidding raising livestock in the city were passed – there must have been problems.

    Animals other than poultry bother me more. I cannot think of anyone raising rabbits for food without remembering Michael Moore’s “Roger and Me” and the woman in Flint killing and skinning a rabbit on camera. I think the sign in front of her house said, “Rabbits – Pets or Meat”. It probably didn’t help property values.

  64. Posted April 17, 2008 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Oh, another thing. Daniel, the amazing thing is that you are addressing your concerns right now to a listening and attentive audience. You would probably be more likely to get a considered response from us than you would from an ordinance. To me, ordinances are what you get when people stop talking or don’t have the tools for making compromises. To me, the Rule of Law doesn’t mean having more laws. Good grief, we can’t even enforce the ones we have, like excessive noise from all the motorcycles coming out the last few days.

  65. Posted April 17, 2008 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Our rabbits are raised for pets only. You can see them on http:thomasonfamilyfarm.blogspot.com
    along with the goats and chickens and our micro farm.

  66. egpenet
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Well, I guess that’s IT for my hassenpfeffer question.

  67. Mark H.
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Daniel, you ask about the # of animals on a “conventional farm,” and suggest that Peter is somehow exceeding that imagined number. Well…most American “conventiional” farms today have no livestock – farming is way too specialized for the old habits of raising grain and a few animals. Today it’s super concentrations of livestock in feed lots, or acres of crops…..But historically, and by that I mean for most of the time since the Agricultural Revolution, humans farmed small plots of land, and animal husbandry certainly allowed as many or more animals on farms no larger than what today might be a big yard. indeed, the basic motivation for raising animals along with plants is that together animals and plants could more efficiently produce food for humans out of the same plot of land. Of course, i am generalizing here, and making no qualifications for climate, crop, or moment in time; but rest assured, Daniel, that Peter’s farming methods are neither unprecedented nor unsustainable. And the move toward urban farming is widespread today, across this continent. Not a bad way to go, given the growing uncertainity over food supplies and food prices, and the ecological harm done transporting agribusiness products vast distances. Hope this quick history lesson isn’t too pedantic, and that it’s persuasive.

  68. Posted April 17, 2008 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    In regard to a comment from: egpenet [Visitor]
    Still haven’t discovered what gives Peter that “gauzy haze.” Love some.

    Egpenet (whoever you are)since you keep asking, it’s just warm fresh goat’s milk with raw egg mixed in. Bottoms up!

  69. mark
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m all for urban farming, but, like OEC pointed out, there has to be a limit. While I might like a few neighborhood chickens, the thought of a hog processing plant next door doesn’t warm my heart. I suppose it’ll eventually have to go to the courts. In the meantime, I wanted to thank you all for chiming in here. This is a damned fine conversation and I’m happy to be hosting it. I’m glad to have you all as my neighbors. You’re good people on both sides of this debate.

  70. egpenet
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    Peter, please say there’s a little scotch in there. Please.

  71. Daniel
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Mark – thanks for creating/maintaining such a cool site. I’ve been impressed at the amount of feedback.

  72. Posted April 17, 2008 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Leave out the raw egg, add 1/2 cup honey and a tablespoon of yeast to 1 quart of fresh warm goat’s milk, let sit in a warm place for ten hours and voila – milk beer. Wearing gauze while you drink it is optional unless of course there are lots of mosquitos about.

    So, if we have a right to raise and to grow our own food, and the RTFA does not go far enough in defining the way that the right can be exercised in urban (or sub-urban) areas, how do we come to some agreement about an amicable way of doing it without creating burdensome and onerous regulations?

    Any historical examples we can draw on for this Professor H?

  73. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 17, 2008 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    Peter,

    I appreciate what you’re doing, i.e., demonstrating that farm animals can be raised in urban settings with no less disturbance than dogs or foul-mouthed children. I’m being quite honest when I say I’d rather have your goats next door than some of the dogs folks I know have lived next too (I’ve been lucky, thus far). And, I’d take your chickens over some of the neighbors I’ve had (not in Ypsi, mind you, you’re all good stuff).

    You mention that Homeless Dave “says there are enough on the books already to address possible problems that might arise.” Again, the problem with citing RTFA is it overrides the local books. I’m not talking about your farm’s practice or intentions, I’m thinking more of long-term public policy implications as well as strategy and PR for you.

    I think a lot of us would be glad to have you and your herds as neighbors. But many of us, maybe yourself included, can recall neighbors who we would dread having livestock.

    I think you’re doing it well. And, when you can also demonstrate that you can get folks who have excessively loud dogs and tailpipes to sit down, talk and compromise instead of chucking bottles when I ask them to turn the midnight madness down, I might be ready to believe we don’t need ordinances for chickens and their furry friends. But, like you said, people don’t follow ordinances. If the courts decide you’re right about RTFA, they won’t have to.

    I’m okay with changing the city code to allow for chickens (goats? maybe. give me some time) but not without oversight/ordinance control.

    EgPenet. How does the Historic District Commission work? Could the city develop a similar volunteer committee granting permits and doing annual inspections for folks with pets more palatable than cat or dog (or maybe just inspecting if a complaint arises)?

  74. Posted April 18, 2008 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    How about this: all someone needs to do to raise livestock in their yard is agree (in the public record) to bearing half the cost of resolving any dispute that might arise between him and a neighbor. This alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process would begin with mediation which, for those unfamiliar with the process, is a simple facilitated activity lead by trained mediators (like myself) in which the disputing parties have to work out the issues together, assuming they have not been able to resolve them previously. If mediation is unsuccessful, the next step would be arbitration. If the arbitration process is unsuccessful, the last resort would be to move the dispute to a court of equity.

    However, the parties would not be “The City of Ypsilanti v. Thomason” because I had broken a city ordinance but “neighbor X v.Thomason.”
    Throughout the whole process, the onus would be on the parties to resolve the dispute amicably because they would have to share the cost of the ADR process.

    Instead of criminalizing “violations” of the Right to Farm – assuming it is a Right – this process would require that the parties engage in discussion over what is “fair” or, as the name of the court system indicates, what is equitable.

    Doing it this way does several things: 1) agreeing to this process as the stipulation for engaging in the Right to Farm does not compromise the Right but simply acknowledges that we live in close proximity to one another and have an obligation to respect other’s rights to the enjoyment of their property; 2)it encourages dialogue prior to beginning the raising of livestock because there would be real potential costs associated with not doing it well or, being a jerk about it; 3) it gets rid of the burden of enforcement that a city would incur by creating ordinances and puts the burden on the neighbors; 4) by having the farmer bear half the cost it would make him think twice about not doing things well but by having the objecting party bear half the cost it would make him think twice about taking it to ADR instead of trying to work things out first; 5) it encourages participatory democracy instead of relying on government agencies to solve or resolve our problems for us.

  75. Nosy McGee
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    How about this: all someone needs to do to raise livestock in their yard is agree (in the public record) to bearing half the cost of resolving any dispute that might arise between him and a neighbor.

    I can imagine this going horribly awry if a neighbor is really, really upset.

  76. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Peter,

    6) creates a system that is most advantageous to those with the greatest financial resources.

    I assume that the ADR cost would be substantial since you mention the cost would motivate folks to find other resolutions. (How much are talking about?) I don’t want to be put in the place where I have to pay half the cost for something a bad neighbor is doing. And, if wealthier neighbors wanted to stop their low-income neighbors from raising chickens, couldn’t they bankrupt them by filing one spurious charge after another?

    You have to realize how little, if any, many of your neighbors have from check to check. Paying for ADR resolution would make resolution unattainable for some.

  77. Posted April 18, 2008 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    It’s actually a “system” that already exists parallel to the courts of law. In this country we have three court systems: military, law, and equity. For the most part, it is equitable and creates a level playing field at the lower levels. It can go awry at the litigation level no doubt. I suggest it as an alternative, especially the mediation and arbitration components because it makes communication a priority.

    Let’s face it, we do not have to consider the worst case scenario in order to find a way of dealing with the most common problems that would come up. Anyone really interested in hog farming is not going to do it on a large scale in a city though I could see someone wanting to have a couple.

  78. Daniel
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    Pete,

    Did you try ADR with the city of Ypsilanti? When they said “no” to changing the city ordinance?

    If not, you would appear to be a hypocrite.

    Perhaps you can clarify what attempts were made by you to communicate or otherwise resolve this dispute (with the city) before you decided to be a rebel and order your livestock.

  79. Posted April 18, 2008 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    It’s a little more dififcult trying to use ADR with a corporate legislative body than with an individual. As long as the city believes it has the right to legislate the Right to Farm my only real recourse would have been to take the issue to the people through a long, expensive, and cumbersome process. ADR works best where there is at least some semblance of a level playing field, like between neighboring property owners. I was actually denied due process by the city – they did not even follow their own regulations for changing an ordinance. I considered taking the city to a court of equity but, in the process of pondering what to do, discovered that the RTFA appeared to be on my side.

    I’m not sure how that would be hypocritical since I did approach the city first, the way I was told to, to amend the ordinance but was shut down by a premature vote engineered by Mayor Farmer. ADR did not seem to be a viable option. I did communicate at length with our councilwoman Lois Richardson who was at a bit of a loss as to what I could do next.

    As far as deciding to be a rebel and order my livestock at that point, I have to admit, I have always been a bit radical, though sometimes reluctantly. It did not happen last year.

    By the way, would you consider letting me put a bat house up on the side of your garage that faces my yard? I don’t have a high enough place in my backyard. The bathouse I have is small and it won’t be seen from your place. They (bats) are great for controlling mosquitos and I have seen the little buggers out very early this year.

  80. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 19, 2008 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    Peter,

    This is my fourth attempt to respond. Previous attempts have gone way too long into places I’ve lived and the my perception of polite conversation’s ability to resolve differences in those setting. Gangs. Hyperbole and reality. Suffice to say, I want the free, first option of calling the police/city to resolve various infractions.

    I’m less concerned with whether my neighbors can raise hogs or farm mink for fur than making sure those activities are subject to the same, imperfect oversight as what they burn in their trash bins or what triggers they aim skyward on the fourth of July.

    Please take this as simple feedback from another folk in the community. Applying the RTFA to urban settings, and exempting it from local codes, seems like very bad public policy. Maybe not for you and yours, but for lots of folks who live next to neighbors like some many of us have had.

    Urban chickens? Fine. Urban chickens with ordinance immunity? Hell no.

    That’s just me. Just feedback, honestly. I’m just one vote. But, it seems like you have two, albeit, in this case, related, issues here: sustainability and personal rights. In this case, they compliment each other. I many, many cases, they oppose.

    I’ll support the first 12 times outta a baker’s dozen, the latter, well, I got far more communist in me than cowboy…

  81. MaryD
    Posted April 19, 2008 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Personally, I can see one or two dogs causing more havoc in a neighborhood with their late night & early morning barking (said from a “cat” person). All it takes is one incessantly barking dog (sound familiar?), to ruin a day in the yard or a morning sleep in. Yet there really is little to do about that. A few chickens handled the way pt describes seems like a value-add situation. And goats? Much better than the constant roar of lawn mowers.

  82. Posted April 19, 2008 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Ol’ E-
    It’s not that I am opposed to ordinances it’s just that this tension between rights, civil liberties, necessary social constraints, and the rule of law is a dynamic process that continues to evolve. The “who, what, when, where, why, and how” questions have to be answered in regard to the right to raise one’s own food just as they have to be addressed with regard to free speech, assembly, bearing arms, life, etc. And with all due respect, communitarianism yes, communism, hell no.

  83. Mark H.
    Posted April 19, 2008 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Peter,
    You kindly asked if i had a historical model for how to resolve the kinds of situations, like those real and hypothetical discussed on this tread, when rights between neighbors seem to conflict. No, nothing easy or clear comes to mind — but in a broader sense, resolving such conflicts is much of the point of having a democratic society in which people haver rights. And rights can sometimes conflict. American history is largely the story of conflicting claims to “rights” — the most famous being the conflict between the right of slaveholders to own slave property and the right to liberty of all humans. One recent, very readable short book that deals with all this over a very long time frame is Peter Linebaugh’s THE MAGNA CARTA MANIFESTO; LIBERTIES AND COMMONS FOR ALL (U. of Cailf. Press, 2008). It’s a great book, not a narrow historians’ monograph. He teaches at U of Toledo. In our age of growing food scarcity and food insecurity -as well as outright hunger and starvation – these local issues are of tremendous global importance, imho.

  84. Ol' E Cross
    Posted April 19, 2008 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Peter,

    There is terrible tension, for sure, and we all draw the same lines, just in different places. I’m not pure communist or cowboy, I just tend to lean more easily to the common good. I don’t like special classes or exceptions. I think chickens, goats and mink should be subject, in pre-exisiting urban settings, to the same public health and nuisance standards as dogs, lawnmowers and stereos. I don’t think my neighbor’s right to rock-around-the-clock overrides my right to sleep. I’d rather have most chickens as neighbors than most dogs. I simply don’t think applying the RTFA to already urbanized settings is the right path. If I’m running my lawnmower at 4 a.m. it’s a violation of code, under RTFA, I could run my tiller and be protected.

    And, frankly, I think you’re pushing the limits of the sustainability argument. I find it hard to believe that you’re raising enough crops on your plot to feed the number of livestock you have. If my assumptions hold water, you’re importing food to feed goats for milk rather than importing milk and growing food. I can understand how having a few chickens to provide eggs can be sustainable, but I can’t figure how importing grain to raise pigs is more sustainable than importing pigs and raising grain.

    My assumptions may be completely off base. And, a tour may show me that’s the case. I’m up for a tour and have several local friends who are, too. Hopefully, this summer season, we can schedule something. Maybe Mark M. can make it a MM.com field trip?

    I know, in some of my comments, I’m being rather visceral. But, I’m sincerely trying to provide honest feedback that you can use. I was in support of urban chickens when I thought it would be with oversight and not fall under RTFA’s right to raise anything, anytime, anywhere. It’s with admiration and a sober lack of hostility that I say, you’re loosing me…

  85. Posted April 21, 2008 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Well Ol’ E Cross-

    You raise some important points, all of which are good questions to ask in this conversation. I am not pretending to have all the answers, I think you know enough about me to know that by now. What I do know is that what we are doing here is somehow so basic to being human, in my opinion, that there should not be a law against it. It also makes me happy and it makes a lot of other people happy. People stop by here all the time and just start smiling and laughing when they see the animals.

    You keep presenting the worst case scenarios and I suppose they are worth considering. Somehow, it seems to me, we usually find a way of dealing with them when they arise. However, I’m much less worried about them than you seem to be. I’m more interested in seeing the good possibilities that urban agriculture is bringing to communities all across the country. It’s very exciting on many levels, not the least of which is rebuilding urban neighborhoods around the common bond of better food from reclaimed and reinvigorated land.

    I just don’t think we need to say no to urban farming based on hypothetical situations. After all, the RTFA has been on the books since 1981 and I am the first person in all of this time, that I know of, to invoke its protections in quite this way.

    Respectfully,

    pt

  86. laughing neighbor
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    I can’t tell you how entertaining those baby goats are. I have the best view in the neighborhood, and I laugh and laugh each and every day. These days, that’s worth a lot.

  87. egpenet
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Do you call a baby goat a … goatee?

  88. egpenet
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    I have been wanting to tell of a former pastor of Holy Trinity Student Chapel on Forest, who raised those fancy Polish chickens in the backyard. No one complained because they clucked in Polish, which sounds a lot like a grackle with a cough. He kept rabbits, too, for a while.

    Like I used to say in Birmingham … chickens, schmickens … who gives a rats tail.

    Local bartenders are always looking for a weird drink name (or just a weird drink) … anyway, how’bout these:

    – The P.T. Scrambled (in honor of Peter Thomasen) … 1 shot Vodka, 1 shot yellow Chartreuse, 2 dashes of bitters, shaken on ice and served in an egg cup for shooting.

    – The H5N1 … serves 3-5, 2-3 short chilled glasses, 5 shots of Hennessey in a shaker w/ice, 1 shot premium vodka, 2 shots Nocina della Cristina Walnet Liquuer … shaken & poured. Guaranteed peaceful cure for the chickie flu.

  89. Daniel
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Ol’ E Cross,

    I appreciate your comments. As someone who is certainly more objective than I am – it’s refreshing to hear a voice of reason. As you can tell from my posts I have no problem serving up my opinions with a side of hostility.

    And as much as I might be seen as “the grumpy, anti-chicken neighbor” – my open exchange with Pete has been perhaps the most extensive and thoughtful we’ve had since being neighbors.

    Pete,

    I’m glad to see your rose colored glasses are still intact.

    As for doing things that are “so basic to being human” – that argument hardly holds up. We are born naked – pretty basic to being “human” but there seems to be laws against public nudity. (It could be that most of us look better clothed) What about violence – humans often engage in violence – believe it or not but there are laws against acting violently. If you are confused about this let me know and I’ll take you on a tour of the jail. So simply saying it’s basic to the human condition – ergo, it should legal is a bunch of manure (pun intended).

    I’m not sure what kind of solipsistic world you inhabit but the noise from your livestock is not “hypothetical”. Nor is the fact that I have had prospective tenants tell me that they prefer not to live next to chickens and goats.

    And as for “rebuilding urban neighborhoods around the common bond of better food from reclaimed and reinvigorated land” -[grandiose hippie blather] what evidence do you have to prove that statement? Because some folks come by – smile and laugh?

    For some reason you fail to recognize the impact your business has on my property. You often speak of “community” but ignore the concerns raised by a neighbor. That seems rather inconsistent.

    On one hand you seem to think your farming activites exist in a vaccum – but you’ll turn around and blow the “community” trumpet whenever it serves your purpose.

    You’re pretty good at “spin” Pete – perhaps you should run for office.

    Respectfully,
    Your Neighbor

  90. egpenet
    Posted April 22, 2008 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Take a look at the lead article in last Sunday’s NYT Magazine section on urban farming written by author Michael Pollan.

    Rip up those ugly lawns and GO FOR IT, people!

  91. Posted April 23, 2008 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    Do baby goats eat garlic mustard? If so, you could have a thriving business carting them around and having them graze on that unfortunate crop.

  92. Posted April 23, 2008 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Not too interested in politics, and I am pretty familiar with the jail population. Basic to being human is meant in the sense of Maslow’s hierarchy, remember that class?

    So, this is curious. I believe that I have a right to do what I am doing which appears to have been upheld by the Michigan courts. Some others don’t agree. My chickens and goats make some noise, but so do motorcycles and planes and trains and circular saws run at night and crying or teething children, or late evening summer parties. Who is to say which noise is acceptable or not?

    There is no way to please everyone Daniel, that is for sure, and “building community” means different things to different people. Even the right to Free Speech is offensive to some even though it is part of the foundation of a free state. The exercise of our rights isn’t going to make everyone happy all the time, we know that. I don’t challenge your right to rent your apartments to anyone you choose regardless of the fact that I think they might make unsavory or objectionable neighbors – hypothetically of course. I also don’t make a fuss over people not cutting their grass, or having overgrown fencelines, or trash in their yards, or old cars and trailers sitting around. I don’t like it but I believe that most people are trying their best to do what they can with what they have. Call it my rose colored glasses, if you will, but everyone does make a choice about how he or she is going to see the world. I just see things differently than some people and, I happen to like the way I see the world even if I don’t always like what I see.

    You might want to do a little research on the urban agriculture movement worldwide, it might help you to understand more about the issues that I, and others, have brought up with regard to resources, food security, etc. It’s pretty interesting and the impact is quantifiable, even if still small. But, then again, the number of people who had PCs or used the internet 15 years ago was pretty small compared with today.

    As for ignoring your concerns, I believe that I have responded to everything you have brought up and attempted to present my viewpoint. I don’t agree with you but you can hardly call that ignoring your concerns. I have not categorized you or tried to diminish your credibility by describing the things you say or your viewpoint in negative ways. I have not been hostile but open and listening. You just haven’t convinced me that I don’t have a right to do what I’m doing.

    I’m open to hearing how that right may need to be qualified under the circumstances as long as it is not in a bureaucratic or heavy-handed way that nullifies the essential freedom to exercise it.

  93. schutzman
    Posted April 23, 2008 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Verily I say unto you,
    Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,
    ye have done it unto me.

  94. Posted April 26, 2008 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Boy, that last post was a real conversation stopper. I’m not quite sure what was intended by it other than as a reminder of the value of respecting each other as we converse which is important.

    My condolences go out to Steve Kunselman and others in AA. They might do well to follow the lead of Ypsilantians in this case. AA city council has a history of believing it has authority over the exercise of various civil liberties and paying a steep price for its ill-considered actions.

    I was amazed that the word “indulge” was used by one councilperson to describe their posture towards those who want to raise their own food. They spoke as if the council, which is of course concerned with MUCH more important things, was deigning to spend its VERY important time allowing silly citizens to bother IT with an issue of so little importance or consequence.

    The last time I am aware of that the AA council dealt with an issue of civil liberties in that way it got smacked with about $30,000 in damages by the Federal District Court in Detroit. Something worth remembering and considering. The city attorney was completely humiliated by the Judge for even trying to defend the city’s actions. My suggestion to anyone wanting to raise their own food is to “just do it, and do it really well.”

  95. Posted April 26, 2008 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I live two doors down from the Thomasons and I personally enjoy my neighborhood even more since they began raising the chickens and goats. The Thomasons have been truly generous in sharing their experience with my children and me. My children are welcomed often and allowed to “help” with farm chores, trusted to gather eggs :), hold the baby goats, bunnies, etc. For us, it’s more than my kids thinking “the animals are cute” (as someone put it). It’s been a great learning experience for them on many levels. I couldn’t be happier to have their farm two doors down from me.

    I just wanted to write in support of the Thomasons.

    Kristin

  96. Posted April 27, 2008 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    I think its interesting the different approaches we all take to building community and advancing our cause. As someone else who is interested in permaculture, urban farming, and raising critters not sanctioned by our local authorities, I took a similar tack of “just do it,” with a slightly different approach. I went out and talked to all my neighbors, got their buy-in, seduced them with presents, brought them in for tours of the yard, explained all the benefits of my tiny little pets, took a class which I spoke to all of them about — sharing what I was learning and keeping them apprised — and this has worked well. My neighbors I think genuinely understand and appreciate the importance of what’s going on in my yard.

    I don’t have a call to challenge the ordinance or cite a different authority. I prefer the grassroots, bottom-up, person to person approach almost always. Incidentally, I think Peter does this, too, and very well. But my good relationship with my neighbors was already LONG established before I began husbandry — it’s been a conscious project for decades.

  97. Posted April 27, 2008 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Lisele-

    Thanks for sharing your experience; I would be interested in knowing more about what you are doing and where you are doing it. (Send me an email if you don’t want to publicize it.) Most of our neighbors have been here with us in the same place for 5 – 20 years. Some are pretty new though and, as I’m sure you are well aware, it can take years of intentional and non-intentional interaction to develop friendships. Like you, I suspect, we weathered lots of the normal ups and downs of living in a neighborhood for many (19) years before we ever got our first chicken.

    Nevertheless, it seems like no matter what you do, there will always be someone who doesn’t like you or what you are doing no matter what it is. I don’t think that is the case with the neighbor who initiated this conversation but the reality is that you can’t please everyone. What you did was very considerate and conscientious but not required of you, in my opinion, for being able to use and enjoy your property or your right to raise food – assuming that is what you are doing. I would guess that your approach has made it enjoyable for everyone or, most everyone near you.

  98. ART
    Posted April 28, 2008 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    I HAVE BEEN KEEPING UP ON THIS CONVERSATION THROUGH THESE MOST RECENT POSTINGS. I AM A STUDENT OF AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION, I AM AN URBAN DWELLER, AND I HAVE MY WHOLE YARD IN VEGETABLES. I LIVE IN ANNARBOR AND I WAS TRULY DISAPPOINTED THAT I WON’T BE ABLE TO KEEP CHICKENS (I WOULD DO IT ANYWAYS BUT MY LANDLORD DOESN’T APPROVE). PEOPLE ARE AFRAID OF WHAT IT IS THAT THEY ARE UNFAMILIAR. NOT SUPPRISINGLY MOST CITY DWELLERS ARE UNFAMILIAR WITH AGRICULTURE UNLESS THEY ARE PARTICIPATING IN A CSA (COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE). LIVING IN ANN ARBOR AND IN THE WORLD AT THIS TIME THERE IS MUCH BUZZ ABOUT GOING GREEN. IT IS UNFORTUNATE THAT HAVING A BETTER RELATIONSHIP WITH NATURE AND THE WORLD CAN ONLY EXTEND TO PEOPLE’S BUYING HABITS. PEOPLE WILL BUY WHOLE FOODS FROM WHOLE FOODS, OR BUY ENERGYSTAR APPLIANCES, OR GET A HYBRID, ETC. WHAT IF THE CALL TO ACTION FOR IMPROVING OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE WORLD WAS ACTUALLY THAT: A CALL TO ACTION! PETE I AM REALLY INSPIRED BY YOU. YOU ARE DOING IT TO FEED YOUR FAMILY, AND TO SHARE SOME JOY WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS. I APPRECIATE THAT YOU CHOSE TO SHARE YOUR JOURNEY WITH THOSE AROUND YOU SO THAT OTHERS CAN SEE THE WAY.
    WE ARE NOT GOING TO SURVIVE ALL THAT WE ARE UP AGAINST IN THE WORLD IF WE DO NOT TAKE ACTION IN OUR OWN HOMES AND LIVES.

  99. Posted April 28, 2008 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    (Peter, you know me, a bit. You’re gonna take down my walnut tree sometime I believe.)

    I encourage everyone to read Michael Pollan’s essay in last week’s NYTimes Magazine on the importance of growing even a little bit of your own food: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/magazine/20wwln-lede-t.html

    I admit, I have an agricultural background and I’d probably garden — global warming or no global warming. But he makes a strong case (as always) that the ramifications of growing one’s own food are deep and far reaching, and I would add, spiritual. Humans need contact with nature to give meaning to life, I firmly believe it. Almost nothing feeds my soul like the sight of pea plants lifting up their little heads in April — and it’s almost free to grow those peas and eat them. If you save your own seed, it IS free. Practically my favorite thing is making something out of nothing. Gardening is empowering, fun, healthy, yummy, builds community, is good for your kids and is cost-effective.

  100. Posted April 29, 2008 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Hello Lisele –

    I had no idea… I need to talk to you about that tree sometime, been too busy this spring!

  101. Posted May 17, 2008 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    Well friends, the word is getting out that we have been given notice by the city to get rid of the goats and the chickens. Since a neighbor has complained the city stuck to its word and decided to try to enforce the existing ordinance. They had stated in the press that they would not try to enforce it unless this happened. As you now know from this threaded discussion, the issue is really not what we are doing or that there is a problem with noise or anything else. The issue the neighbor has is with where we are doing it, specifically that it is next door to his rental property.

    There are of course two issues here: one is the Right to Farm – which will play out as this particular situation is considered in light of State and case law; the other is the question of local ordinances and how they can be amended so that people can raise their own food in an urban environment with impunity.

    This will be interesting…

  102. Brackache
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Peter: let us know what we sympathizers can do to help, if anything. Perhaps those with willing spouses can stash your bootleg goats around town in safehouses till this prohibition blows over, for a small cut of the bathtub goat milk sales or just for the fun of defying a stupid law and stupid lawmakers. Seriously. We the people are in charge here, this is OUR town. And if the same 6 ugly ass prostitutes can operate in the open for like 10 years, and crack houses abound and everyone knows where they are, persistant popular defiance of anti-urban farming laws can work too.

  103. Posted May 18, 2008 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    The bathtub goat’s milk is being turned into kefir daily, about a gallon every two days. I can assure you, it’s intoxicating…

  104. degutails
    Posted May 18, 2008 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    Peter – please post here and let us know when the city plans to hear arguments about enforcing this ridiculous ordinance. Having been to visit the goats and chickens, and knowing what a positive force the animals and the farm are in the community, I can only register disgust with Daniel’s griping and sympathy with you for all this. I would like to help in any way I can –

    Meredith

  105. Posted May 19, 2008 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Meredith-

    Since there are a lot of people around the state and the country interested in the outcome of this case I will be providing regular posts on one of my blogs. I will try to update this one occasionally but suggest that interested parties check in at http://thomasonfamilyfarm.blogspot.com for more comprehensive coverage.

    Peter

  106. Posted June 7, 2008 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    I get email from people around the country who are interested in urban and small farming questions. Here is one from a woman in northern Oakland County Michigan. I think that it shows quite clearly that there are more issues at stake here than just farming in the city for subsistence or for commercial reasons. The idea that you just need to move out “to the country” to do what we are doing just doesn’t hold water anymore if we allow townships to do what is happening all over. Restrictions are being placed on land use everywhere which, in effect, pushes people to buy into the industrial farming system instead of raising food for themselves and their neighbors on small local farms:

    Dear Peter,
    I have been reading your story on the blog – your struggles with your neighbor (Daniel), and now about your recent citation to appear in court. I just want you to know that you are in our thoughts and prayers and we support what you are fighting for. We will continue to monitor your situation and share with others locally, what they too must be prepared to fight for.

    Our township (in North Oakland County) is in the process of attempting to greatly reduce our ability to own chickens. They will at least allow (1) chicken per acre – isn’t that thoughtful of them? They unfortunately, passed the ordinance already (with no one’s awareness, of course) and it is due to go into effect the end of June (08) with a grandfather clause for those who already owned chickens exceeding this number. We just found out about this yesterday. The township planning meeting is this coming Tuesday, of which we will certainly be attending. We are at a loss as to why they have done this, since most of the township is a rural setting. There is a village within the township, but a very small one – at that. There are however, automotive executives (with much political clout) who have their country ‘estates’ here — and my suspicious mind is a bit inflamed, I admit.

    We wish you well in your battle. It would just seem as if there should be something they (your city) can do — some sort of adjustment that can be made, to accommodate their need to satisfy the concern for ‘…if we let YOU do it, then we’ll have to let OTHERS do it’ dilemma. Perhaps some sort of local committee of volunteers can form to monitor any others’ attempt at this, and to assure that GAAMP is satisfied, if so.

    Economically – our society simply cannot continue with ‘business as usual’ … but of course, the difficulty is in convincing others of that – isn’t it? If there are any shreds of wisdom that you can toss our way – please do so. Thank you for your vigilance, and God bless…
    Debra

  107. Daniel
    Posted June 9, 2008 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I’ve gotten plenty of feedback from those who support homeowners rights as well as the rights of municipalities to enforce their own ordinances.

    With that said…

    I support the ordinance that Ann Arbor recently passed. It seems like a fair and balanced approach to start with – no more than four hens and you have to get your neighbors approval.

    Those of you who find my (anti-chicken) position as problematic would do well to remember that I am a tax paying citizen who has a right to complain.

    In fact I think any city-dwelling homeowner has the right not to have farm animals imposed upon them.

    I am not the one who is violating city ordinace – I am simply trying to run a rental property (as an owner/occupier) that has been around since Willow Run was cranking out B-2 bombers. From what I understand my house was a “rooming house” for workers at that very factory.

    As I have said before – I respect those who invest the time and energy to raise their own food. But the noise of the animals and the odor of their waste is something that cannot be ignored. It is for this reason I support regulation and neighbor approval of urban farming.

    As for Pete – he claims it is not an “urban fad” for him to raise chickens and goats. Well here is a ratio for you in the pro-chicken lobby to chew on.

    Number of years Pete has lived in Ypsi to the number of years he has raised livestock. 20:1

    Apparently this has only become a serious issue in the last year….

    As “Murph” said in a previous post “12 (or more) backyard chickens constitute in-your-face grandstanding meant only to tempt a test case”.

    Amen brother…

  108. Posted June 10, 2008 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Daniel-

    You say, “Apparently this has only become a serious issue in the last year…”

    My initial request to the city council was two years ago but only after a long period of trying to sell our house and move to the country as explained here- http://thomasonfamilyfarm.blogspot.com/
    in the very first article entitled “Poultry in Motion – Why are there Chickens in the City?”

    As you can see from my last post on this blog, the issue is no longer one that pertains to urban farms alone. Even Ypsilanti Twp has a four acre requirement for having chickens, not to mention the north Oakland County Twp Debra refers to and many others.

    My interest in this whole issue is not new, as you imply, but goes back many years to when I raised chickens as a teenager and my wife’s family had them in semi-rural Anne Arundel County Baltimore. It’s just that it reached a tipping point more recently.

    Sounds and smells? Maybe that’s a question of preference. I prefer hearing the goats and chickens which help drown out the sound of cars and trucks on I-94, loud motorcycles, and sirens. The smells (to whatever extent there are any) are minimal, earthy and part of the circle of life IMHO.

    Some times test cases are needed…and by the way, I am not the only local farm or property in a Southeastern Michigan city, or in Ypsilanti, claiming the protections of the RTF Act and the USDA.

  109. Anny
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Personally I would love to be the neighbor of the “chicken Man” I think it would increase the value of the land. I mean come on you can get fresh food from your neighbor! How cool is that!

    It’s alot better then having a neighbor who plays loud music late into the night or one who has piles of tires and car parts in their yard. Hell at least it’s not a crack house!

    What happen in the Neighbors yard is the neighbors thing. It’s their own yard.

    I grew up in the Ann Arbor Ypsi Area and to be honest with you if I didn’t own a home right now, I would love to rent a place next to “the Chicken” Man. In fact Peter I would LOVE to get a tour next time you are offering them. And I’m very interesting in talking to you about keeping chickens as I am thinking of creating my own mini flock out where I live now.

    Daniel, How much do you charge for rent, I may be able to throw some people your way who would be more then happy and excited to live next to a micro farm. People who are open minded to the idea of being independent. And who would love to learn everything they could from their new neighbor. Then you wouldn’t have to worry about this micro farm hurting your “business” and everyone could get along wonderfully.

  110. nammeroo
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Murph: “… I’m extremely skeptical of Thomason’s reading of the Right to Farm Act – I think that buying 12 chickens and citing the Right to Farm Act as defense is cruising for a losing lawsuit. Buying 3 chickens, and sticking to some of the other legal rationales he’s proposed in the past would probably be less likely to result in his winding up in court. In my mind, 3 backyard chickens constitute an essential part of an urban food system; 12 backyard chickens constitute in-your-face grandstanding meant only to tempt a test case.”

    Murph, as a *city* planner you may not be as aware as you ought to be about the impact of the Right to Farm Act on local ordinances. Many older zoning ordinances set a minimum size for farms – the Right to Farm Act does not and the courts have ruled against minimum size standards. Also, many ordinances limit the number of farm animals, usually in proportion to land area. Again, court decisions and state GAAMP rules trump these outdated local ordinance requirements.

  111. monica
    Posted June 25, 2008 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Hi all, i’m sorry i have run out of time in reading this lengthy and interesting discussion. So will have to return to read more… but wanted to throw in $.02 worth.

    It honestly sounds to me as I read that perhaps the only issue that will be left standing is that Daniel’s feelings were hurt as a neighbor that this wasn’t discussed before launched. That is a relationship issue.

    I say that Daniel because, as Steve’s comment pointed out, being next to an urban microfarm can actually be an ASSET in renting your units. And will likely become more and more so.
    It makes your place different from all of the rest – something pretty valuable in todays competitive rental environment.

    I use the presence of Peter’s place to attract young grad students and young professionals to mine.
    And this has worked VERY WELL as there is a growing group of folks (lets call them for now the “beyond Whole Foods” person, or ‘not satisfied with whole foods person’)– very interested in what is called ‘relocalization’ and living a sustainable lifestyle involving growing ones own food as much as possible, or buying and ‘doing’ locally – ie bicycling about town for work and shopping and ‘lowering one’s carbon footprint’ — those who want a walkable community. This is due to either (or both) a concern re: global warming and lowering one’s negative contribution, OR a concern re: oil usage combined with a desire for more ‘community’

    So, for example, I’d prefer to get eggs from Peter within my neighborhood and get a little exercize walking to his house, and ‘killing 2 birds with one stone’ – (sorry, this may not be the best expression to use..; )

    …..visit a neighbor, than spend the gas money to go to whole foods and get eggs that were (additionally) transported a significant distance there. (This is not to put down Whole Foods, as I greatly appreciate what its about – I see Peter’s as a ‘next step’ for some people) — as obviously there is a strong interest in going “locovore” see: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=locovore

    Obviously, once one drives to Whole Foods, the REAL price of your eggs has increased.

    I have a friend who used to call, as many have, Whole Foods WHole Paycheck — I would retort “Whole Cost” — since whole foods is a step up, tho more costly, in that it sources food in a more environmentally sound manner. Other foods may cost less, but there are hidden costs – ie. degradation of farmland perhaps, or fish population depletion, or pesticide/chemical contaminated food and soil. People pay more because they want things handled in a socially responsible manner, as well as higher/safer food quality.

    So in a world where folks want more options in terms of their food, and where there is a strong ‘going local’ movement, a place like the Thomason’s offers an attraction for all to the community. It is an asset as it creates variety, and lends more character as well as something on the cutting edge of the locovore movement.

    At many meetings I’ve heard that what Ypsi wants is to attract young people. Young people of a certain group, aspire to live in Portland, Oregon because it is walkable/bikable, has an energy descent plan, promotes farmer’s marketting and local growing. Ypsi could position itself to be the “Portland” of Michigan and attract this vibrant group of folks – those who are attracted to the “Shadow Art Fairs” etc.

    So Daniel, I think your rental real estate value just went up if you promote your place and feature this… but then, perhaps I shouldn’t have told you — I might now have to share the 3 couples lined up to live in my rental.

    Monica

  112. Posted June 25, 2008 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    See the “Ethicurean: Chew the right thing”
    June 23rd: Fighting climate change, Food miles vs Food choices

    An “all local” diet is equivalent to driving 1,000 fewer miles per year
    Shifting one day per week’s calories from red meat to chicken/fish/eggs is equivalent to driving 760 fewer miles per year
    Shifting one day per week’s calories from red meat to a vegetable-based diet is equivalent to driving 1,160 fewer miles per year
    Giving up red meat and dairy in favor of chicken/fish/eggs is equivalent to driving 5,340 fewer miles per year
    Switching to a completely vegan diet is equivalent to driving 8,100 fewer miles per year

  113. Ol' E Cross
    Posted June 25, 2008 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Ypsi One. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very interested in reducing consumption, but these are the kind of numbers that perplex me.

    It would appear, on face value, that being vegan and eating rice, blueberries and beans imported from around the world reduces miles more than someone who raises and eats a cow they’ve raised on their own farm?

    And, I’ll suggest again, that value of eating locally grown food has a lot to do with how you get it. As I’ve asserted before, if you drive 20 miles to a local apple orchard, you’re actually adding more carbon than if you walk to the grocery to buy apples shipped from Washington State.

    I want to reduce, I just think we have to recognize the complexity of the issue and be careful about generalizations.

  114. Posted June 26, 2008 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    OEC, that depends on how many apples you get at the orchard. Fill the trunk, back seat and front passenger seat with a couple dozen bushels and I’ll bet you’ve beat the Washington State carbon foot print. You’ve also saved yourself about four dozen walks to the coop.

  115. Posted June 26, 2008 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Yes, Ol’ E Cross, they perplex me too. They were put together by simple minded folks: “according to a recently published article in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology.* — an Analysis by Christopher L. Weber and H. Scott Matthews, professors in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.

    But, I have to say I loved that article you referred me to, and will have to go back and re-read it as I read it in a rush. Its a complex issue — but it really can’t argue with walking 1.5 blocks to get your eggs while having a friendly chat with the neighbor. THAT is clearly a simple equation on carbon footprint.

  116. Posted June 26, 2008 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Anny-

    We will be on the next Growing Hope Tour de Fresh Tuesday September 16th, I think. Check their website for details. There will also be some workshops offered.

    Peter

  117. Monica
    Posted July 7, 2008 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Don’t decide where you stand on the city chicken/goat issue until you’ve tried this:

    A yummy local breakfast or lunch that I just had and can attest to as terrific:

    cook in a pan (medium heat lightly oiled, or no stick pan): one or 2 fresh Thomason micro-urban farm eggs lightly scrambled, sprinkle quickly with –

    1/2- 2/3 cups sautee or cooked spinach from your garden, or lambs quarters leaves from your yard (tastes just like mild spinach when cooked); if you like add sauteed onions/chopped scallions from the garden…

    next sprinkle on 1/4 cup your favorite co-op cheese grated,or finely sliced….. or, say! ~crumbled Thomason micro farm goat cheese.

    Cover briefly and cook for 3 – 8 minutes on medium heat… uncover and fold egg mixture over browning briefly on both sides until golden brown.

    Serve with one slice of toasted Cheddar chile loaf from the River Street Bakery.

    Makes you glad that you live in Ypsi!

  118. Posted July 10, 2008 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I light of that comment, I think someone should make a bumper sticker that says, “I would rather be in Ypsi” and put them up for sale around town.

  119. Brackache
    Posted September 24, 2008 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Any updates with this?

  120. Funny You Should Ask
    Posted September 24, 2008 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    There’s an article about the Thomason case in today’s “Ann Arbor News.”

    http://www.mlive.com/news/annarbornews/index.ssf?/base/news-29/1222267264313020.xml&coll=2

  121. Brackache
    Posted November 10, 2008 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Any new news?

    Is our mighty City Council Rep Elect prepared to start the ball rolling on legalizing our right to feed ourselves with our own chickens?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Connect

BUY LOCAL... or shop at Amazon through this link Banner Initiative Mike Giannouris