Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chickens and Victory Gardens

Chickens and Victory Gardens
I have a tomato obsession. It started a few years ago when I got several giant golden tomatoes in a box of tomatoes to make sauce. Since then, I've been on a mission to grow and try as many varieties of tomatoes as possible, especially heirlooms. In my city garden I indulge my obsession, growing usually around 30 varieties and about 65 tomato plants. The funny thing is, when talking to people about my tomatoes, most are amazed that I live in a city. Now, in fairness, I have a large city yard, but many rural, suburban, or development yards are larger. For most people cities and gardens are not synonymous despite the fact that gardens and urban livestock have played an important role in the history of cities.
Before our globalized community, food was grown close to where it was needed. One of the first uses of Boston Common was for livestock to graze. Often social movements included vegetable gardens as a way to feed the poor and to beautify the landscape. A major aspect of the 1890’s – 1900’s City Beautiful movement
that gave us the National Mall in Washington DC combined vegetable and flower gardens to beautify cities and feed the population. During WWI there were Liberty Gardens and WWII had the famous Victory Gardens. These gardens were based on the idea of the more food grown at home, the more food and resources that could be sent overseas to the troops. Eggs, harvested crops, and canned food could also supplement rations for families. Planting Victory Gardens gave those who were left behind a purpose. They could help their loved ones overseas by planting in their own yard and growing their own food, including eggs and meat.
Gardens and growing your own food is a movement that is making a comeback. Fedco seeds, one of my sources for seeds, has talked about amazing growth within the past few years. This is an exciting time, people are beginning to realize that the best food does not come from halfway across the world, it comes from your own yard or from the farmer just a few miles down the road. The resurgence in growing your own food is not limited to vegetables, backyard and urban hens are becoming a common site in cities across the nation.
Not everyone is on board with this new interest in nutrition and the environment. Just a few years ago, the common council enacted a ban on all livestock in the city of Albany. Now there is a group of people who want to empower themselves, their family, and their community with the ability to grow not just fruits and vegetables, but eggs and meat too.
It amazes me that we live in a city where people are rewarded with lower taxes for derelict houses, yet a measure that would allow people who care for their city to grow their own food has the potential to be defeated. Chickens give people the chance to be more environmental and to invest themselves more in Albany. Join many chicken supporters this Thursday April 14 at 5:30 at City Hall to help support this measure. If you are unable to attend, let your common councilman know of your support.
If you are interested in learning more about Chickens in Albany, there is a great post here on the Friday Puppy blog. You can read more about urban agriculture history here in the Sidewalk Sprouts blog.

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