Thursday, May 26, 2011

You've Got to Be Plucking Kidding Me...

A great 3 1/2 minute video about an "outlaw" in suburban Georgia, who is risking a fine and 6 months in jail because he chooses to keep a few backyard chickens to provide his family with safe, healthy eggs.

Also includes an appearance by the wonderful Chicken Whisperer, who has a radio show. I especially like this quote from The Chicken Whisperer: "Cities say, 'We welcome chickens. You just have to abide by this ordinance.' But then they make the ordinance so ridiculously strict that they know no one could keep chickens in their town. But we're on to them -- we know when they do that."

Denver folks -- sound familiar?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Eighth Graders Speak Out on Behalf of Urban Chickens

Two letters to the editor recently published by The Denver Post, in response to the story "Urban Chickens Scratch Up a Following Along the Front Range" (5/10/2011)

The new Denver ordinance proposed for keeping backyard chickens is not the first proposal in the state of Colorado. There seems to be a movement for urban backyard poultry. This is likely a product of our society’s trend to become more eco-friendly. There are many legitimate reasons to have backyard chickens, but I believe the most meaningful is that they are helping us get back to our roots.
Chickens have been food and pets in Colorado ever since Denver became a mining town. They have been banned over many years as our city has grown and modernized. Having chickens will bring us closer to the old ways of life, times where we couldn’t get everything with a click of a button. Not only will backyard chickens get us back to our roots, it is also a great learning experience for you and your family.
Liam DunnDenver
The writer is an eighth-grader.

Let me get this straight – Denver City Council is faced with a proposed ordinance allowing pet hens in the city with adequate but not arbitrary restrictions and a reasonable application process; there should be no questions, this is a definite yes for the council members. Currently you are required to get two separate approvals and pay a hefty fee each year. To add to that you are required to notify your neighbors and they can end all of your hard work by a simple no. The other side of the story; the current requirements for cats is pretty much nothing, the only cost is feed and litter boxes and there isn’t even an application process. The cats have no restriction from pooping in your garden; the only thing that can keep them in line is a strict owner. Council Members should accept that chickens should have regulations similar to cats and dogs.
Cormac DunnDenver
The writer is an eighth-grader.

Save the Date!

City Council Public Hearing and Final Vote
Food Producing Animals Ordinance
Monday, June 13th beginning at 5:30
City & County Building (14th & Bannock)
Room 451

We need everyone in Denver who supports the Food Producing Animals ordinance to attend the public hearing on June 13th. Even if you don't want to testify before City Council, your presence matters. There will be an opportunity for everyone in the room who supports the ordinance to stand, and we need a BIG presence.

If you are interested in testifying before City Council on behalf of the ordinance, please contact

Friday, May 13, 2011

Runoff: Susan Shepherd for Council District 1

After an initial election with several worthy candidates, we are now looking at a runoff for the City Council seat in District 1. I am abundantly pleased that Susan Shepherd is in the runoff, and I am proud to be supporting her.

I first met Susan at a little neighborhood Farmers' Market a couple of years ago. She came up to my table and chatted with me about her own small Neighborhood Supported Agriculture project. Susan was farming a large plot in her backyard, and distributing the food to a handful of neighborhood families. Susan has always been passionate about urban farming and sustainable food issues, especially as they relate to healthy food access and food justice. Susan is currently serving with me on the Sustainable Food Policy Council, and she will be a strong advocate for sustainability issues on City Council.

In addition to her "green" cred, Susan is dedicated to our neighborhood schools and local businesses. During her campaign Susan sends as much work as possible to local companies. She also asks her supporters to pledge to send their kids to local DPS schools (rather than opting for out-of-district options), and to commit to donating some time each year to volunteering in the schools.

Please vote for Susan Shepherd for City Council District 1!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Preparations for Planting

Heirloom Gardens is a "multi-plot urban farm." This means that we work our land like a farm, but it's broken up into several different pieces. This year we have 11 separate gardens, mostly front or back yards in the northwest Denver area.

The queen garden is our space on Lowell Blvd. It's a full lot -- around 6250 square feet. Last year we transformed the space from bare dirt to this:

But, once the season was over, everything growing was either pulled out or died back. So, this year we began again with removing weeds, marking garden beds, spreading composted manure, and tilling it into the soil. One of our gardeners brought her son with her to help (he definitely has the best footware of all the gardeners!).

See the slideshow below for a few photos of our Lowell garden preparations. Thanks to Brian Kraft Photography for the photos. (Note: the slideshow does contain music.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Baby Goat Video: The Acrobats!

My husband Brian titled this video "Attack of the Baby Goats: Your Lap is Never Safe!" I especially love watching their mom's calm in the face of the babies' antics, and their aunt (the blonde goat) teaching the little one how to play.

The Denver Post: Backyard Chickens

Cyrus McCrimmon - The Denver Post
"The Front Range has gone cuckoo for chickens," says The Denver Post. Click here to read this terrific article about backyard chicken keeping, in all its many facets.

Thanks to writer Douglas Brown for penning such a thoughtful article, and to photographer Cyrus McCrimmon for his lovely pictures.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Baby Goat Video: Why walk when you can jump?

The last time we posted a baby goat video, they were 2 days old and just learning how to jump onto the lower straw bale. Now they're 5 days old, and can reach the top straw bale in a single bound! (well, most of the time.)

When I first got my chicks I had a veteran chicken owner tell me that nothing in the world grows as fast as a baby chicken. That may be, but I don't think anything in the world develops as quickly as a baby goat.

The only other comment I have about this video is that I hope I'm as patient as this momma when my little one arrives! (You'll notice that "Auntie" isn't quite as tolerant, though...)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Action Alert: Childhood Nutrition & Food Access

(To jump to the sample email, look for the Action Alert below.)

We are making great progress in lobbying City Council to pass the Food Producing Animals (FPA) ordinance. However, there are still a few Councilmembers who are either on the fence or stating that they won't vote for it. I would think it'd be hard to vote against hungry or at-risk kids and families. So, let's remind them what this ordinance is about.

There are lots of children and families -- right here in Denver -- that don't have access to healthy food, or enough food. We need to make this point clear to City Council. When they vote on the FPA ordinance, there are bigger issues at stake than "neighborhood context" and whether a few people think that chickens belong out in the country.

Over the course of this process, I've heard from some of you that having backyard animals would make it easier to feed your family. If this is the case, please be sure to include your own personal testimony in your Action Alert email.

Action Alert

As always, please feel free to craft your own email from scratch, modify the sample email below, or use the sample email in its entirety.

Please copy and paste the following text (including commas) for the "To" field of your email:,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Subject line: Food access and childhood nutrition

Dear Members of City Council,

I am a resident of Denver, living in the ______ neighborhood. You will soon be asked to vote on a Food Producing Animals (FPA) ordinance, which will streamline the process for Denver families who want to raise a limited number of fowl and dwarf goats. The proposed ordinance isn't just about reducing food miles, or avoiding contamination from factory-farmed food, or owning a few cute hens. It's also about making healthy, affordable, accessible food available to families that are struggling to meet their food needs. 

There are lots of children and families -- right here in Denver -- that don't have access to healthy food, or enough food. Food insecurity and the health consequences of inadequate childhood nutrition are serious problems. When the only "food" easily accessible within a community comes from a convenience store, or when processed food can be purchased for a fraction of the price of fresh food, there are consequences. 

Denver families need improved access to healthy, affordable food. Just a few bits of information:

- At the Valdez school in northwest Denver, 73% of the students qualify for free school lunch. (North Denver Tribune, )
- In 2010, 53,800 Denver kids were available for free or reduced-price school lunches. Once school let out, only 8 out of 100 kids children who ate free or reduced-priced school lunches ate a summer lunch in July 2010. (Hunger Free Colorado, )
- 8.8% of the population in Colorado is on food stamps.  The year-to-year rise is food stamp use is 11.2%. (Wall Street Journal, )
- 37.2% of Denver's children are obese. Not overweight -- obese. (Kids Count data survey, 2009. )

Passing a sensible Food Producing Animals ordinance, as other cities have done, is a step toward improving healthy food access and helping improve the pervasive issue of food deserts. This is a way to address a real problem, and it doesn't require big grants or elaborate investments from the city. All you need to do is replace the current excessive barriers with common-sense regulations, and allow people to provide for themselves and their families. Please vote in favor of the Food Producing Animals ordinance.

(your name)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Baby Goat Video: Learning to Jump

Baby Nigerian Dwarf goats at 2 days... learning how to jump is fun!

Local Seedling Sales

Looking to buy some locally grown, organic seedlings over the next couple of weekends? Check out these fantastic seedling sales run by local Denver growers.

Heirloom Tomato Plant Sale
put on by Heirloom Tomato Farms Denver (Tracy Weil and Carolyne Janssen)
Saturday, May 7th
9am - 3pm
3611 Chestnut Place, Denver
70 varieties of heirloom tomatoes

Heirloom Seedling Sale
put on by Mike Miller
Saturday, May 7th
9am - 1pm
2229 Grove Street, Denver
25 varieties of tomatoes, plus melons, winter squash, summer squash, peppers, cucumbers, herbs

Vegetable & Herb Plant Sale
put on by Front Range Organic Gardeners club and The Herb Society
Saturday, May 14th
9am - 1pm (pre-priced sale)
9am - 11:30am (silent auction)
9:30am - 10:15am (free presentation on organic gardening)
1710 South Grant Street, Denver
70+ tomato varieties, 30 varieties of peppers, other vegetables, 45+ varieties of herbs