Monday, October 31, 2011

Opening: New members for Essex County's Chicken Collective

With the year drawing to an end, we are beginning to make plans for our collective for 2012.  As we have recently expanded, we have a small number of openings for new members.  This is an extremely family-friendly project to be involved in, and our experience has been that all children are thrilled to participate.

The purpose of our collective is to provide families with fresh eggs from free range chickens for their own consumption or to give away.  We are learning first hand about food security in our community along the way, and meeting with other like-minded families.  Another benefit of membership is gaining knowledge of chicken keeping in an environment where costs are controlled and the risks are shared.

The collective is in the county and participation involves some driving.  We recognize that this precludes membership by families without motor vehicles.  While we love the location, we would all much rather be able to own chickens in our backyards, or at a collective that is closer to home.  This is why we are continuing to work towards overturning the various by-laws in Essex County that prohibit backyard chickens.

The cost is $30 to join the collective and to cover capital costs.  The feed cost is based on the number of eggs collected by each member, and it works out to about $1.50/dozen.  We pay $20 upfront for feed costs and work down this balance by collecting eggs.  The hens' average production is around 22 eggs a day, but this varies depending on the time of year.

Members put their name down on an online roster on days they want to do chicken duty at the farm, which can be done at any time of the day.  Chicken duty involves feeding the hens and putting in a fair share of chicken poop clean-up (anybody with parenting experience will find this very doable).

Members are free to decide how often they want to do chicken duty and these are the days on which they can take home all the eggs that have been laid.  However, they may also visit at any other time.

If you are interested in learning more about joining our collective, or would like to schedule a no-obligation visit, please send an email to cheerphil at gmail dot com or leave a comment below.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Windsor heads to Peterborough

This week five of us from Windsor participated in SustainOntario's biennial conference titled Bring Food Home - Preparing the Ground for a Sustainable Food System.  One of the Windsor contributions was an afternoon-long workshop on backyard poultry and the work we have been doing in Windsor to show our city and council why this is an important step forward for food security in the region.

We put together a slide show to tell the wider world about our efforts, and it generated a great conversation which continued well into the evening and even the following morning. Take a look at it here:

While we discussed avian politics, dined on succulent locally-raised beef and sampled a wide variety of wines and beers from the area in faraway Peterborough, back at home, journalist Doug Schmidt (I'm sure would have loved to have been there too), valiantly blogged about our efforts in the Windsor Star.  He wrote an amusing little article which nevertheless managed to convey the importance of sustainable food production to the area.  He made the point that the leadership in this case is not coming from our city's officials.

During our presentation we had pointed out that the demographics of our council (eight of the ten councillors are white men, almost all of whom are older than 45) stand in sharp contrast to the demographic makeup of those of us who are working towards a sustainable food system.  For starters, a quick glance at the people around the room showed that females, who traditionally spend more time shopping for and feeding their families, were far and away in the majority.  And they were significantly younger than our municipal leadership too.

I suspect this is a large part of the reason why the proponents of backyard chickens are butting heads with the majority of Windsor's council.  The naysayers, no doubt acting in line with what they perceive their constituents to believe, live in a bubble world that is oblivious to well-founded concerns surrounding a food supply that is highly processed, overly dependent on fossil fuels, fraught with foodhandling concerns, overwhelmingly controlled by mega-corporations, and not at all transparent.

Instead, our councillors and their more vocal constituents, many of whom are well into retirement age, spend much of their time discussing what they perceive to be more pressing needs, like backed up sewers and traffic snarls caused by motorists idling their cars in Tim Horton's drivethroughs.  At least, that was my distinct perception at last week's lengthy Ward 6 meeting.

Unfortunately, few of us who are younger than 65 and have families made it to that ward meeting.  Undoubtedly this is partly because those of us who have families are often busy with said families at 7pm on weekday evenings.

But many of us also feel that our ward leadership isn't listening to our concerns.

It seems to me that many of our councillors spend a lot of their time dealing with everyday property issues, while lacking the time, wherewithal and foresight to be receptive to ideas that recognize the numerous benefits of a local and sustainable food supply.

What I saw and heard in Peterborough this week clearly demonstrated that their municipal leaders are on board.

I would love to be able to say Windsor is on the same track, but I am afraid it will take another election before we see the change in political climate needed to get us moving in the right direction.