Tim Grobaty: Long Beach's proposed relaxation of urban farming rules may return us to our roots
By Tim Grobaty, Columnistpresstelegram.com
Posted: 03/27/2013 02:29:45 PM PDT
March 27, 2013 9:38 PM GMT
Updated: 03/27/2013 02:38:58 PM PDT
We had a duck when we were 2. You should know that about us. His name was Webster Webfoot and he was taller than we were.
We were living with our grandparents at the time over on Keever Avenue, and we guess they probably gave us a cute little duckling and the thing grew up. Or maybe it just flew or waddled into our backyard. We don't know.
How many ways are there to get a duck? Anyway, knowing us, we were probably afraid of the duck. Who wouldn't be? How would you feel right now if a duck larger than you barged into your house right now?
One day, our granddad gave the duck to a man he felt sorry for. "Here, have a duck, that oughta cheer you up."
The man, we later came to find, ate the duck, and we slept like a baby.
This instructive story is meant to show that we are no stranger to farm animals. There are more stories, like the week we spent inoculating piglets and cows with our cousin at his farm in Iowa - a farm that had been in our family for 100 years.
The piglets were easy, you just pick them up by a hind leg, jab a needle into them and mark them with a big grease marker so you don't accidentally inoculate them again. The cows were more problematic. You had to muscle them into a little cow-sized pen before you could give them a shot. Our cousin was your typical big Iowa boy built like a defensive tackle. In those days we were more of a scatback. Spry. Nimble. Unable to move a cow.
Farming is somewhere deep in our genes, just as it is in Long Beach's. The massive migration to this city in the early 1900s was chiefly from the Midwest Grain Belt, especially Iowa. Many were elderly, retiring from a life of hard work in extreme weather to a glorious life in the California sunshine in a young seaside town that was rapidly filling up with their neighbors and, later, younger farmers being pushed out of jobs by advances in farming technologies that allowed one farmer to work hundreds of acres practically by himself.
So maybe it shouldn't be surprising, this reawakening of a hankering for good, old-fashioned agriculture in a town that was for decades known as Iowa By the Sea.
The Long Beach City Council is now considering expanded and relaxed
rules regarding raising and keeping chickens, goats and bees within the city limits. The changes have already been approved by the council's Environmental Committee headed by 2nd District councilwoman Suja Lowenthal. They await only final approval by the council, which is still studying the rules, which mainly allow for the keeping of chickens (up to 20), goats (limit of two pygmy goats) and beehives (five), and lessening the restrictions on how far these creatures are from neighboring properties.
Some citizens of Long Beach see this as a return to Hicksville, with country folk raising critters out in the yard. Some are worried about noise. We've already got noise, with chattering squirrels, barking dogs, cawing crows, UPS trucks, overflying airplanes and round-the-clock gardeners. The odd cackle or whinny might be an interesting addition to the sounds of the suburbs. And we've had beehives on our property (millions and millions of bees)- without getting stung.
Others, including your former farming correspondent, as well as Lowenthal, see urban (or suburban) it as progressive and a boost to the rapidly advancing urban farming movement in Long Beach. That movement has been brought about to a large degree by the sins and excesses of Big Food such as Monsanto and Cargill and other companies that have swamped family farms and have been crazily and dangerously tinkering with agriculture and Frankenfood products.
Sustainable farming has been chatted about a lot, but it's a great way to go. There are scores of Long Beach farmers and chefs growing their own food on small lots throughout the city, and some of them grow enough surplus to sell to the public. Check out one of the more notable ones, Sasha Kanno's Farm Lot 59 at 2714 California Ave. (www.longbeachlocal.org).
And, finally, the movement is a return to the sort of simplicity and do-it-yourself farming that most of us who can trace our heritage to the heartland, have in our subconscious, even if it hasn't awoken yet.