URBAN LIVESTOCK EXPO GATHERS CITY CRITTER KEEPERS
Angelic Organics Learning Center and Advocates for Urban Agriculture are holding their first-ever Urban Livestock Expo February 16, 2013 from 10AM to 1PM at Garfield Park Conservatory. They are partnering with the Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts and hosted by the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance.
The Expo offers the chance to network with new and experienced urban livestock keepers and learn about raising chickens/poultry, bees, goats, and rabbits in the city. The focus is on raising animals responsibly in backyards, with representatives of many urban livestock groups, projects, and businesses on hand to tell visitors about opportunities for learning, visits, apprenticeships, sources of supplies, networking, and more.
Participants will include new and experienced livestock keepers, experienced instructors, organized networks like the Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts, Windy City Bees, and the Goat Guardians Guild; organizations that support, train and advise on livestock topics; and businesses that provide supplies and services to people keeping livestock in the city.
Very brief presentations on each "critter group" (chickens, bees, goats, rabbits) start at 10:15, followed by in-depth discussions, and then time to mingle and browse information tables. The in-depth discussions will lift up primary issues for people to consider about raising livestock in the city; for example, quality housing and care, sources of food and supplies, manure management, perceptions of bees, concerns about attracting rats and predators, and biological lifecycles.
The goals of the Expo are to foster the health and well being of animals and people living together in the city, to highlight livestock as part of an integrated ecological urban lifestyle, and to increase local food security - starting in our backyards.
Well-maintained and designed integrated systems use and recycle resources better and produce food. Many people are creatively weaving together food gardens, livestock, composting, and water cycling in small and well-coordinated backyard systems for the good of health and the environment.
Martha Boyd, Angelic Organic Learning Center’s Program Director in Chicago, notes that there is a growing movement of people interested in urban livestock keeping. She moderates the Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts google group with now over 430 members, many of whom have chickens (and ducks!) in the city and suburbs.
The Learning Center offers Basic Backyard Chicken Care workshops in March and November. Since 2007, when they helped to prevent a ban on backyard chickens in Chicago, approximately 250 people have taken the workshop. Boyd states, “We believe if we promote urban livestock, we must also teach and organize to ensure high standards and healthy animals.”
She explains, “As soon as you acquire livestock, you become an ambassador, the face of urban livestock for the people that encounter you. They will use you as their reference point, good or bad. 'Winging it' isn’t fair to the livestock we keep, to our neighbors, or to the staff responsible for city services. Organized groups with expertise can serve as sources of information, guidance, and good examples of best practices."
The Advocates for Urban Agriculture is a coalition of practitioners whose mission is to promote and increase food production in the city.