Monday, October 10, 2011

City dwellers get a whiff of urban chicken farming – video

Sweet Providence Farm

UPDATED Oct. 12: The results of a poll taken at a meeting following the trip were 27 opposed, 5 were not opposed but said no chickens and 9 were not opposed. Emails, flyers and phone calls have been circulating in opposition. There is no date set yet for council to decide on the sale of the property to the co-op.

What to do with the Countryside golf course that Roanoke City purchased for $4.1 million in 2005. The conundrum has been an exhausting city planning exercise. It has been a year since the residents of the Northwest community sat down with the Planning Commission to hash out a Master Plan for the property.

One 12-acre parcel of the 130-acre purchase was almost an afterthought to the residents who participated in the development of the Master Plan. It now has turned into the most contentious.

The parcel was earmarked for agriculture. The only acceptable use for the 12-acres that came into city hands after a land swap with the Roanoke Regional Airport Authority. The parcel lies directly at the end of the last airport guide light of runway 6 – restricted due to avigation easements and aircraft noise.

To the chagrin of many residents the proposal from the Grandin Road Roanoke Natural Food Co-op included 400 chickens that would serve as organic fertilizer to vegetables and plants kept in multiple hoop houses.

There is strong opposition to the farm. Even a facebook page has been created proclaiming No chicken farm in NW Roanoke.

What do 400 chickens smell and sound like the neighborhood wondered. The co-op offered a bus trip to Floyd County’s Sweet Providence Farm on Route 221 Saturday. Thirty residents took them up on the offer. Some familiar with farms and some that never laid eyes on a live chicken.

Gayle Coole, Co-op Board of Directors

Even those opposed to the chickens enjoyed the beautiful day and hospitality of the co-op and farm. Sean Jordan farm manager for the co-op fielded questions about what the coops would look like.

The co-op leased an Abbott bus for the day and an airport van to drive down to the chicken coop where 500 chickens were housed. They provided lunch and gave each neighbor a dozen free-range chicken eggs.

Sweet Providence General Manager David Maren educated the city dwellers on the Red Star and Rhode Island Red chickens. Phil Jones who lives on Lewiston Street asked, “I thought you needed a rooster to get hens to lay eggs.” Maren chuckled and told Johns “the eggs will never hatch.”

The clucked, scratched and darted in and out of the fenced area around the wide-open terrain. The main predators were hawks that lay in wait in the trees nearby. Maren said they expect to lose a few chickens to the hawks. Other predators are fox, coyotes, skunks and raccoons.

Councilman Bill Bestpitch and Planing Administrator Chris Chittum went along. Chittum even brought a decibel meter to gage the sound level. To his dismay the neighbors were louder then the chickens.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Local Events

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