Chicken and the City

Moncton cooperates with urban food project

MONCTON – A plan hatched by a group calling for food self-sufficiency soon will have egg-producing hens roosting in a suburban backyard in Moncton.

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written by Adam Huras/Telegraph-Journal
Roy MacMullin, right, and Patrick Thibeault are members of Post Carbon Greater Moncton. The Greater Moncton Regional Planning Commission has granted the group a one-year temporary permit to run an urban experimental farm. The hope is the project will spur a bylaw to allow all urban Moncton residents to have egg-laying chickens on their property.

The Greater Moncton Regional Planning Commission has granted a community group’s request for a one-year temporary permit to run an experimental urban farm.

The pilot project could lead to a bylaw allowing chickens in city neighbourhoods, producing fresh and chemical-free eggs.

“We had a meeting and we were talking about different ideas we could promote and one suggested this,” said Roy MacMullin, a member of Post Carbon Greater Moncton. “At the beginning we thought ‘that’s crazy’ but it grew on us.”

Post Carbon Greater Moncton is a group of approximately 65 citizens. Its members believe that the world is about to enter an era of oil scarcity, something that likely will lead to a significant shift in the way we live.

“This is about food security,” MacMullin said. “This is about bringing back control to the people over a little bit of their food.

“What we are hoping is that we can develop a bylaw. Not everybody will be interested, but I think it will help us go back to a life more similar to the way our grandfathers lived.”

The approved plan allows up to four hens to be kept on properties within the city.

The group has promised to deliver a full report to the City of Moncton before the end of 2010, examining optimal conditions for small-scale farming in an urban setting.

There also will be an educational component to the project as the group expects to organize tours of the urban farm and hold public sessions on food security and self-sufficiency.

It could also lay the groundwork for a municipal regulatory framework.

“People have forgotten where food comes from – we just go to the supermarket and there it is,” MacMullin said. “But some day we might go to the supermarket and it won’t be there, especially because of the energy component of delivering food from around the world.”

The urban farm will be run by group members and Université de Moncton professor Anne-Marie Laroche. It will be set up in a residential neighborhood.

“It’s something I was thinking about because I do a vegetable garden around the house and I thought it was an innovative idea,” she said. “You don’t have to be there every minute with chickens. When the coop is built you feed them and make sure they always have water and it’s not a lot of time.

“It’s easier than having a dog because you don’t have to walk them.”

A planning commission staffing report said the rationale behind approving the project centered on the lack of basic knowledge about food security and how it could “leave us vulnerable to any number of events that could disrupt a tightly-coupled, energy-intensive and fragile system.” Wars, natural disasters and the oil crisis are some examples of such devastating events.

Permission was only granted by a vote of 10 against seven.

There have been heated debates about urban chickens in other places, including Hamilton, Waterloo and Halifax.

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