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A chicken ain't nothin' but a bird: local food production and the politics of land-use change

A chicken ain't nothin' but a bird: local food production and the politics of land-use change

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Published by Paul Hughes
Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability
Volume 17, Issue 1, 2012
Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability
Volume 17, Issue 1, 2012

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Paul Hughes on Feb 06, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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This article was downloaded by: [University of Chicago]On: 06 February 2012, At: 06:20Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Local Environment: The InternationalJournal of Justice and Sustainability
Publication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cloe20
A chicken ain't nothin' but a bird: localfood production and the politics ofland-use change
Hugh Bartling
Public Policy Studies, DePaul University, 2352 N. Clifton,Chicago, IL, 60614, USAAvailable online: 07 Dec 2011
To cite this article:
Hugh Bartling (2012): A chicken ain't nothin' but a bird: local food productionand the politics of land-use change, Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice andSustainability, 17:1, 23-34
To link to this article:
PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use:http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionsThis article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representationthat the contents will be completeor accurate or up to date. The accuracy of anyinstructions, formulae, and drug doses should be independently verified with primarysources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings,demand, or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly orindirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.
A chicken ain’t nothin’ but a bird: local food production and thepolitics of land-use change
Hugh Bartling
 Public Policy Studies, DePaul University, 2352 N. Clifton, Chicago, IL 60614, USA
As discourses of sustainability and the awareness of the environmental and healthimpacts of factory farming have become more widespread in recent years, manyresidents of urban and suburban communities have become interested in producingtheir own food. Spurred by popular writers like Michael Pollan and BarbaraKingsolver, celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver, and First Lady Michelle Obama who planted an organic garden at the White House in 2009, gardening and food production has gained popularity in recent years. While much of this activity isallowable (and encouraged) by local governments, some urban agricultural activityfalls outside the limits of permissibility in local zoning codes and land use ordinances.
urban agriculture; sustainability; land use
While the urban food movement is multifaceted and international in scope, this paper looksat the phenomenon in the USA from the standpoint of the political conflict that arises whenland-use policy changes are required to accommodate small-scale urban agricultural production. Based on the analysis of primary documents and interviews, I will specificallylook at the conflict around efforts to introduce ordinances allowing micro-scale poultry-keeping in local municipalities in the USA.There are several reasons why examining the contours of this conflict is of interest toscholars and policy-makers interested in local sustainability initiatives and policies. First,efforts to allow micro-flock chicken-keeping are significant, nascent, and growing innumber throughout North America. Although no comprehensive data are available onthe number of people keeping chickens in urban areas, there have been scores of articlesin the popular press about the phenomenon along with a proliferation of internet sites tooffer guidance, supplies and advice for city dwellers interested in raising poultry.
The phenomena create social challenges to the extent that many cities and suburbs haveexplicit prohibitions on the practice of chicken-keeping. These formal restrictions against  poultry-keeping were largely developed during thepost-World WarTwo eraof metropolitanexpansion and the proliferation of municipal zoning and urban planning that transpired inthe aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the legality of municipal powers toregulate land use in the 1920s. Although some older cities such as New York and Chicagonever implemented restrictions on poultry-keeping, in many suburbs restrictions weredeployed as a way to mediate between the interests of new residents attracted to suburbia
ISSN 1354-9839 print/ISSN 1469-6711 online
2012 Taylor & Francishttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13549839.2011.627323http://www.tandfonline.com
Email: hbartlin@depaul.edu
 Local Environment 
Vol. 17, No. 1, January 2012, 23–34
   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   C   h   i  c  a  g  o   ]  a   t   0   6  :   2   0   0   6   F  e   b  r  u  a  r  y   2   0   1   2
for a decidedly residential character and older, commercial agricultural enterprises whose practices were perceived as incompatible with residential land uses.In the intervening years, commercial agriculture has largely disappeared from cities andsuburbs, impacting perceptions of the “place” of certain types of agriculture in residentialsettings. Market pressures favouring residential, retail, and office land uses as well asconsolidation in commercial agriculture have made commercial agriculture infeasible inmany metropolitan municipalities. Historians such as Beauregard (2006) and Baxandalland Ewen (2000) trace patterns in post-War culture that focus on the proliferation of consumption over production and the ways in which urbanism (broadly defined) wasconfigured to accommodate this consumptive ethic.The new poultry-keeping movement that is emerging in the USA directly challengesthese cultural patterns and policy conflict has ensued in municipalities where the laws prohibiting chicken-keeping remain on the books. Given that the motivation of current advocates for urban chicken-keeping is explicitly non-commercial, the ways in whichcommunities negotiate the efficacy of prohibitions written to address a fundamentallydifferent set of circumstances exposes a fundamental conflict about what sorts of practicesand behaviors are “appropriate” for urban and suburban life.A second reason for focusing on local movements to allow urban and suburban poultry-keeping lies in the value of exploring the nature of this emergent cultural conflict aroundwhat constitutes acceptable activities in metropolitan areas. Although there is a long andimportant literature in the disciplines of cultural geography, urban planning, and associatedfields concerned with interrogating the notion of an urban–rural divide as well as exploringthe heterogeneity of what constitutes “the city” and “the suburb”, there still persists a set of dominant cultural referents defining acceptable activities in urban and suburban spaces. Asthe realities of metropolitan heterogeneity become more visible and urban and suburbanresidents engage in vigorous reconceptualisation of the norms relating to life in their muni-cipalities, conflict is sure to emerge around particular policy decisions. By exploring therhetorical texture that is manifest in the debates surrounding pressures for a policy shift in the domain of something like chicken-keeping, we can highlight the shifting nature of urban and suburban life and governance which could point to a host of new areas of  policy change.In the remainder of this article I will first provide a historical context – based from aUS perspective for the shifting terrain governing animals in the city. Urban food production and animal husbandry have been around as long as cities themselves. For the purposes of this study, I will discuss how processes of industrialisation shaped theexpectations for agriculture and the city with a specific emphasis on animals. Theexpansion of the industrial city in the USA during the late nineteenth and early twentiethcenturies was marked by a changing conception of the relationship between humans andnature. This change has been multifaceted, but of particular import for an understanding of current policy debates, I will briefly look at the literature of urbanisation and the human– animal relationship. While on the surface the connections between these two domains (andtheir relationship to contemporary policy debates) may appear opaque, I argue that they areessential for understanding the motivations behind the push in many communities to allowchicken-keeping as well as for comprehending the resistance towards such proposals inmany quarters. In a sense, the debates over urban chicken-keeping are reflective of alarger ambiguity that characterises the human relationship with the environment in anera of climate change and concern about the environmental sustainability of the dominant  practices of consumption and production that have grown to characterise the mainstreamfood system.24
H. Bartling 
   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   C   h   i  c  a  g  o   ]  a   t   0   6  :   2   0   0   6   F  e   b  r  u  a  r  y   2   0   1   2

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