A chicken ain’t nothin’ but a bird: local food production and thepolitics of land-use change
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
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