Council to consider urban-farm measure

Staff writerJanuary 8, 2013 

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David Koszka checks on the new chickens in the coop behind his South Capitol Neighborhood home in Olympia on Friday, July 30, 2010. The yard and gardens will be featured on the Sustainable Urban Homestead Tour on Aug. 7. (Tony Overman/Staff Photographer)

TONY OVERMAN — The Olympian

It would be easier for Olympia residents to own certain farm animals — such as chickens, miniature goats and ducks — under an ordinance the Olympia City Council will consider tonight.

The measure, known as the Urban Agriculture ordinance, would regulate such animals as fowl rather than pets, and allow more of them. It also specifies what dwellings the animals should expect and allows taller fences, up to 8 feet high, to keep wild animals such as deer out of gardens.

Here are some highlights:

 • Up to five ducks or female chickens would be allowed on lots of 1 acre or less. Roosters, geese and turkeys aren’t allowed.

 • Up to five rabbits would be allowed for a quarter-acre, and an additional rabbit is allowed for each additional 1,000 square feet of area, up to a total of 10 rabbits.

 • Up to two miniature goats would be allowed for lots between 5,000 square feet and an acre. For lots larger than an acre, an additional goat is allowed for each additional 1,000 square feet of area, topping out at six goats total.

The new rules would be a change from current regulations, which allow three pets, and consider chickens as pets.

Under the new rules, three pets would be allowed in addition to the fowl.

“I personally think it’s a lot of fun to grow your own food, and for many people this is a great way to live more sustainably and do it in a way that is both healthy and cost effective,” said Mayor Stephen Buxbaum, who owns chickens himself.

Passing the ordinance would be the culmination of about two years of discussion between the city and Sustainable South Sound, a nonprofit organization that promotes urban agriculture.

TJ Johnson, the organization’s program lead for Local Food Systems, said the measure is a “tiny first step” toward creating a larger food system for the community. The next step is to put together a comprehensive plan for such a system.

Buxbaum agrees that more work is needed — “everything from beekeeping to best practices for managing … raccoons and deer and other animals that like to sample our urban agricultural programs.”

Johnson said the push for more urban agriculture really began with a big community meeting that drew more than 200 people to a local Unitarian church. Johnson, a former city councilman, said activities such as raising rabbits for meat or goats for milk have become more appealing during the recent economic downturn.

“People don’t have as much discretionary income as they used to have, and they’re looking for ways to stretch their dollars, and raising your own food is a really inexpensive way of making your food dollars go further,” he said.

Under the new measure, people would be able to sell their food directly from their home, meaning local dollars would stay in the community, Johnson said.

Johnson said the measure is consistent with ordinances adopted in Lacey and Tumwater in 2011.

“It’s taken a little bit longer in Olympia,” he said, “but we’ve stuck with it.”

TO LEARN MORE

To learn more about creating your own urban farm, visit Sustainable South Sound’s website at sustainablesouthsound.org

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@ theolympian.com @MattBatcheldor

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