Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Please Take our Survey

Have you taken the survey yet? Here, let me make it easy for you... you don't even have to leave this page! Since you're here, please take a few moments to fill out our food security survey. This is going to be a VALUABLE for showing the city how many people want urban agriculture and will give us real numbers to present them. Don't forget to share with your facebook friends! 

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Tyson is out

Following the KNWA interview, we have seen an incredible number of comments pointing fingers at Tyson. This is the portion of the script causing the uproar:

Mayor:            “We rely so heavily on the poultry industry…”
KNWA:            [cue Tyson sign]
Mayor:            “There could definitely be some biosecurity concerns…”

The mayor is right, we DO rely heavily on the poultry industry, and no one is trying to shut them down; there will always be a need for chicken. As for biosecurity, it sounds as if he doesn’t really know if there are concerns, or what they are. We know that biosecurity is an issue. We also know that biosecurity is the responsibility of Tyson, or any other producer, and they already have systems in place to ensure it. Just like the large producers, individuals who keep chickens at home are responsible for their own biosecurity.

We didn’t want to involve Tyson, but they were dragged into the ring anyway. Because of this, I sent a probing email –a  to Tyson’s poultry division public relations manager. Here’s how it went:

Me:                  “Mayor Doug Sprouse voiced concerns of "biosecurity" during an interview with KNWA on Tuesday, and a shot of a Tyson business sign was aired during that portion of the interview. Your company has been brought into the city's business, and the citizens of Springdale would like to know what Tyson's official stance is concerning back yard hens. Would you be able to provide a public statement on this matter?”

Tyson:             “This is a matter between the city and its residents, so we don't have a position.”

And there we have it. It’s really that simple. The world’s largest poultry producer doesn’t seem to be too concerned about a few backyard hens, so why is the city?

This email takes one of our concerns off the table, but it’s not a golden ticket to Chickenville. We still have a lot of work to do.


Friday, January 31, 2014


In 2010, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe decided it was time to address the issue of child hunger in Arkansas. He brought together people from all over the state who represented the many relevant social service agencies that serve the needs of low-income Arkansans. He dedicated a staff memeber to the issue, and organized a coalition of partners, led by Share Our Strength, No Kid Hungry, and the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. In attendance at the Governor's meeting was Denise Garner, a Fayetteville resident known for her community engagement and active involvement in social justice issues. Garner recalls that she believed she was going to the capital to discuss hunger in the Arkansas Delta, often cited as the state's poorest region. What she learned, however, was that Washington and Benton counties have more hungry children than any other region in the state.
Edible Ozarkansas, Issue One, Fall 2013

Food Insecurity in Arkansas

Food Insecurity- Access to adequate food was limited by a lack of money and other resources

Some numbers:

USDA Report for 2011-  In Arkansas, 19.2 percent of households reported food insecurity, meaning low or very low food security, and 7.6 percent reported very low food security, according to the report.
source: http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2012/sep/05/food-insecurity-arkansas-top-usda-reports/
The average income of Washington county residents is $32,309, compared to a national average income of $39,937
source: Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce

Washington County has the second highest SNAP enrollment rate in Arkansas (source: Arkansas Department of Human Services)
source: http://www.feedfayetteville.org/about/mission-vision-history/

Washington County food insecurity rate among children is 27.7%
source: http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-studies/map-the-meal-gap.aspx

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

KNWA Feature

Did you see our feature on KNWA last night? Frankie did a great job getting the point of our fight out there. This isn't about chickens, or Tyson, or city council. It's about food security. It's about not having to be wealthy to be healthy. We have one goal:

To make health and wellness achievable for everyone in the community.

There are a few things that stood out to me from the interview last night. 

Reporter: "Contamination is often traced back to uninspected sources like backyard birds"
  • I'm going research and see if this is a documented fact.
  • "Uninspected" is a key word here. Uninspected by whom? The USDA? The city of Springdale? Might this be resolved by simply requiring a low-cost permit?

Mayor: "Biosecurity concerns with production that goes on within our city limits"
  • According to the USDA Biosecurity is "...The protection of agricultural animals from any type of infectious agent -- viral, bacterial, fungal, or parasitic. People can spread diseases as they move within a facility and from one facility to another. Animals or equipment introduced into a facility can bring pathogens with them. Among the many biosecurity procedures that can prevent these types of disease transmission are such measures as use of protective clothing, waiting periods for new animals and visitors, and cleaning."
  • The USDA has a Biosecurity for backyard birds site here  
  • How much chicken production really goes on within our city limits? Naturally, there are no birds within residential areas (because that would be illegal) so we are asking for birds in completely separate areas from agricultural areas. It appears, according to the USDA, the concern of contamination is limited to the possibility of someone going to a contaminated backyard, then into a commercial facility WITHOUT disinfecting themselves or donning the customary bio-hazard suit. I see nothing on the site about airborne illnesses being a possibility. The most likely worst case scenario is someone spreading disease from one backyard coop to another backyard coop, which still seems a pretty small chance. If the city's concern is truly a backyard coop contaminating a large-scale chicken house, it seems the USDA site link above should settle those fears.
Mayor: "A lot of things would have to change and a lot of assurances and safeguards would have to be in place before I would support it".
  • What, specifically, has to happen before we would have his support? We would love to get in a room with him and get the details on what he wants to see to offer his support. 
  • Like the mayor, we want a healthy community and, yes, that means free of disease. We are gathering information so we know EXACTLY what it's going to take to have healthy birds, too. Any information the mayor of our fine town has to share with us to make this happen is welcome!
I know our mayor is a great supporter of gardens and I believe that makes him a fan of food security. As a community, we need to come together and work for the health and wellness of ALL our neighbors, and backyard hens are a step in the right direction.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Progress update 01.27.14

Tomorrow I have an interview setup with KNWA news, but, before they get to me, they’re meeting with Mayor Doug Sprouse to get the city’s side of the story. We all know what the city’s stance is on this subject; I just want to hear Mayor Sprouse say that the city is willing to talk to us about our ideas. Getting his face on the news makes this issue real, and, as planned, it will certainly get people talking. We had a slow weekend on the petition. We ended Friday with 142 signatures, and as of right now we are at 154. Fret not, lovers of the fowl. Once the story hits the air that number will grow exponentially.

Tiffany and I spent Saturday doing a little research and talking with folks. We met with Robyn from the National Center for AppropriateTechnologies. They are the division of ATTRA (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) that publishes third party research regarding small to medium farm operations. They have some great information regarding back yard birds and will be a valuable asset in the future. We also spent about two hours with Don Bennett at Tri Cycle Farms. If you haven’t been out there, you need to go. It’s pretty brown right now, being winter and all, but they could always use an extra shovel to help out. As for Don, he’s about the most passionate person you’ll ever meet.

On a legal note, we are planning to further organize our efforts… as in forming a non-profit. We are in the embryonic stages right now, but it is coming. Why? Well, this is not just about chickens. As we have said before this is about combating food insecurity in Springdale. Hens certainly make urban farming more sustainable, but they are only one small part of the overall solution. We need to setup infrastructure to support and sustain the urban agriculture movement, to inform and educate the community, and to ­­­­­­­­­gather data for accurate assessment of our progress. This infrastructure will require a lot of time, hard work, community support, and, unfortunately, money. However, once we get established and we’re able to show a good deal of positive data, we could qualify for grant money to get things moving and shaking, like a boss.

More to come.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Progress update 01.23.14

As of this morning we were at 71 electronic signatures! That is more than tripple the number we had 24 hours ago. We have also gained some powerful allies with Feed Communities and Tricycle Farms, two organizations that led to a recent victory in Fayetteville.

Our efforts in Springdale may also be getting some(more) much needed exposure from the local news media. 40/29 ran a teaser on us Monday night, and again Tuesday morning, sparking a small surge in activity. KNWA has now expressed their interest in the full story.

“… the issue at hand is not about chickens at all -chickens are just the means to an end. What we are fighting for is food security within our community. Access to healthy food; a lack of education regarding food; community health... these are just a few of the issues we intend to address within our proposal.”

Folks, please understand that we are not just fighting to get a chicken in the backyard of every home in Springdale. Chickens are just one part of a broad solution to a global issue. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, many of our neighbors can’t afford healthy food, so they turn to boxed or processed foods that offer little –if any– nutritional benefit. As a result, the obesity epidemic is spiraling out of control in lower income homes. With a little education, a little elbow grease, and cooperation from our city, I believe that we can begin to change this, one back yard at a time.