This Sunday, June 9, Pgh folks can get up close and personal with urban chickens via the the 3rd Annual Chicks-in-the-Hood tour of urban chicken homesteads throughout the Northside and East End of the City. The tour will introduce adults and children to the different types of chickens, coops and lifestyles of urban homesteading in our region.
Iin 2012, Bitch magazine published an in-depth analysis of urban homesteading, critiquing how the resurgence of lifestyle choices threatens the survival skills that have always existed in urban environments.
[W]e need to acknowledge the foundation of these practices as poor skills—survival skills and “alternate” techniques for accessing food, shelter, and power primarily practiced by those with marginal or nonexistent incomes.
The mainstream appropriation of poor skills might sell books, but it might also be detrimental to the people who do depend on these skills for survival. Simply put, the appropriation of poor skills by the mainstream can end up further marginalizing already marginalized populations who still rely on those skills.
How is the increased interest in these skills and general self-sufficiency issues impacting poor Americans? Costs of supplies are on the rise because demand is on the rise. Policy changes on the “wrong” kind of farming can impact families who need meat (protein) or enough eggs to feed their family versus raising an “acceptable” amount of chickens for City officials. Remember, urban homesteading – gardens, small farm animals – have been part of the urban environment forever.
I’m not homesteading because I need it to survive. But these are my roots; these are the skills my family practiced for their own survival. And I think that there must be a way to practice these skills while being socially responsible, aware of how the new energy in the urban homesteading movement can negatively impact the people who will continue to use these skills out of necessity.
I think one way in which Pittsburgh Pro Poultry People has tackled this challenge is their partnership with Just Harvest, a non-profit which tackles hunger, poverty, and economic injustice by creating policy, advocating and helping people get tied in to benefits. In other words, Just Harvest is working on the very systemic issues outlined in the Bitch piece. This is the organization which recently launched an effort to allow residents to use SNAP (food stamps) at several local Farmer’s Markets – Just Harvest sets up a booth and uses a card reader to convert SNAP benefits into tokens redeemable at the market booths. What I like about this idea is that anyone with a debit or credit card can “purchase” tokens – so our transaction fees benefit our neighbors rather than the bank with the nearest ATM.
I’m not familiar with public policy with regard to urban homesteading in Pittsburgh, but I’ll be looking into it this summer. Promoting chickens as “ideal pets” doesn’t seem consistent with supporting lifelong urban homesteaders, but I’m going to keep an open mind until I take the tour.
This is a self-guided tour from 9 AM – 3 PM. Tickets are $10 for adults (kids are free) which includes a map. Proceeds benefit Just Harvest.