My parents have befriended another retired couple in France. They've done one home exchange and are planning another; meanwhile, my father and the other guy chat via Skype a few times a week, sometimes in French and sometimes in English, to improve their language skills. It's a lovely friendship and, as it turns out, a fascinating cultural exchange.
The wife in this French couple, Marie, said to my dad last week, "Next time we come to visit, find a farm nearby that raises ducks. Just get me two, and I'll kill them in your backyard and make you a nice pâté."
Uh. You'll do WHAT in my backyard? My parents are carnivores, and they love her homemade pâté, but they had to break the news to her that one simply does not go out and buy live animals, drive them home in the back seat, and slaughter them in the yard. Dad said that he wasn't even sure that was legal.
Marie thought they must have run into some sort of language barrier. What do you mean, you can't kill a duck in your own backyard? It's for dinner!
Well. A situation has arisen in Oakland with regard to the question of what one does in one's backyard, and several of you have written to me and asked why I haven't ranted on the subject yet. We do take requests here at GardenRant, so here goes:
Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, grows vegetables on a vacant lot in Oakland, and raises rabbits, goats, ducks for milk/eggs/meat. She puts up a farm stand now and then and sells surplus produce.
The comments on her blog suggest that some in the neighborhood object to the slaughtering of animals, and some of them question whether the eggs/milk/meat are only for her own use or are for sale. The objections to what she's doing seem to be more about the animals than the selling of Swiss chard, as near as we can figure out, but it's the selling of stuff that causes her to run afoul of city zoning rules.
This article in the Chronicle sums up the trouble: by selling the produce at a little farm stand, she's gotten herself in trouble with city officials, and now she's got to pay some fines and stuff.
So at first I thought, well, there are rules involved in running any sort of business, and like it or not, if you're going to sell people food, there are even more rules. We've decided, as a society, that farmers can't just run farms and sell produce without some sort of oversight to ensure that some basic health and safety standards are followed. It's a bummer when you're a one-person operation trying to become a business, but hey, rules are rules.
But here's the deal: When she bought the vacant lot (which is next door to her apartment), she ASKED the city what she'd have to do to be in compliance. She was told that new urban agriculture rules were going into effect soon, and just to sit tight. Then she got hit with notices to abate, fines, enforcement, etc. for being out of compliance with existing laws, with no mention of the new laws about to go into effect.
It's a big mess. The bottom line: Oakland could have helped her come into complaince and avoided a PR nightmare. The new rules go into effect April 14, but apparently they don't cover animals, only vegetables, so she's still got some issues to work out.
On her blog, you can read a blow-by-blow of the whole thing and donate to her legal bills via PayPal. You can also read the comments, where it seems like there is still some uneasiness about the animals, the butchering of the animals, the free-ranginess of the animals, etc.
Is she being screwed by The Man? Or is it reasonable to ask your neighbors to follow some rules and pay some fees when it comes to the raising and butchering of meat for personal use, the selling of produce, or (although we're not sure if this actually happened) the selling of meat/eggs/milk from your backyard livestock? Discuss amongst yourselves, or head over to her blog and let her know what you think.