January 19, 2014 in City

Doug Clark: All the joys of farm life, without all the acreage

By The Spokesman-Review
 

It’s the Year of the Horse, according to the Chinese calendar.

But here in Spokane, 2014 could be the Year of the Small Pig, Handful of Chickens and Maybe a Pygmy Goat if the new urban farming ordinances go into effect.

Spearheaded by Council President Ben Stuckart, the ordinances would rewrite zoning laws to make it legal for city dwellers to keep small livestock (depending on the size of the residential homestead) and sell on site whatever crops they manage to grow.

Marijuana not included, naturally.

You’d still need to jump through a lot of special hoops to become a commercial weed rancher. That or start a secret basement grow operation.

But getting back to the new farm rules …

Stuckart is quick to credit volunteers and Washington State University, which will certify and train those who want to become part of the “market garden” program.

This is all about the larger issue of sustainability and feeding people, Stuckart told me on Friday.

Before going any further, I have to say that Stuckart wouldn’t be my pick as the council member most likely to represent municipal farming.

I could maybe see Mike Fagan pruning his front yard cabbage orchard. Stuckart, however, looks like he’d be more at home smoking menthol cigarettes in a dimly lit jazz joint.

The ordinance is still in the semi-early draft stages, meaning details could change before it comes before the council, probably in late February or March.

But as it now stands, the trained and certified city hayseed would be able to keep the aforementioned miniature porker, etc., but no cock-a-doodling roosters.

I don’t want to get mired in boring details. You should know, however, that the above critters would be in addition to your “aggregate of four dogs and cats per dwelling unit …”

Lofty goals aside, not everybody has hopped onto this hayride.

At least Gary Redmond hasn’t.

The South Hill resident sent me an email to point out the harsh odorous realities that might come with urban agriculture.

“A quick Internet search will reveal that a 100-pound pig will generate approximately 1,200 pounds of waste per year,” he groused.

“This does not include urine.”

Sickening, though good to know.

Just thinking outside the pigpen, but if this catches on the city might have to issue another color-coded refuse bin.

Right now we have brown bins for garbage, blue bins for recyclables and green bins for yard waste.

Why not pink bins for pig poo?

We’d probably have to pay haulers a whole lot more to make those Spoinkane collections.

It may surprise many of you to know that I actually come from a short, but proud, line of South Hill dirt farmers.

No kidding. My grandpa, David L. Pugh, moved from Utah to Spokane’s Altamont circle in 1951. He immediately planted vegetables and built a clapboard chicken coop on the nearly 2 acres that came with his modest home.

After his death in 1961, my mom and dad took over the farming duties.

During a couple of busy summers, they actually paid for my brother Dave’s college tuition by selling their homegrown zucchinis to area grocery stores.

This sounds just like the “market garden” concept Stuckart is so hot on.

And I learned volumes from my agrarian experience.

Watching my loved ones sweat and labor in the soil day after day empowered me with the survival skills I needed to avoid having to do any work on the family farm.

DAD: “Where’s that damned Doug?”

MOM: “I don’t know. He was here just a minute ago.”

The moral to this story is count me out!

If I want an egg or an eggplant, I’m going to Rosauers.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or dougc@spokesman.com.


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