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The First Step Toward Food Sovereignty: Bring Back the Neighborhood Livestock

Food sovereignty has been with us since humanity began. Without it our health and the planet’s health suffers.

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How about pigs? A German woman in her 80’s tells me stories of her childhood. She says it was traditional to collectively raise pigs in small villages. Families, schools, and restaurants contributed leftovers to feed them. During the privations of winter each year the town pigs were slaughtered to feed the poor. This seems like a custom worth reviving here in our own cities and suburbs, rife with empty lots and hungry people. We have friends who raise two pigs a year. They manage to do so in a pen no larger than a parking space, although they let the pigs range most days through their fenced backyard. Their biggest problem? The entire family becomes fond of the clever and highly personable pigs.

How about goats? My mother told me about an Italian family who carefully tended the tiny lot behind their urban Cleveland home. They brought home discarded produce from nearby stores to feed their goats, gladly sharing homemade chevre and mozzarella with neighbors just beyond the tall fences. Currently  half of all food is discarded in the U.S. If even a fraction of that waste is healthy unprocessed food (consider what your green grocer tosses each week) imagine feeding it instead to animals and composting what can’t be used.

How about cows? As we know around here, that  it’s not all that hard to care for a few dairy cows. If there’s an empty lot on your block or a foreclosed house about to be razed, even better. A co-op of neighbors can build a barn, put up fencing, and agree on a grazing schedule in backyards up and down the street. Then they can learn alongside their children how to milk and tend a cow or two while enjoying the freshest of dairy products, plus manure for vegetable gardens and the delights of a yearly calf.

Real solutions are nearby. Maybe those solutions will look like grapevines growing behind apartment buildings in anticipation of next year’s East 4th Street Wine. Heaping wheelbarrows filled with less-than-marketable cabbages and apples heading for backyard goats and pigs. And children tending gentle cows in your neighborhood while the morning’s fresh milk cools in your refrigerator.

 

 
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