A very important part of the Silverton Grange’s mission, is the promotion not only of local agriculture, but also local sustainability. Most may think that we mean these terms to apply to outside the City Limits, in what would traditionally be viewed as “agricultural” land. However, town and city folk have always had a tradition of some sort of personal “agricultural,” endeavor; whether a small garden plot in the back yard, or a couple of hens to provide fresh eggs.
Over the years, our society has seen an increase of available commodities, often shipped in from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. This centralized approach to supplying our day to day substance has altered how we view our food and where it comes from. Post war America encouraged this, while at the same time discouraging many of the traditional approaches that rural and small town people had used to supplement their nutritional intake with local food. From the 1950s on, we saw many municipal codes change, that while often well-meaning, had the effect of stifling local sustainable practices.
We, as a Grange have consciously sought to reverse this unhealthy trend. We not only see it as a good idea to promote local nutritional sustainability, but also as essential for our future survival as a community and as a country.
So when we read the front page story in the February 24 edition of the Silverton Appeal-Tribune, about the Council voting on the “Chicken Issue,” Our interest was piqued. Several of our Grange members, including myself, attended the March 1 City Council Meeting to present facts in support of this proposal. I managed to get in and grab a seat and agenda from the table.
The place was packed full of supporters of the Silverton Skate Park. In fact, some of our members were turned away due to the large numbers. No where on the agenda was the “chicken” vote mentioned. At the opening portion of the meeting, when the Mayor asked for a show of hands for various issues, and he read through the agenda items, and again, “chickens” were never mentioned. In the chaos, we assumed that the chicken issue, for what ever reason, would not be addressed that evening, so we left.
Imagine our shock and surprise when opening the paper the following week to read that yes, it was voted on and was voted down. We of course, learned too late that the “chicken Issue” promoted with such fanfare in the paper was in fact a small portion of Silverton Development Code Revision. Our bad for not researching the issue further. And the fact that the newspaper article likewise failed to mention the SDC, but rather referred to a “Chicken Ordinance,” also contributed to the confusion. But many of us thought it odd that at least some mention was not given in either the agenda or during opening comments.
After viewing the award-winning documentary video “Chicken Revolution” about the same issue in Salem, I was struck by the outright animosity shown by the Mayor and several Salem Councilors, towards this group of concerned citizens. They simply wanted to be within the law, and have three hens, (no roosters).
The Salem Council shot back time and again with more hoops to jump through, more meetings, more proposals, more delays.The irony in the Salem situation, as shown in testimony from the Salem chicken supporters, is that this issue has been addressed by many towns and cities, including Eugene, Corvallis, Portland and even Lake Oswego. Some hens allowed. No roosters. It is in fact, an easily addressed issue, that even the Salem City staff supported.
What did Salem’s Council accomplish during this time? In almost two years of bureaucratic run-arounds, they managed mainly one thing: It soured a large group of people towards participatory democracy in general, and City Government in particular. I would hope that our Council would be different. More along the lines of other, more level-headed communities that have adopted logical chicken ordinances.
The bottom line is that several of us were there on March 1 to make a case for this to the Council. We apparently were swept away by the “Skater’s Waltz.” We feel that this issue should be revisited, and we would hereby request the opportunity to make our presentation to the Council on the matter of “urban hens,” and that the Council reconsider the issue with facts that we were and remain ready to present. And this time, address it specifically, so that we all know what is happening. Instead of hiding behind obscure reversionary development code ordinance titles.
Gus Frederick; Lecturer
Silverton Grange No. 748