Ecology Law Currents is the online-only publication of Ecology Law Quarterly, one of the nation's most respected and widely read environmental law journals. Currents features short-form commentary and analysis on timely environmental law and policy issues.


To be notified when the latest Currents articles are published, subscribe to the Currents list serve by emailing here.


Ecology Law Currents accepts submissions on an ongoing basis. For more information, see our guidelines.

« Whale of an Opportunity: Coast Guard Study of Los Angeles/Long Beach Port Access Routes Holds Great Potential for Reducing Ship Strikes within Santa Barbara Channel | Main | Preliminary Injunctive Relief in the Ninth Circuit after Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

This article is a very interesting survey of some of the issues inherent in the urban farming movement. Communities that are considering amending their bylaws to allow for urban farming need to balance a number of competing values, including animal welfare. The experience of the City of Vancouver, Canada, is informative. Vancouver recently adopted a bylaw allowing residents to keep backyard hens. The bylaw attempts to address the welfare of the animals by strictly regulating the hen's enclosure (i.e. must have a perch for each hen, must have at least .37m of cooped area and .92m of outdoor area for each hen, etc.) and by prohibiting the backyard slaughter of hens. Hen's can only be slaughtered at a farm or abattoir, or taken to a veterinarian to be euthanized. The City also provides information on the humane treatment of hens, and backyard farmers who want to know more can attend workshops.

Very thought provoking. I'm curious to learn more the details of how urban farming works, particularly in impoverished areas. How are people trained in urban farming and how are specific challenges dealt with? Like roosters crowing, cleaning large animal cages in small urban spaces, finding space that is near and convenient to compost in, etc.

This article raises a number of persuasive reasons for an expansion of urban homesteading. Optimistically, another future potential benefit would be people's increased interest in bringing about an overall decrease in urban pollution. If enough people are growing and eating food raised on urban land this should provide an incentive for these individuals to want to reduce local air and land pollution so far as it will affect their ability to continue to grow healthy food and raise healthy animals. Of course, this is dependent upon adequate local ordinances and community education that encourages urban homesteading to be undertaken in a sustainable manner or else urban farmers run the risk of conversely increasing local pollution.

Fascinating article. Good application of the classic balancing formula in evalating whether city regulations should be laxed to encourage urban farming.

I appreciate the author's balancing of the heightened value of urban homesteading with the potential nuisance problems related to urban husbandry. My backyard connects to a yard with a fowl enclosure which houses hens, roosters, turkeys, and rheas (large emu-like birds). The yard additionally has a multi-level bee-hive as well as various fruit and vegetable gardens. While I greatly appreciate the value of the "private property owners' interest in promoting household food, security, food safety, sustainability, and self-sufficiency," I also understand concerns related to nuisance law. The four roosters start crowing around 5:00 AM every morning. Additionally, the turkeys frequently make a very high-pitched sound. While this does not bother me personally, I generally wake early and leave my house for school. I would feel differently if I worked at home or worked a night shift and my sleep was interrupted by loud crowing every morning.

I believe, however, that the social utility of urban homesteading outweighs the harm. Saving vast amounts of energy, allowing for sustainable practices, and ensuring certain securities for families evinces the social utility of urban homesteading.

The article provided insight on how our current mass production of food is a growing concern to not only our health, but also the environment (i.e. pollution via food transportation). While I agree that it will be difficult for some individuals to fulfill "micro-husbandry" due to time and money issues, there are small steps that can be taken. It would be beneficial to incorporate within the article how smaller gardens can assist with the local farming phenomenon. For instance, individuals may opt to have small garden pots, such as tomatoes in their homes to assist in their food insecurities.

This article provides a good analysis of the reasons for and against "urban homesteading." But I wonder, if legal acceptance broadens would there be enough households willing to engage in the activity to make a dent in the factory farm system. Many food insecure homes would not have the time and money for "microhusbandry" and others who did would simply choose not to. Changes in land use law would provide a viable alternative for some households, but society in general needs something more to alleviate the problems with our current food system.

This piece struck me as yet-another scenario of "acceptance in the abstract, rejection in the concrete." For example, wind farms and smaller household-sized wind turbines. I imagine there have to be "lessons learned" from other Not-In-My-BackYard (NIMBY) scenarios that could be appropriate to help advance the cause of microlivestock and help navigate the "fine line" that the commenter above noted.

This article was informative and thorough. I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of nuisance law within the homesteading framework. The article effectively argues that our current food production system, along with its detrimental effects (pollution, unsustainability, unsafe for consumers, etc.) will go a long way in tipping the scale towards making land use codes more supportive of homesteading. As these changes occur, it will be interesting to see how judges rule on these issues, given the great power and interest a few corporations have on our current food production system.

Implementing "urban homesteading" will really rest on neighborhood groups and land use attorneys cooperating together to place concrete guidelines that will allow the use of backyard spaces for husbandry of microlivestock while still avoiding the pitfalls of nuisance law. With the right advocates involved in the political process, I think this fine line can successfully be followed.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)