In an effort towards more sustainable living, many people are choosing to grow their own food in their own backyard. In Long Beach this is relatively easy considering that the climate provides nearly ideal conditions for growing vegetable crops throughout most of the year. But fruit and veggies are only part of the equation. Some people wish to take their food independence a step further and venture into backyard animal husbandry.
Take goats for example. Raising goats in the city is an appropriate addition to grow a healthy, animal-friendly and eco-friendly lifestyle based on sustainable urban agriculture. Goats are wonderfully fun and useful animals. Does (females) and wethers (neutered males) make great pets, even in the city, particularly small varieties like Nigerian dwarf goats, pygmy goats, and miniature varieties of standard breeds. Moreover, they can be put to work for you; they efficiently compost your spent produce, weed your lawn, prune your hedges, and fertilize your garden soil. Just be sure to keep them away from that which you don’t want eaten!
Beyond the backyard, goats can be used for larger ground control projects. NPR reports that this is the third year in a row that the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles has hired goats (this year 120 goats) to browse upon 2.5 acres of unruly landscape in a Bunker Hill park in the heart of the business district, making the big busy city more human.
Throughout the world, there are more people and more cultures who drink goat milk than there are who drink cow milk. Goat milk is more nutritious and less allergenic than cow milk. Once a doe is in milk, she can remain in milk long after her babies are weaned, so two or three Nigerian Dwarf does can provide a family with milk year round. Any excess can be stored almost indefinitely if made into yogurts and cheeses.
In September of 2007, Seattle, due to the efforts of the Goat Justice League, legalized the keeping of miniature goats by UNANIMOUS vote of Seattle’s city council. Seattle allows up to 3 small animals outright, dwarf goats included, on all lots in all zones. Seattle even allows up to 3 potbelly pigs provided they each weigh in at 150 pounds or less. San Francisco is also doing it. San Francisco allows 2 female goats per city lot, with no lot size or setback restrictions. Whereas the goats allowed in Seattle are limited to dwarf goats, pygmy goats, or miniature varieties of standard breeds, San Francisco does not exclude the larger standard breeds.
Yet in Long Beach, California, a city seemingly as progressive, inclusive and diverse as San Francisco and Seattle, the municipal code bans owning goats south of Anaheim Street and east of the Los Angeles river flood control channel. Goat owners in other parts of Long Beach can keep only 1 lonely goat, but the 100 feet setback restriction makes this unlikely. However the code provides provisions for permitting dangerous animals, including lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!
Put into perspective, San Francisco is more densely populated than Long Beach, but is embracing urban agriculture. San Francisco’s population was 808,976 in 2008 on 46.7 square miles of land area (17,322/sq.mi.); Seattle’s population was 598,541 in 2008 on 83.87 square miles of land area (7136/sq.mi.); Long Beach’s population was 492,682 in 2008 on 50 square miles of land (9854/sq.mi.) (Wikipedia).
An effort is underway to change the municipal code of Long Beach to allow backyard urban agriculture, including goats and egg-laying poultry, with fewer restrictions than are currently imposed by the municipal code. To show your support, you can read and sign the petition online.
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