[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]
Wichita, KS, is a large city, a regional center for manufacturing, medicine, finance, and the arts. It’s also a politically conservative place, which means that you don’t hear a lot of talk about environmentally sustainability coming from our elected leaders, and even less action. Still, there are numerous organizations out there, doing what they can at the margins of our local political culture. For all their worthy efforts, though, they can’t avoid struggling with one basic conceptual dilemma, a problem which is tied up in Wichita’s own largeness and situatedness.
Specifically, Wichita’s size, its reality as a significant regional city upon which the surrounding farmland and farming communities depend, means that it can’t–despite the wishes of some–imagine itself as revolving around local, agrarian, and independently sustainable practices. But as a city removed from the large urban megapolises, the global cities, the huge conurbations wherein the real nodes of international systems of finance, information, and energy use are located, it is also removed from the huge flows of people and productivity which shape the big global debates over climate change and other environmental issues. It’s not Paris, in other words, nor is it a dedicated small town like Greensburg or rural collective like Dancing Rabbit. As is so often the case, when it comes to sustainability Wichita, like so many other mid-sized cities spread around the country and the globe–cities whose population totals in the billions overall, but who in each of their particulars hang around in the low-growth hundreds of thousands–finds itself wondering where it stands.
Last October, at a Front Porch Republic conference in Geneseo, NY, I met someone who had a possible answer. Catherine Tumber, the author of the wonderful Small, Gritty, and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World, spoke at length about the possibilities for local sustainability in places where, on the one hand, the local city leadership, much less the organized citizenry, has no voice at all likely to be heard on a national or global scale, but also where, on the other hand, there is far too much traditional economic development and far too much infrastructure-dependency to simply go green in some radical, self-sufficient way. As she spoke, and as I read her book, lights came on in my head. And when, about two months later, I had the opportunity to speak about sustainability at the Peace and Social Justice Center here in Wichita (presentation here, video here), I turned those lights back on our city, and every other city of similar size and situation that may be wondering what, if anything, they can do collectively on behalf of this particular common good.
My presentation linked questions about sustainability into broad concerns about Wichita’s often fearful political culture, its slow-growth economic forecast, its resistant demographics, and its overall self-understanding–but the real focus of Tumber’s argument, at least I see it applying to urban communities of this size, is the relationship between nature, food, and land which their physical and topographic context provide. In summary, her argument is that America’s inevitable a low-carbon future (whether as a result of the hard and costly realities of peak oil and climate change, or because of a general cultural shift in the direction of greater environmental consciousness, or both) is simply not going to be best managed by the expensive technological innovations that large and wealthy cities are most likely to attract, thanks to their money and likely political receptivity. Instead, the biggest and most consequential alterations in our environmental habits are going to have to be those which involve how we feed ourselves.
Food, obviously, much be grown, harvested, raised, slaughtered, and prepared–and then (and this is crucial) shipped. For all the energy and enthusiasm which goes into local food production, and for all the possibilities of urban agriculture, the truth is that the great bulk of the human race is going to remain specialized urban-dwellers, not rural DIYers, and thus will depend upon others to supply their food for many years to come. And of course, this applies just as well to a great many that do live in rural environments, as they are often prevented from feeding themselves by the monopolistic economic structures of industrial agriculture and the restrictive patterns of property ownership in consequently results in. So a genuine, environmentally sustainable model of food production is going to need urban spaces that provide broad opportunities for commerce and trade, but not spaces so large that the costs of shipping sufficient food in to the people who live there (thinking here of the gasoline, the roads, the exhaust, the waste, etc.) cannot fit into the new reality. Where could those models be found? Well, there’s one right here is south-central Kansas, for instance. As Tumber put it:
[T]he sparsely developed, more proximate, and often highly fertile land surrounding smaller industrial cities could be preserved for a revival of market farming….Compared with both recreational farming and traditional commodity agriculture, small and adaptive farms have the best chance of surviving in metro areas. They are better able to accommodate the haphazard, unplanned popcorn development of a city’s outskirts, and their presence helps control it. (pp. 52-53)
In other words, mid-sized cities potentially provide a practical response to those scolds who condemn agrarian thinking with the claimed truism that “sustainable agriculture can’t feed the world.” Granted that such critics are correct that “recreational,” boutique farms, as valuable as they are to your local farmers market, can’t produce enough food to keep the population alive–but traditional commodity agriculture is helping to kill off the planet’s resources just as well. As many have argued over the past decade or more, it is the “agriculture of the middle” that is in desperate need of a route towards economically feasibility. Figuring out ways for slow-growth regional cities to orient their local food markets around the immediately available agricultural possibilities right there on the outskirts of their suburban and exurban developments, and replicating such methods across the country and around the world, is the sort of perspective which could flip the equation: rather than mostly distant, mostly progressive, mostly thoroughly urbanized elites talking about how places like Wichita need to embrace sustainability, it is just as possible that the whole sustainability project needs places like Wichita, because it is mid-sized, land-locked, regional cities like them which can productively “ruralize the countryside,” as Tumber puts it (p. 42), in a way that massive global cities and extended urban agglomerations, however commanding a position they may hold over global finance, cannot.
What stands in the way of mid-sized, mostly steady-state cities embracing this approach and perspective? Lots of regulations, habits, political preferences, and questions of funding and economic transition, most obviously–but Tumber, in particular, points out two. The first is the fact that so many Americans are still captured by a certain kind of suburban dream. The dream she targets is a contemporary commercialized version of the environmentalist’s idolization of “untrammeled wilderness,” which results in developers selling the myth of pristine nature to their buyers. The suburban and exurban forms are, as Tumber very cleverly puts it, “greenly aestheticized” (p. 40): fountains and paths and nicely contained lawns and woods are built into these developments, using up space that could be used for small to mid-scale farming. So the people who want to pursue the manifest possibilities of more sustainable and localized food systems often find themselves confronting their supposed environmentalist allies, and having to make the case for an inhabited nature, for a truly rural economy, as opposed to pointless, prefabricated green spaces that may provide a home for some Canadian geese for suburbanites, but not cows or poultry or potatoes. Weaning people–and thus local political leaders and business investors–away from their (our!) low-density fixation, thus allowing for genuine mixing of not just urban forms but one’s on the urban edge as well, is long-term goal here.
The second is working with government to get it to be responsive to this patchwork approach to sustainability, rather than falling back on the property-centric defaults that business interests prefer. As Tumber points out, developing food-based sustainability policies in slow-growth cities means dealing with “resistance from politicians and developers based on the long-established assumption that commercial sprawl is good for the bottom line” (p. 56). We see that here in the Wichita area quite clearly. The struggle to attract employers to the area results in some governing bodies making a fetish of “property rights” (as if the whole point of this particular struggle wasn’t to create sustainable practices that are also economically sustainable and profitable to owners!), and looking suspiciously upon any local urban governmental practice that they think might “kill a development” of any sort, in any place.
The obvious fact that cities require tools that provide “a mechanism for informing neighbors about development projects and promot[ing] healthy communication among builders and residents” is ignored by these folks (embodied locally by the conservative-libertarian majority on our county commission); what they see in attempts to use zoning rules in a way to preserve a patchwork of spaces that could be turned to sustainability practices or at least ought to be protected from monopolistic building agendas are “city-centric” attitudes infringing upon the “personal property rights” which they see as foundation to our “constitutional republic.” But struggles between county and city governments aren’t anything new, and they won’t go away anytime soon, since the agendas of those tasked with making productive use of the urban resources which power the economic and cultural lifeblood of a region, and those tasked with taking care of the interests of owners who want to flee the complications of city life while still making use of its off-shoots and resources, will almost always conflict. There is no easy way to avoid that conflict, and so our only option is to go through. That can be frustrating, especially when one is thinking in global and environmental terms; as one writer put it (unknowingly echoing Max Weber, I think) “the hard stuff of building nuanced and reciprocal relationships with people who can arbitrarily exert a lot of power” is never a pleasant task. But if we think that real, practical solutions to the looming low-carbon reality are going to spontaneously emerge from international agreements, as opposed to making real use of the landed resources right outside the windows of so many millions of people who live in small and mid-sized cities, then we are, I think, in denial.
A true local, mixed, food-oriented economy is one that would make use of–quoting Tumber here one last time–“the liberal populist-progressive tradition of decentralization, with its conservative instincts of independence, preservation, and fair play” (p. 140). It’s a way of bringing up the need for local sustainability without driving people into a panic about government overreach and meddling outsiders. It’s a way of thinking about the smaller, land-locked, agriculturally and naturally grounded urban environments so many of us live in as providing “strength in a truly democratic, environmentally sustainable national culture–not in competition with global cities, but with a fair claim to [their] respect” as well. Is that happening in Wichita, and can it happen elsewhere? I recently had former student of mine come and speak to my Simplicity and Sustainability class, and what he talked out was the small-scale agricultural and lumbering work he’s involved himself in, and the entrepreneurial activity that he’s contributed to and which he sees all around himself. Those who think only in terms of filling up Wichita with big developments attracting major investors will find his example pointless; those who think only in terms of fighting the huge battles over climate change on a global scale will probably think the same. But it is people like him, and dozens, hundreds, thousands of others, in cities of mid-size across the country and the world, who I think really are demonstrating the reality of local sustainability, and why it is our steadiness, our middling character, which is allowing all that to happen. The world will always need radical local examples of sustainability, and we’ll always need elites that will try to responsibly address the macro issues. But in the meantime? Those of us who live in around the wonderful small and mid-sized, the decided non-global, cities of the world get to work.
Our writer sounds like the dog who hoped to get fat by eating his own tail. The backbone of his thinking revolves around “urban planning,” and he manages to point to the disasters that these worthies have inflicted on cities in the past (stuff like zoning initiated by the KKK, public housing projects, urban renewal, building interstates through city centers, pedestrian malls, and most recently, hatred of automobiles as embedded in new urbanism “smart cities” and the like) I’m a city commissioner in Kentwood outside of Grand Rapids, Mi and I hear this secular gospel all the time. I keep my sanity by recalling the sad history of what these urban planners have wrought. There was a major north south road that was “planned” about 35 years ago. The offices and apartments had to be 140 feet plus the height of the building back from the road. Later, the planners, like our current one decry urban sprawl.
These academics imposed their big ideas on cities possibly leading to the destruction of many weaker ones (I know of no good studies to support this.)
So the essence of urban planning is in correcting the mistakes made by previous planners. They fantasize creating a strange kind of human protoplasm that wants to live in inner cities, use public transport, walk to work and bars, commune with nature and similar blather. They see the remains of farmers’s markets that served as wholesalers for corner grocers when the farmer still used his team to bring his eggs and cabbage into the nearest city, and project this into a 21st century locovore movement that is “sustainable” at a time when most folks on food stamps eat grapes flown in from Chile in March and eshew cabbage grown in the Midwest.
Our author dreams that If a backwash adopts the appearance of something that the big cities can’t match, a kind of model of transcendent virtue, it will be admired, maybe even prosper. And the bozos whose intellectual ancestors destroyed Detroit, Flint, Erie, and the rest have now, only now, found the potion that will make it all better…Magic.
On the other hand, maybe the dog can fatten up by destroying his past. I dunno.
Well, Mr. Haas, that was an interesting rant, and I can only assume that you’re so annoyed at some of the nonsense thrown around by urban planners and city managers over the years that you needed to express your derision at the hopes I lay out here, even though you don’t seem you actually dislike any of the things I’m hoping for. Well, except for the “new urbanism,” which I never mentioned in my post, but which you correctly guessed I’m pretty sympathetic to. The future of automobile-dependency in mid-sized and smaller cities, especially in regards to discreet localities entwined in expanding metropolitan areas like Grand Rapids, is an interesting question, but it’s not one that I talked about.
Would the kind of coordination I describe between various urban actors–government, developers, farmers markets, consumers, etc.–involve a degree of “urban planning”? Of course. Do I imagine it to be the kind of planning that would help, in part, to “correct for mistakes” made by planners of the past? Yes. And so? Is the very idea of attempting to think constructively about how to locate agricultural production in the midst of cities that already have the requisite land resources for local food economies simply hilarious to contemplate, or are the ideas that people like Tumber talking about worth taking seriously?
For the record, actual farmers markets today, while hardly prepared to feed everyone addicted to cheap grapes from Chile, are in many ways quite innovative and adaptable, and the suppliers who make use of them are, in my experience, quite capable of innovation, are likely to look interestedly upon land-use practices that would enable them to keep their supply lines short, and by and large are not imprisoned by nostalgic fantasy about driving their teams of horses into town. And as for “strange kind of human protoplasm that wants to live in inner cities, use public transport, walk to work and bars, commune with nature and similar blather,” leaving aside the cheap sniff at the end, you’ve just described not only a majority of the populations a huge number of urban dwellers throughout Western Europe, but large portions of Americans urbanities as well, as Alan Ehrenhalt has documented at length. The demographic inversion he describes surely doesn’t mean that the hopeful possibilities for economically feasible urban food sustainability in certain types of cities are a guarantee–but again, it ought to at least suggest that some of these things are worth considering.
Thanks for reading, and happy new year!
Thanks for your prompt answer; I labored mightily to translate your English into English, intellectual foreplay, y’know. If it be OK, let me clarify your thinking for you.
You use a lot of in-group terms, “sustainability,” “Climate change,” “low carbon,” “peak oil,” “market farming,” (we called it truck farming back in the days when giants walked upon the earth,) and the like. These words assume that a certain realities exist that can be manipulated to create the Utopia. The language is prevalent among folks who believe that their fantasies should be facts, that a certain moral viewpoint will be populated with the correct moral content, if you will.
I reject this shadow world. The social sciences are, IMHO, pseudosciences, consisting of opinions that can’t be tested, experiments that can’t be replicated or aren’t relevant, evanescent caprices that inspire academicians and fade in a few years to be replaced by other whimsies. I detailed some of those that came out of the planning departments in my original comment illustrating the clay feet that support these tributes to Ozymandias. The numerous “studies” and “research” cranked out of universities and think tanks consist of marketing studies that invariably support the prejudices of whoever pays.
I think that a lot of simple people believe this stuff and develop any number of superstitious practices in their personal health, education, interpersonal reactions and civic actions. But I’ve also noticed that surveys (admittedly, not worth much) show that most Americans do not believe in climate change, happily buy cheap gas for their pickups and plastic toys for their kids, walk past the wilted, wormy stuff in the “organic” sections at Walmart to buy cheaper, nutritious veggies and meat in the market priced bins.
I live in the entrepreneurial strata, had many businesses in my career, won political office, love to comment on whatever nonsense is being peddled in the Economist, NYT, the local rag. I have my fun messing with the minds of those who cling to doctrines, authority, the status quo.
You could make a good living by joining me in my skepticism about just about everything. If you can’t bring yourself to freeing yourself from ad hoc assumptions that populate your environment, haul the article above out in about 5 years. You’ll be onto other enthusiasms, painting the world yet another color and, if you’re honest with yourself, will thereafter start seeing the evolved world as it is as a miracle, and the fantasy world in then current textbooks and heads of the full professors as yet another beatific vision of the never-never land.
Good luck with your evolution.
So certain are you that your highly subsidized suburban existence in auto-dependent places like Kentwood will continue forever. As for your discounting the future of cities as opposed to places like Kentwood, sure, lots of people want to live in places like Kentwood, but growing numbers of people also DON’T want to live in places like Kentwood, but rather places like Grand Rapids.
Also in your decrying of social engineering, New Urbanism, et al, don’t forget that the biggest social engineering experiment in history is the U.S. suburbs. Time will tell if they don’t represent “the biggest misallocation of resources in history” as Kunstler claims.
Mr. Haas, you really need to forget what the academic types are spewing and look at the empirical evidence. For example, how overextended is Kentwood on its infrastructure, e.g., will your burg have enough money to replace water, sewer, roadways and other infrastructure on a timely basis in the near future, let alone another two generations? Is your town stronger financially than say, Rockford, IL, which can only afford to replace 1 or 2 miles per year of water mains? See http://granolashotgun.com/2016/01/12/teachers-pipes-and-pavement/
I strongly suggest you thoroughly peruse the strongtowns.org website, which is based on empirical evidence, not academic studies. Based on their research, can you really say the ratio of private investment in Kentwood is 20 to 1 vs. public infrastructure, e.g., what Strong Towns figures is needed for proper maintenance in the long term. I bet Kentwood is far from this ratio, but Grand Rapids is relatively closer, for all its warts compared to your suburban paradise.
I see from the Wikipedia article on Kentwood that Mr. Haas is also a libertarian. We’ll see how much of an ideologue he is after digesting Strong Towns’ fiscally conservative message, assuming he gets anything about it at all.
Thanks again for the response, Mr. Haas. I confess that I missed the thoroughgoing Humean streak in your original comment, but re-reading it in light of your subsequent makes much clear. Do I see myself as partaking of, or even suggesting that one ought to give consideration to, the possibility of building a utopia? Not really (for the record, and you’ll note that there was nary a word in my recommendations that invoked the mostly nonsensical “organic” canard). But if you think that’s what everyone who gives at least some credence to “shadow world” terms like sustainability and the like really actually is doing, well then, no harm, no foul. I’ll pursue my hopes in response to the things I think are real, and when, in five years, we find that this old fallen world will have continued along its always miraculous way, we’ll run through the whole process again. Since you don’t seem to see anything changing, trying to change things isn’t anything to worry about, is it? Cheers!
I don’t think I can keep up with you two but my two cents – I heard her a few years ago, read her book and she’s talking about communities facing some hard fiscal restraints. Good to pair her with Charles Marohn at the Strong Towns website. Kennedy Smith is another one you can gag on, there, Mr. Haas. Basic problem being that tax revenue is not sufficient to maintain the existing infrastructure. Federal subsidies generally can be obtained for new construction, but not the mundane tasks of upkeep. So it’s a shell game or sort of slash and burn development policy, where development moves further and further out, converting farm land to new residential and commercial land use and letting the inner city and suburbs slowly decay. Which means new arterials and ring roads. And roads mean jobs. Heard it often.
There’s just no way to escape the fact that low density development costs more to maintain than high density development. On a simple fee structure, residents in a low density development would have to pay for 2 or 3 or 10 times more road, water and sanitary lines and so on. That those costs are absorbed by the local municipality means for the most part people don’t see them, but they exist. And anyway when stuff is new, there isn’t a whole lot of maintenance required, so most places only see the increase in tax revenue and it seems the growth is great. But in 20 or 30 years, the roads need major work, utility lines need replacing and that’s when the problems start. Most places respond by letting the older developments decay and trying various tax incentives to encourage new development, somewhere out in the boonies.
But that isn’t working in the communities Tumber profiles. Some of them are losing population, and they don’t have the resources to offer incentives to developers to say, build a big mall. And that sort of thing is passing, anyway.
Prior to the Federal dole communities only built infrastructure that paid for itself, and that’s the route Tumber and Smith and Marohn are saying needs to be rediscovered. So you are looking at development patterns from the early 1900’s, more or less. And yes that did rely on an economic infrastructure that has been eradicated. But it worked very well at the time, and it worked without the federal subsidy system. I think it makes a lot of sense to study it and see what can be revived.
Well, let me think – there’s a fellow from Notre Dame who talks about form based zoning – same sort of thing, different angle. He presented at one of the FP conferences, and if I remember had a post on here, but I can’t find it. Anyway, I think Marohn probably has the most comprehensive explication of the idea. See what you think.
Thanks for the comment. I agree that Marohn’s perspective–which overall aims to suggest ways to make cities and towns stronger and more sustainable by shrinking both their ecological footprint and their development-and-growth-driven fiscal obligations–is one that everyone needs to hear. I’d love to get him to come to Wichita, where we have, year-in and year-out, a major percentage of the city’s entire operating budget sucked up solely by expansion projects on and maintenance of U.S 54, the main road through the city (and the one, to make reference to some of my comments about county-vs-city fights in my original post, that everyone living in unincorporated parts of Sedgwick County have by and large become massively dependent upon).
That would be worth it, I think.
Kennedy Smith is very good also. Heard her at the same conference I heard Tumber. Well shoot, while you are at it also get Fritschner from KY and Vaughn Grisham from MS and you’d have a thing. Smart people – hopeful monsters. Might leave the mountains for that one.
Thanks for the essay.
[…] [Cross-posted to Front Porch Republic] […]
Without attempting to resolve anything, the comment about grapes from Chile applies to the population broadly, not just those on the dole. Consumers can be educated about the relative value of unfamiliar products. (Ask Steve Jobs.) Local vs. distant food is no different. As a simple matter, produce for long-distance transportation has been bred differently than produce that a local producer can grow within the confines of their local environment, urban or rural. Long-distance produce meets above all else the criteria that it be shelf-stable. (Try and find a paw-paw on on a grocery store shelf.) Local produce can instead offer more variety within locally appropriate categories (for example, many more types of lettuce than one would find in a normal supermarket), but necessarily excludes some types of produce from local production (I can’t grow much citrus in South Dakota). There’s no reason you can’t have both. While I would prefer my lettuce and tomatoes to be locally grown, more diverse in options, and far fresher, I would still like grapefruit from time to time, and therefore still have need of a typical grocery store. More urban/local production does not necessarily exclude the latter.
Another important point that seems to have been glossed over in Mr. Haas’s comments is the independence this provides to individuals. As a producer, you can make a small business that is very responsive to the local economy. Perhaps you develop a niche that caters to restaurants that would love products they can’t get from their other wholesalers. This independence then extends to the restaurant/consumer who have a more direct and effective feedback to their suppliers. Additionally, provided local zoning laws don’t prevent me from doing so, I can produce a large volume of produce in a backyard, near a park, on an abandoned commercial lot, etc. without requiring “planning” from the local powers. All of this allows people to enter to marketplace without having 100s, if not 1,000s of acres to farm as would be required in our typical commercial production model. That is to say, local production allows for more entrepreneurs.
To Mr. Fox’s point, it might be nice to have local government on board to some degree, but I just assume that won’t happen anytime soon in my community. I anticipate rather having to do it individually and perhaps convince enough people to push for beneficial changes here at home. But I never expect our city and county to carve out agricultural zones within town.
Although Mr. Haas seems to see the world as a dichotomy where there are fantasy-lovers who cower at the thought of global warming and relish buying bus tickets, contra- the graduates of the school of hard-knocks who have learned better, I don’t think it’s so. I for one don’t fit into either category (I consume my fair share of gas, am skeptical of anthropocentric global warming and yet like my local foods and bicycle) and I know plenty of people who fall into different categories in their own unique patterns. There’s nothing intrinsically one-sided or ideological about preferring localized food production. I largely like it because of health benefits and independence (read security) for myself and my family. If gas prices spike, catastrophic flooding occurs down south, or the Soviets invade, I have a far greater chance of picking up food from a local farmer than my local grocer. Additionally, I just like the individuals who farm locally, and prefer to give them my money than a farmer in Chile.
Thanks to Mr. Fox and Dave for introducing me to some new authors to explore.
Thanks for the thoughtful and informative comment–it’s great hearing additional voices like yours that are sympathetic to these concerns and are trying to figure out what can work for you! Just one note, though, regarding the question of local government’s involvement: I don’t see my city council or county commission carving out and preserving agricultural zones here in Wichita or Sedgwick County any time soon either. But the key is, I think, in your earlier comment: “provided local zoning laws don’t prevent me from doing so, I can produce a large volume of produce in a backyard, near a park, on an abandoned commercial lot, etc. without requiring ‘planning’ from the local powers.” That’s the rub. I’m not opposed to, and in fact am entirely willing, to get together with interested individuals and discuss planning possibilities that would make room for the kind of urban-periphery agriculture and local food system that I and Tumber believe lays within our grasp. But failing that–and it usually does fail–I just want to protect some real zoning flexibility. In other words, getting local government on the right side here is mostly a matter of trying to stop them from stopping us from agitating for and making good agricultural use of local, undeveloped parcels of land. If I could have a city council and a county commission that would just be willing to slow down and listen before clearing the zoning decks with some uniform, developer-friendly policy, I’d be more than delighted to go all the rest of the work myself.
Fair enough, Mr. Fox. However, I think my confusion stems from a lack of understanding about what types of regulations you see currently standing in the way from small, local agriculture. From my own community, the only example I can think of–and it’s a fair hindrance to my family’s own efforts to support ourselves–is that you can’t have any sort of fowl or ungulate within the city limits. So, no eggs, chicken breasts, or goat’s milk from my backyard. However, as for fruits and vegetables, I’m not aware of anywhere that would prevent someone from creatively using empty spaces. (Although, as I type this, I can think of various home owners association rules that might prevent front-yard tomato plants.) I think of Curtis Stone, from Kelowna, British Columbia, as an example. See http://www.greencityacres.com. So, can you provide examples of other regulations that might be hang up for culinary localism? (I’m really not trying to be obtuse. I just suffer from a lack of imagination at times.)
Aside from the nit-picky zoning details specific to each locale, I agree whole-heartedly that local zoning authorities should not prevent us from doing this sort of work with other like-minded people. I have been too lazy to take up the “freedom to raise chickens in my backyard” flag in my local community as of yet. Although, if my plans to buy 10 acres just outside town don’t materialize in the next few years, I may do just that. But as you very aptly noted, our local regulators tend to make a “fetish of ‘property rights,'” at least when it comes to the large agricultural or business entities. Individual property rights are perhaps a different matter.
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