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Urban Livestock Expo Teaches Basics of Raising Farm Animals in City

By Josh McGhee | February 23, 2014 10:28am
 The 2014 Urban Livestock Expo focused on the basics of raising different animals in the city.
2014 Urban Livestock Expo
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MOUNT GREENWOOD — Adrienne Bauer is a country girl in the city missing the "nostalgia" of her hometown where it's not uncommon to raise goats, chickens, bees and ducks.

She left her bees and her chickens behind when she moved from the Champaign area to Pilsen to be closer to her boyfriend and family. Now, Bauer, 29, wants her bees back to make her her new home feel a little like her old home. Her first question was how to feed them.

"I'm used to living in a place where they can eat all kinds of grub. What would I do here?" she asked at the 2014 Urban Livestock Expo, an event dedicated to teaching people about raising livestock in the city.

The expo's organizers hope to expand urban livestock ownership by teaching beginners about city regulations that are sometimes vague and tough to comprehend, said Martha Boyd, a program director at Angelic Organics Learning Center, which helped organize the event.

"We emphasize this is just a starting point," said Boyd. "We really want people to know there are other people in Chicago doing this."

That's what Bauer learned when she realized people were already housing chickens on rooftops in Pilsen, crossing that off her list along with questions about space and noise issues.

Bauer was one of over 200 people who spent Saturday at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences,  3857 W. 111th St., learning the basics of raising chickens, ducks, bees, goats and rabbits in the city. The size of the crowd surprised organizers after last year's crowd were disappointed to find the expo wasn't "a petting zoo."

"We did a better job of giving [the people] a more accurate account of what this is," said Billy Burdett, a program coordinator from Advocates for Urban Agriculture. "The vast majority [of attendees] are newcomers interested in getting started."

"It's the burgeoning of growing food in the city," he said. "People start with growing vegetables. As they get into that they discover live stock is an option, also."

Greg Lane currently keeps about 400,000 bees in Hyde Park. When he spoke at the expo, he fielded many questions from newcomers worried not only about their bees, but also their neighbors.

"The main thing I advocate is to look carefully at the conflict between what the bee needs and the goals of the beekeeper," said Lane. "Neighbors get nervous. The best thing is to educate them; honeybees are very mild creatures."

Cheryl Pitts-Williamson wasn't concerned with neighbors when she purchased roughly 160,000 bees for her Greater Grand Crossing home. But she did consult her next-door neighbors: they had land they weren't using. She needed somewhere to keep her bees.

If any of the other neighbors have an issue with her honeybees she'll just "sweeten the deal" for them with "a jar of my sweet honey," she said. 

She's spent the last few weeks studying and talking bees, preparing for their arrival in April. The expo was another informational gathering to assure herself she is well versed. She points to items on a display table and explains what they do to her three children, who are less than amused.

But, they've been bribed already with that sweet honey.

Still, not everyone in the family seems satisfied with the deal and the price may be a littler higher for her 11-year-old daughter, Ilisa, who has her eyes on a goat.

"A Nigerian dwarf," said the mother correcting herself. "And it's up for discussion."