Of Urban Goats and Backyard Chicks

Not long ago, headlines painted a grim picture for the future of agriculture in Northeast Ohio. The former farmland oasis in Geauga County was being sold to developers and turned into housing developments at an alarming clip. But in recent years, that trend has been turned inside out. As far back as 2007, the city of Cleveland began retooling its zoning code to allow urban farming to take root. The result has been a proliferation of community gardens and urban farms, making Cleveland one of the nation’s preeminent cities for urban gardening.

Even more recently, communities have been updating policies to address related needs at the micro level—like in your own backyard. Gardeners looking to do more than just plant tomatoes for salads have lots of new opportunities. In 2009, Cleveland began allowing homeowners to keep up to six chickens and one beehive on their property. Those living on an acre or more could even keep small livestock. In May this year, the city of Cleveland Heights passed an ordinance allowing homeowners to keep up to four hens. The law included provisions for rain barrels, composting and other “green” gardening practices. In June, Beachwood began allowing residents to keep two small livestock—goats and/ or sheep—on properties larger than 1.1 acres. The city already allowed chickens. Lakewood, a center of the local food movement, is still on the fence. While vocal groups like Hens for Lakewood are pushing for the OK to keep chickens, the city has not yet formalized any legislation.

It seems the tragedy of paving farms in the country is steadily turning into the victory of opening green space in the city.