JACKSON, Mich. — Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies proposed an ordinance earlier this summer that would allow people to raise small pigs, chickens and bees in the city.
The City Council voted against it, but it isn’t dead yet.
There are people in the city who want to see this succeed, and Dobies plans to bring up the ordinance to to Council again.
Dahlem Center beekeeping educator John Haynes say raising bees in an urban environment is beneficial especially with the bee population dropping.
“By that I mean bees, native bees, butterflies, bumblebees and even wild honey bees that live in the woods and even in the trees in the city,” Haynes said. “As those numbers decrease, as beekeepers, we can raise really healthy and sustainable beehives of honey bees to help offset that pollination deficit that’s being created and, in the process, of course, we’re benefiting trees, flowers, fruits and vegetables.”
And, then there’s the honey.
“Honey which is raw and unfiltered, which you can get locally but it's different than a national distributor brand, is really good, has a lot of essential vitamins and minerals and amino acids for people. There’s good environmental benefits but there’s also good personal benefits to be gained from increased pollination,” Haynes said.
The city allows community gardens. Jacob Inosencio from Grow Jackson says bees and chickens would fit right into those spaces.
“I think bees and chickens are great. I don’t think chickens harm anybody and I think being able to produce a protein in the form of eggs right here without really having to do much except change water for chickens is a really great thing for people,” Inosencio said. “You can put a 10 by 20 plot and grow six months out of the year and have chickens that are producing that’s a huge money saver for people. I am all in favor of as many people as possible producing their own food, having that security, having that access to the food system.”
Advocates say a lot of it boils down to education as honey bees get confused with wasps and yellow jackets.
“If we're going to be serious about doing community gardens and farming in Jackson, which I think is a great thing to get local produce to the people at basically sweat equity, the only way to increase that is also allow bees, to have bees right there. Bees are not going to chase you. Bees are going to do their pollination job,” Jackson resident Lisa Haynes said.
Inosencio believes the ordinance would go a long way towards making urban farms in Jackson more successful.
“Obviously it needs to be done well,” Inosencio said. “You don’t want to create a situation where tons of people just have pigs running all over the place but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Baby steps for sure as anyone gets used to new ideas but urban farming…everywhere it’s been tried has been successful and good for people.”
Urban agriculture experts say it’s important that these ordinances are clear, complete and easy to understand.
Johns Hopkins University Senior Research Program Coordinator Raychel Santo say that, until recently, there was a void which made it hard for urban farmers and gardeners to know what was allowed.
“There were very strict regulations around certain types of animals but beyond that it’s kind of vague and confusing,” Santo said. “So, the more you can be clear about that is definitely important. But, just to be upfront and transparent and not be too convoluted with complicated language or complicated rules that make it actually harder for someone to be able to grow, because the ultimate goal for most of these policies is to support people in growing and feeding cities and try to make it as accessible as possible without adding nuisance to residents who are concerned.”
Dobies could bring the ordinance back to the City Council as early as next week.
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