Tuesday, January 17, 2006

AN UNEXPECTED COST OF FEAR

Partly personal:

The Possum does a little “hobby” farming. I don’t know what else to call it – Mrs. Possum and I garden year round and keep a little livestock. Right now its just goats and chickens.

There’s something to be said for pets you can eat…

So I had occasion to patronize my local farm store last week to purchase alfalfa. There, on the counter, was a flier:

ATTENTION: TO ALL OUR VALUED CUSTOMERS

It is with sad regret that [XXXX] stores will no longer sell any poultry, water fowl, or game birds. This is due to the sudden increase in bird flu…

Bird flu… Still oceans away, thousands of miles away. A threat, but a still tiny, uncertain one.

The domestic fowl sold in farm stores all come from just a few mega-hatcheries. These places are modern, monitored, and enclosed. They are protected the way any multi-million dollar investment is protected.

Bird flu getting a hold in a place like that? Not likely. And not just in my opinion. Young fowl are still available. But there is the liability medusa to contend with.

At least as far as chickens go, the store will still make them available two Saturdays this spring, delivering the chicks to a local fairground. But there will be no weeks-long availability in the store. There will be no chance for kids to watch the chicks, “pet” - more like harass – the chicks, etc.

No more Easter chicks…

Beyond sentiment, I wonder what this will do to the “hobby farm industry.” Most people don’t raise enough birds to be self-supporting. A lot of people may quit. If enough do, feed stores may stop carrying the feed.

Alternately, a lot of small providers like me may set up shop and raise a few chicks. The quality will probably suffer, and eventually the regulatory medusa will take notice and strangle the attempt, most likely.

Either way it will likely mean one more pressure pushing people away from the most vital of connections: Connection to the land.

And you know, if there were more people connected to the land, there would be more environmentalists and fewer watermelons – excepting those growing in the compost…

I have to say I think trading that connectedness for “safety” from sick birds in Turkey and China is a bad trade.

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