Friday, September 28, 2007

National Poultry Museum

This artist's drawing of a new poultry museum building is Loyl Stromberg's dream. In a perfect world, enough money would be available to build it. On the site, flocks of rare breeds would be raised, creating a place for research and growing stock to establish more flocks of rare breeds.

Fowl Trust Sites are part of the SPPA's vision of the future, educating the public and supporting small flock ownership. Everyone who eats eggs or chicken could have the option of raising their own or buying locally. It's not an impossible dream. As the recent news stories about chickens in urban areas demonstrates, chickens can live happily in many locations.

One of the best parts of working with SPPA is the excitement of helping people get started with rare breeds. Some day, we will be able to focus entirely on the historic aspect, as these now-rare breeds become numerous again.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Loyl Stromberg, Grand Old Man of Poultry

Loyl Stromberg, now 93 years old, continues promoting the National Poultry Museum from his home in Pine River, Minnesota, where we visited him last week. It's always great to talk with Loyl. His experience spans the 20th century. His home and garage, with its sign above, contain many poultry artworks, each with its own story, from his distinguished career, such as the stained glass window of the rooster in the garage door.

The first building, on the site of the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame in Bonner Springs, Kansas,, is open to the public. A second building is needed to house the many historical items in Loyl's collection and from other poultry leaders such as John Skinner and Lou Arrington. This site is worth a visit when you are in the area. When we last visited, they were working on developing a flock of Wyandottes.

The building fund for the second building has raised $77,400 and needs $65,000 more. Let's find some funding sources and get this building built!

Backyard Poultry magazine has invited me to write an article about Loyl for a future issue.

Stromberg Hatchery,, continues to provide rare breed chicks and poultry supplies of all kinds.

Friday, September 21, 2007

City Chickens

City chickens are in the news! Here's some city girls sitting on the fence. They are Dorkings, belonging to Michelle Conrad of Indiana, She photographed them together to show their color variations.
In addition to the prizewinning City Chickens video posted here in July,, the New York Times and the New Yorker magazine,, have taken notice of chickens in urban life.
You can take the chicken out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the chicken!

Monday, September 17, 2007

SEJ Conference report

I spent September 5-12 in California at the Society of Environmental Journalists. More than 900 members and affiliate members attended, bringing together an amazing group of people. Check out the site at, which leads to conference reports and the blog. My report on the Salad Bowl Tour is posted there, under Comments on the right-hand side. Click on my name.

It was an eye-opening tour, and gave us insight into the iimpossible position for growers and wildlife: In order to eliminate E. coli contamination, processers require assurances that no wildlife can enter the fields. Fences are being built and all wildlife habitat is being removed. The Nature Conservancy and others are working with growers and processors to find some middle ground that protects the public without eliminating wildlife and the watershed protections of riparian corridors.

As one of my colleagues said, "They are trying to put a bigger Band-Aid on the problems of industrial agriculture."

Unfortunately, government agencies are inclined to regulate in favor of the industry that speaks loudest to them. However, more consumers are demanding local food and the issues are open to discussion. As more people tend vegetables in their gardens and collect eggs from their own hens, or buy eggs from neighbors and other local farmers, our food system moves away from industrial to sustainable. Better days are coming.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Agriculture Factoids

Modern Agriculture and the Environment

These questions reflect some statistics that surprised me, so I thought I’d share them. No scientific claims are made as to methodology or conclusions.

1. What proportion of Iowa farms are owner-operated?

[30.8 percent, Sophia Murphy, Managing the Invisible Hand: Markets, Farmers abnd International Trade, quoted in Hothaus, p. 224 ]

2. How far is food transported by national retail systems?

[800 to 1,500 miles, from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, quoted in From the Farm to the Table by Gary Holthaus, p. 251]

3. How much of owner-operated farm income comes from sources off the farm, i.e. a job in town?

86.7 percent, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service 2006 Farm Income report, ]

4. How many breeds and varieties of chickens are there in the U.S.?

[around 200, SPPA documentation]

5. How many breeds are raised by large commercial producers?

[six, USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, Office for Small-Scale Agriculture]

6. How much genetic diversity in agriculture disappeared from the world in the 20th century?

[about 75 percent, UN Food and Agriculture Organization report]

7. What proportion of antibiotics are given to food animals in the U.S. [70 percent, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists,]

8. How much does livestock raising contribute to global greenhouse gases?

[18 percent, more than transport, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture report, Livestock’s Long Shadow.]

Monday, September 3, 2007

SEJ Conference

This week I will be attending the Society of Environmental Journalists Annual Conference in Palo Alto, California, This five-day meeting is one of the best for meeting people and learning about what's happening professionally.

Thursday is tour day, bringing journalists out to sites in the field, from Monterey Bay Aquarium to kayaking on Elkhorn Slough. I'll be visiting fields in the Salinas Valley on the "Our Nation's Salad Bowl: Who Washed the Dishes?" tour. The site describes it as: California serves up the bulk of our country's produce, with commercial vegetables traveling an average of 1,500 miles from farm to table. It's lovely to enjoy a Caesar salad in a Manhattan restaurant while a winter Nor'easter blows mightily outside, but at what cost? Peak oil, climate change, food-borne illness, childhood obesity, world trade and more, all connect to dietary choices and food production and distribution. Come with us as we explore California's food system on both a grand and intimate scale and talk with farmers, foodies and scientists about what's working and what needs fixing. We'll even enjoy some of the produce that made the Salinas Valley famous for its bountiful harvests (and E. coli problem) with salads for lunch at a local eatery.

This tour will give me the opportunity to learn more and to be a resource on small flock poultry raising. I will continue to blog from there as well as blog to the SEJ's site,