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10 Reasons Why We Should Have Urban Goat Farms

First published here on IndieFarmer.

There is something wonderful about urban farms. At first this feeling is hard to locate – living with animals is something many of us do in the city. From cats, dogs, rabbits and snakes, to the quiet hedgehogs and foxes scurrying in our backgardens under the cloak of darkness, we are sharing the city with lots of different species. In Bristol we have a brilliant collection of city farms – with strong volunteer bases in the local community, long term education projects and open door policies. We know how to do an urban farm well in Bristol, so how about one more – with a twist?

Farming has been around the houses, so to speak. From a pre-industrial small scale diverse farming model, to an industrialised production line spurred on by mechanised farming and a competitive global food system – which is where we are now. Yet this system can’t last forever. Our soils have taken years of bashing, and soon they will give up, void of nutrients and microorganisms that are key to their health. The welfare of the animals involved in large scale production can be devastatingly low – with some animals being routinely pumped full of preventative antibiotics for their whole lives. And the worst part of this is the fact that we don’t get to see these animals. We have no idea how these animals have lived, what they eat, if they have black spots on white, or white spots on brown. Farm animals have been strictly designated to the rolling green pasture of the Great british countryside, out of sight. We are so far removed from our food that we don’t even think about it anymore – and this is something that Street Goat want to challenge.

We want to bring goats into the city. Not just for their milk and cheese, but also for the enjoyment of their company. The relationships we harbour with animals bring us so much happiness, and help cement a sense of security within the community. Goats especially seem to bring a smile to people’s faces – old and young. We human beings have a strong connection with animals, so it makes sense that we’d want to bring more into our lives. We’re raising £9,000 before December 23rd to bring the first goat microfarm to the city. Can you help us?

10 reasons why we should have urban goat farms

1. Using marginal land for food production: Across Bristol there are areas of scrubland which we have to pay the council to maintain. Goats are notoriously good at thriving in environments that other food production can’t handle; steep slopes, brambles and weeds – and this means the money can be used elsewhere.

2. Making use of waste: Again, across Bristol our council (and Bristolians) look after their surroundings, chopping back trees and shrubs. We could reuse this material as food for the goats, and process their nutrient rich manure to make compost – feeding it back into the ecosystem.

3. Creating resilience: In the UK we produce just 60% of the food we consume. Bristol has a history of supporting local food projects and creating a goat farm in the city will increase our resilience to uncertainties in the future.

4. Locking carbon in the soil: As well as looking after the goats, the goat team will look after the land and margins of the farm.  By planting trees and processing compost, creating soil matter and locking the goodness in, it means that we’re combatting climate change in our own little way.

5. Building communities: Keeping goats together is a big responsibility. The farm members and the network of supporters share the tasks of making sure the goats are looked after smoothly and efficiently. Some members of the local community have already signed up to the network – and we invite more to do so!

6. Valuing our food: The true costs of food are hidden from us, masked by farm subsidies and trade agreements, wrapped in plastic and available all year around. By having a hands on experience of what it takes to farm could transform our relationship with our food system.

7. Encouraging Diversity: We’ll plant native hedging trees, wildflowers and herbal lays. We’ll ensure there are nesting places for birds and the badgers are safe. We’ll nourish the soil to support the tiny creatures as well as our goat friends.

8. Learning skills: Only four generations ago it was common to know how to milk a goat or cow and make cheese. Now, it’s something we aspire to again. These skills connect us to our world and nourish us.

9. Making small scale dairy viable: Small dairies are closing faster than ever before in the UK. With the price of milk so low farmers struggle to make ends meet. This is an innovation in dairy that put us, the consumers, at the centre and provides rewards that far extend beyond the financial rewards that are only found at mega scale.

10. Low food miles: On average food travels 1700 miles to make it to our plates. Members of the first Street Goat project all live within 1 mile of the project as the crow flies. Really local!

The aim of Street Goat is to expand, with a network of people supporting and looking after the goats across the city.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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