Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Indian Runner Ducks

What is is about poultry? Throughout history humans have kept ducks and chickens close at hand, for food, manure and pest control in the garden. They also make wonderful companions and educational resource for children and young adults. So how did this relationship come to be?  And what is it about the come back of raising poultry in urban gardens?
One aspect to consider is the current movement of not only organic food but local food and people wanting to have more control and say over where their food comes from, how it is grown and transported. A recent study has started a ripple effect in the growing community that has separated consumers into two different groups; those who buy organic for its supposedly nutritional benefits and those who purchase local/organic for community, society and environmental benefits. The study recently conducted by Stanford University found organic food has no nutritional advantages over conventionally grown food. Take what you will from the study, but I think for most people that choosing organic produce and meats over conventional is also a matter of choice concerning the environment, keeping antibiotics out of our families bodies, how the farmer treats their land, livestock and the chemical companies they choose to NOT support and the workers they hire. By keeping it local we are reducing our carbon footprint and keeping the economy within our community. Its not just about eating well its about making the right choices that in turn effect our environment, health and welfare of our community. Also, growing our own food and raising our own poultry keeps us connected to our land and agricultural roots. Secondly, don't we want to be self-sufficient and sustainable? To rely on ourselves to grow healthy fresh food for ourselves and the community? I would like to see a study that shows the benefits of visiting the farmers market, meeting up with your NSA (Neighborhood Supported Agriculture) every week to garden together, having a connection with urban poultry, nature and the pride in growing your own food.
Back to ducks...at our NSA we decided to keep ducks to help maintain our dedication to not using pesticides to control bugs like the harlequin beetle, stink bug, cucumber beetle and bean beetle. Ducks also produce wonderful manure that they automatically add back to the soil through walking and foraging deeply with their bills. The water they bath in can be directly applied to crops for an immediate fertilizer boost. Not only that but they lay delicious rich eggs, containing high levels of Omega 3's and vitamins foraged from the garden; not from medicated feed in cages. Ducks, unlike chickens, are easy to train and herd; show a duck once or twice and they will remember! One example is in southeast Asia; Indian Runner ducks in the thousands are herded from rice paddy to another by the community of farmers to eat bugs, lay manure and eggs. Then herded to the next paddy and finally to a large outdoor pen for the night. This has been done for centuries. At our garden not only will we be using them for pest control but also to educate our community at large the benefits of using ducks in the garden and possibly partnering with local public schools to teach children about the ducks, how they "work" the garden and the act of growing your own food. Being a NSA we have a responsibility to educate and share with our community about locally supported agriculture and being kind to the environment. Mostly I think the recent lure to raising and keeping poultry in the urban garden is a longing to have a connection to our food once again.  Along with the knowledge of chickens being raised in confining cages, fed antibiotics and the waste created by big factory farms. After all isn't the food we produce and consume as a society reflective of who we are, what we find to be important and fulfilling? Urban farming and homesteading is on the rise because we know that it is the right thing to do for our health, for our community and environment.
Just in; article about homesteading in the New York Times 

Fawn and White Indian Runner Ducks in the garden by P. Allen Smith