Saturday, June 11, 2016

If I Were Mayor Of Greensboro: Part 16

One of the complaints I heard about my proposals in If I Were Mayor Of Greensboro: Part 15
was that I had not presented business plan or a  SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis.

Well guess what, folks, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Barakat Vaughan and the Greensboro City Council brought us the $65 Million plus, Steven Tanger Center For the Performing Arts and the public has yet to see a SWOT Analysis or business plan for that.

And much of the money is already gone, gone, gone, never to be seen again.

At least I'm proposing we put together a board to investigate before we start spending money. The very idea that we spend millions with no clue as to how we can make it work is ludicrous.

But the attitude that we can't do better is simply not acceptable. Never has been.

So what is the problem? It's simple really, and can be summed up in this quote lifted from Greensboro resident, Mark Hopp:

"The system is rigged folks. Sending wealthy elites to represent your interest is a long failed strategy."

Think about the definition of insanity, often attributed to Albert Einstein: Repeating the same failed experiment over and over, each time expecting different results.

Until you change something the results will always be the same. Ask any farmer, you can plant seeds ever year for the next 50 years but without proper care, rain, irrigation, fertilization of some form and protection you will never harvest a sizable crop.

And if I'm nothing else I'm neither the wealthy elite nor the same old failed experiments. I'm blue collar, working class, poor and different.

In his blog post, Why I Would Raise Chickens, Billionaire Bill Gates points out the advantages of poor people raising chickens:

They are easy and inexpensive to take care of. Many breeds can eat whatever they find on the ground (although it’s better if you can feed them, because they’ll grow faster). Hens need some kind of shelter where they can nest, and as your flock grows, you might want some wood and wire to make a coop. Finally, chickens need a few vaccines. The one that prevents the deadly Newcastle disease costs less than 20 cents.

They’re a good investment. Suppose a new farmer starts with five hens. One of her neighbors owns a rooster to fertilize the hens’ eggs. After three months, she can have a flock of 40 chicks. Eventually, with a sale price of $5 per chicken—which is typical in West Africa—she can earn more than $1,000 a year, versus the extreme-poverty line of about $700 a year.

They help keep children healthy. Malnutrition kills more than 3.1 million children a year. Although eating more eggs—which are rich in protein and other nutrients—can help fight malnutrition, many farmers with small flocks find that it’s more economical to let the eggs hatch, sell the chicks, and use the money to buy nutritious food. But if a farmer’s flock is big enough to give her extra eggs, or if she ends up with a few broken ones, she may decide to cook them for her family.

They empower women. Because chickens are small and typically stay close to home, many cultures regard them as a woman’s animal, in contrast to larger livestock like goats or cows. Women who sell chickens are likely to reinvest the profits in their families. Read more about women and chickens in Melinda’s blog post.

In case you don't already know I've been raising backyard chickens for so long that a previous Greensboro City Council was forced to grandfather my roosters when they passed restrictions barring roosters years ago. When my parents bought our family home it was outside the city limits with a dairy farm across the street.

Seems a producer from Discovery Channel Canada was looking for an excuse to take a break from the cold Canadian winters, discovered my Streetplane, came south to do a story and the rooster stole the show. City Council didn't dare put down the most famous celebrity Greensboro had ever produced even if it was a rooster.

Twenty million viewers and all anyone in Canada remembers is my rooster.... Twenty million viewers and I might have sold 1 book.

Oh well, no one said life was supposed to be easy, at least it was fun.

I'd like to point out without going into detail that there are some problems with Greensboro's current Chicken and poultry ordinance that discriminates against those who most need to raise their own chickens. Those people who are doing it because they think its cool or because they simply prefer homegrown, organic, free range eggs might never run afoul of the law but those who could benefit the most are being made to suffer. I'll deal with them when elected Mayor of Greensboro. After all, it's not like any of you are going to support Nancy now that you know she intentionally ripped you off and lied to do it.

I also found the Gates article interesting in that he wrote:

"Eventually, with a sale price of $5 per chicken—which is typical in West Africa—she can earn more than $1,000 a year.."

I also get $5 for each of my old hens when they quit laying. And the roosters from the family farm in Randolph County fetch as much as $15.00 each. Yes, you can buy grocery store birds a lot cheaper but many cultures insist on seeing their meat alive so they can assess the health of the creature they are about to eat. Others simply prefer the taste.

I must admit, a 3 year old free range hen tastes much better than any bird you'll buy in the grocery store but these days Momma ain't spending 3 hours boiling no bird to tender before she fries it. I can sell old birds, buy fryers from the grocery store and pocket the difference.

So am I proposing Greensboro's poor people go into the chicken business? No, not at all. Well maybe a few, if they want to. Just don't expect to make it a full time job. But if I were elected Mayor of Greensboro I would push to establish a Greensboro Board of Urban Agriculture and ask Tinece Payne to head it up for us.

So why do we need a
Greensboro Board of Urban Agriculture? Because the North Carolina Department of Agriculture is completely rural based and has no real clue as to how to take on urban agriculture for anything beyond hobby gardening.

I met Ms Payne one day when she was driving past my house. She saw my herb gardens in the front yard and stopped to talk to me about them. I was impressed as most people just think them all weeds and me too lazy to keep up the yard. But not Tinece, she even knew the names of the herbs I planted long ago and forgot what they were called. And she knew what they are used for.

Turns out Ms Payne is involved with Volunteer In Your Community, a non profit that is already heavily involved in urban agriculture. I would like to see Ms Payne, who happens to be a graduate of the agriculture program at NC A&;T University, pursue ideas like using the City lakes for fish farming like I mentioned in Part 7, and green building that actually includes agricultural capabilities.

And any opportunity we can dream up to convert Greensboro from a food importing city to a food exporting city. You know, put all those empty trailers to work.

For example, with a few changes to zoning rules, Greensboro's Big Box" initiative which was written solely as a favor to Marty Kotis but remains on the books, old shopping centers could easily be converted to aquaponics operations to raise fish and vegetables. For those of you who remain skeptical may I point out that the world's largest and most successful indoor producer of fish is Blue Ridge, located less than one hour from Greensboro in Martinsville, Virginia.

Put greenhouses in the parking lots and convert the old buildings to fish production, processing and loading facilities. Neither the fish nor the plants need air conditioning and both need minimal heat here in North Carolina.

Then there's things like portable farms, raised beds that can be moved with a fork lift or slid on and off a tilt bed trailer with a lawn tractor. What if, instead of threatening the owners of overgrown properties with expensive bills for mowing and such we made arrangements to allow small local businesses to farm those properties instead?

I'm betting a lot of Greensboro's slumlords would love to get their properties mowed for free in exchange for allowing the lots to be farmed.

Duh! Even the grass and weeds become compost in the eyes of a farmer. My grass clippings go to feed my worms so that they turn out lots of worm castings-- the best fertilizer money can buy and more valuable than the worms themselves.

And did I mention the healthy food?

What's next? Tune in to If I Were Mayor Of Greensboro: Part 17 to find out.

This is part of an ongoing series of posts that begins with If I Were Mayor Of Greensboro and is linked in succession back to here. If you haven't already I recommend you read them all.