Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 3, 2013

The Farmer in the Beltline

Filed under: Alameda, Development, Public Resources — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

At the Rec and Park board meeting (commission? too lazy to go double check) there was an interesting speaker who — during public comment under an agenda item about the Jean Sweeney Open Space  Preserve/Park/whattoactuallycallthisthing  — brought up an idea that a group of Alamedans have been trying to push as a part of the Beltline parcel.    It was not well received by the Board/Commission members who wanted to keep all plans for the Beltline within the six agreed parameters that the “community” had decided would be best for the Beltline.  In case you didn’t know what the six parameters are — I actually had to look it up — here they are:

  1. walking/bike trails,
  2. natural open space,
  3. picnic areas,
  4. community gardens,
  5. playgrounds, and
  6. open lawn areas

Anyway, essentially if any proposals do not fit into those six categories it is a complete no go.   So this guy brought up the idea of a rotational grazing of animals which was really vague and unclear but what he really meant was this Alameda Community Farm.   Essentially the proposal is to lease the land to the group for community farming which would use an electrified fence to herd the, well, herd into a five acre area and within that five acre area it would further be subdivided so that the herd would graze portions of it on a rotational basis so that other patches would be able to regenerate.

So it sort of sounded like the Commission was discouraging the guy a little bit because it didn’t sound like it would fit in with the parameters they have established.   I think it’s a pretty strong idea, definitely fits in with the whole “passive” use of the site, could be really interesting for kids to see sort of a “working farm” in action so close to home and the City would literally need to do nothing to maintain five acres of the Beltline site.   That’s a pretty big win for the City given that they are scrambling to find grant funding to do anything with the Beltline site.

It would turn a portion of the land into a truly useful site and would be well used by the members of this community farm.  The goal is produce enough food from the goats and chicken, etc. to feed 200+ families in Alameda.   And, petting zoo?  Kids love petting zoos.



  1. This is the kind of outside the box thinking we need. The community “decided” by checking off a laundry list of items. This wasn’t on the list and shouldn’t have been since it’s not high concept, it needs explanation. The commission would do well to embrace a good idea when it hits them over the head. It could be approved on a temporary basis to see if it will work out–there are aspects that I wonder about, but why nix anything that might cause problems when we don’t know if it really will or if the problems can be addressed?

    Comment by Denise Shelton — July 3, 2013 @ 8:05 am

  2. Basically I don’t like it.

    Comment by joelsf — July 3, 2013 @ 8:05 am

  3. If you want a community farm put it on the base on the land held aside to be a wildlife refuge. I grew up on farms but they were not in the middle of the city. I don’t see community farms working….I see one person responsible for a farm maybe working. We lived on the edge of the city and had cows and sheep growing up and sometimes despite our best efforts they got out…the neighbors were not happy when they found one of our cows in their backyard. Who is going to do the work which will feed the 200+ families the families….I don’t think so. We have Plowshares and they seem to be expanding. I don’t like natural open space either….that means natural open weeds and seed blowing into everyones yard around them. If you want a petting zoo they have one in Tilden Park in Berkeley…but it is not in the middle of the city. I don’t think you can have goats, sheep, cows within the city anyways.

    Comment by joelsf — July 3, 2013 @ 8:53 am

  4. I don’t think we’re talking about cows, are we? Goats make sense, anything else, not so much.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — July 3, 2013 @ 9:13 am

  5. There was lots of outside the box thinking at the “community input” meetings. I suggested a Victorian gazebo, a carousel, bringing back that locomotive we used to be able to climb on at Washington Park, a trolley that runs around the park.. someone suggested a historical walk with informative markers, railroad themes. Alas, none of the new ideas were taken seriously. Seems twas all for show.
    An electrified fence, for any purpose in a public park, would seem to expose the city to liability.

    Comment by vigi — July 3, 2013 @ 9:15 am

  6. I actually like the idea – it would be a great tourist attraction. But I think they should explore a different parcel; I think the community has decided what they want to see at the Jean Sweeney Open Preserve.

    Comment by Karen Bey — July 3, 2013 @ 9:23 am

  7. Oh, Alameda city slickers and their urban farming fetishes! So many chicken coops, native plants, and back yard vegetable gardens (yielding nice organic lettuces that end up costing $9 per head). But here’s the deal: REAL farming is not the romantic fantasy that wealthy Alamedans dream up while snacking on their $19 East End Pizzas. Real farming, the type that would put livestock on 5 acres of a public park, entails huge, smelly piles of liquid dung, super hard labor, obnoxious barnyard noises all day (and most of the night), sick animals needing a vet, etc. etc. In other words: keep it in your own back yard, if you must. Not in our parks.

    Side note: I was trying to explain this urban farming fetish to a Bakersfield cattleman last week – and he didn’t believe me at first! He was shocked that anyone would romanticize his trade, although he expressed interest in getting a piece of any scheme where city folks would pay $30 for a CSA box.

    Comment by Big Johnson — July 3, 2013 @ 10:57 am

  8. “Kids love petting zoos.” Specially those surrounded by an electrified fence. The petting zoo would be an attractive nuisance. How do you keep kids from getting zapped while trying to get past the fence in the hours they are not supposed to be there? Assume we’re talking goats here. How many goats could/would you ‘sustainably’ put on a 5 acre parcel (meaning not a feed lot/slaughter house situation). If you are raising all these goats for food, where do they get slaughtered, do kids get to see and hear their petting pets being slaughtered, how do you dispose of the entrails, blood, etc? Just throw it in a garbage can and let ACI deal with the mess?

    Comment by Not. A. Alamedan — July 3, 2013 @ 11:31 am

  9. The aforementioned comments remind me of the line: “I am afraid of you and for you.”. I have lived two decades in this town and continue to see one bad decision being made after another. We are rapidly becoming “Berkeley-light”. With no strong leadership and the continued thoughts of farming and the like, the city is rapidly fading, not prospering. It is just a matter of time. Tick tock…

    Comment by Il Cane di Ferro — July 3, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

  10. Probably would need a community abbatoir and pig-roasting pit. Grow some banana trees on the side so we have leaves for the pit.

    The Little Farm in Tilden Regional Park seems to be popular without causing a neighborhood problem. One possibility is the distance to residential areas.

    Comment by Tom Schweich — July 3, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

  11. I’m for it as long as we can blow the goats up like a balloon to make them easier to skin before butchering and the pigs must be Berkshires and must be slaughtered at 250 lbs.

    Comment by Jack R — July 3, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

  12. Tom, that’s the key — keep it far from residential. The Ardenwood Historic Farm in Newark is a good example of what can be done. It’s got a hay barn, a blacksmith shop, and a produce stand. They even do wedding and receptions. The revenues generated from the farm help to offset the expenses.

    Comment by Karen Bey — July 3, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

  13. I live in the “city” for a reason, if I wanted farm animals around me I would live in the country. If you like to have farm animals on your property then you should move to the country where people have farm animals. Having farm animals in a park in Alameda is not the brightest idea I have heard. Maybe we do need our elected officials to “just say no”.

    Comment by John P. (L) — July 3, 2013 @ 4:31 pm

  14. Agree with #7: Raising farm animals is a 24/7/365 endeavor. The facilities and pens must be staffed and that may in itself be in conflict with the 6 parameters. Go to Ardenwood for the experience.

    Comment by Basel — July 3, 2013 @ 6:03 pm

  15. why no sports field

    Comment by E — July 3, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

  16. farm animals don’t play sports.

    Comment by John P. (L) — July 3, 2013 @ 8:35 pm

  17. The funniest thing is once one of our cows got out and was in a neighbors yard….they called my mom and she went over there and tried to chase it home with a broom…here is this middle aged woman with a broom…chasing a cow down the street with the broom. My brothers and sisters were watching inside the house totally embarrassed…I think she still had her nightgown on. I had an interesting childhood…plus in the winter they need extra food…who is going to pay for this and go out and feed them twice a day? Farm animals are cute when they are young but when they grow up they are unpredictable. I had 2 white geese who got out…and moved to a sorta pond we had. I feed them for years…but if you were not feeding them and got too close they would hiss and bite you if given the chance. Most farm animals while sort of domesticated they really are not. Most farm animals are sorta domesticated but still have a wild sides sorta like Jack…

    Comment by joelsf — July 3, 2013 @ 11:45 pm

  18. #8 Yay! It’s the next installment in the Slaughterhouse 94501 series. Except here’s the thing: it’s possible to have goats and chickens for milk and eggs, respectively, and not slaughter them. Truly — you don’t have to harm a hair (or feather) on their little heads. The city could just choose to go in that direction.

    I think having a working farm is a great idea and I would work to support it. But I agree with others here that figuring out who’s going to take care of the animals is hugely important. The city could hire a manager (though there are budget issues, I know). Or the city could rely on volunteers, but those volunteers would have to be really, really reliable because animals really, really do need to be fed, watered, put away at night, milked, checked for health issues, etc. There’s not a lot of room for flaking out.

    #14 Ahem. Farm animals do so play sports. Please check out this video of turkeys playing soccer:

    Comment by Susan Davis — July 4, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

  19. Oops — my comment for 14 was supposed to be for 16.

    Comment by Susan Davis — July 4, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

  20. Susan have you thought about the salary and benefits/pensions for 2or3 city employees taking care of these animals, the cost of food, liablility insurance? Kids breaking in there at night? Do you remember when everyone bought pot belly pigs as pets 10 years ago and then got rid of them. What about the people who own houses next to this sight…they should have the most say…who wants the smell and noise…or a roaster waking them up at 5:30 in the morning?

    Comment by joelsf — July 4, 2013 @ 4:53 pm

  21. Joel, I did think of the salary issue — but then, looking more closely at the link Lauren posted, I’m not clear on what the city’s role in this would be. It looks like the farm would be run by two citizens (at least one of whom already has goats) and people would buy “shares” in the animals (as well as contribute to boarding fees). I think it’s a great idea for people who would like to learn about farm animals (and spend time around them) but don’t want to try to cram them into small Alameda yards. I see a lot of potential here!

    Comment by Susan Davis — July 4, 2013 @ 6:55 pm

  22. Really? There is actual support to devote five acres of public land already agreed on to be used as a public park for the citizens and turn it into a five acre electrified cattle jail? The feel good rational for this is to use the meat and eggs or whatever to feed about 200 ‘families’? Now that’s outside the box!

    So who runs this operation? Sounds like the intention is to recruit some wannabe urban cowboys to ride herd and play farmer. What happens when the urban cowboys decide it’s too hard and boring? How long before the operation becomes a ward of the city and a new beaurocracy is created to handle the administration, care and feeding, slaughter, processing and distribution of the products of this enterprise? What happens at the end of the distribution chain when the inevitable failure occurs? What happens to the 200 needy families who’ve become accustomed to the free goat meat and eggs? And who in the hell wants to eat goat everyday?

    So what happens when playtime is over and the city has a five acre muddy mess covered in animal crap on its hands?

    Does anybody in this town have the capacity to ask a simple question: What happens next?

    Comment by lavage10 — July 4, 2013 @ 9:41 pm

  23. I find it hard to believe that the commenters that “chose” to live in the city did so to avoid all forms of agriculture. Although there does seem to be a healthy dose of agriculturaphobia here in our city. I also want to point out that people have been growing gardens and keeping farm animals in cities for many, many years. From goats in Los Angeles to chickens in Denver, some people actually like to keep animals. Not all of those people feel the need to eat those animals either.

    I too think it is a great use of space. Any opportunity we can use to educate children and adults about where the food they eat comes from, is a good idea. I agree also that Ardenwood is a good example of a working farm/petting zoo.

    Obviously, as several people have pointed out, someone needs to feed and care for the critters. It also sounds like there are some good ideas floating around that are promising.

    There will always be people in all organizations that just say no to all things new or different. Thinking outside the box is challenging and sometimes scary, but that does not mean we should not do it. This is a great idea, and we should figure out how to make it work.

    Comment by levisnp — July 5, 2013 @ 6:01 am

  24. Everyone who keeps bringing up “cattle” clearly didn’t even look at the proposal. There are no cows proposed anywhere. The list is dairy goats, meat goats, laying hens, broiler hens, lambs, pigs, poultry, rabbits, bees, waterfoul. All of these animals are currently either allowed or would be allowed in Alameda backyards.

    Before folks diss a proposal based on preconceived ideas just based on a name alone, the least you can do is to look at the suggestions first.

    Comment by Lauren Do — July 5, 2013 @ 6:02 am

  25. Farming is most definitely hard work. Small scale farming on a hobbiest level, even something as simple as maintaining a vegetable garden, is also hard work that requires perserverance and committment. Most of us here have no desire to do a lot of that kind of work ourselves but that doesn’t mean that there are not folks out there who do and who can come up with a workable plan. I don’t think it’s fair to characterize everyone who does anything that smacks of “urban farming” as a clueless, dilettante who will cut and run at the first sign of inconvenience. Sure, there are lots of people like that, but they are unlikely to be proposing a plan like this one. At first glance, I think the suggested plan is overly ambitious, but it could be stepped so that it starts out with a few basic elements that could be expanded on the condition that problems are adequately addressed as they arise. Those making the proposal would have to secure funding and insure that the City would not be burdened by additional costs. If it’s a matter of “The City should do this, and the City should figure it out and foot the bill” then, no. I would not be in favor. If it’s a matter of “This group wants to plan it, fund it, and try it out to see if the the City might benefit” then great. Let’s keep an open mind, with the proviso that the City can pull the plug if it’s not working out.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — July 5, 2013 @ 9:14 am

  26. This is nothing more than corporate goat raising seeking new avenues to expand.

    About Mali
    I raise goats and sheep in Alameda and offer a variety of farm related services to the greater Bay Area.
    View all posts by Mali →

    Comment by Jack R — July 5, 2013 @ 10:03 am

  27. #25: “Most of us here have no desire to do a lot of that kind of work ourselves but that doesn’t mean that there are not folks out there who do and who can come up with a workable plan. I don’t think it’s fair to characterize everyone who does anything that smacks of “urban farming” as a clueless, dilettante who will cut and run at the first sign of inconvenience.”

    Well put. Thank you.

    Comment by Susan Davis — July 5, 2013 @ 11:02 am

  28. “I think it’s a pretty strong idea, definitely fits in with the whole “passive” use of the site,…”

    LD, since you claim you grew up on a farm, just what was it that was “passive” about shoveling pig shit,

    Comment by Jack R — July 5, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

  29. I never said I grew up on a farm.

    Edited to add: but it would be “passive” in the sense that there won’t be kids running around with assorted balls which would be considered “active.”

    Comment by Lauren Do — July 5, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

  30. Somewhere in the Bayport archives my memory tells me there’s a comment by you about you living on a farm. And if it was during your youth you were probably ‘growing’. Glad you explained ‘passive’. Frankly I’d rather have kids running around with their balls than goats with theirs.

    Comment by Jack R — July 5, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

  31. So who would upkeep the barns, fences, feed the animals, provide for their safety, keep the neighbors happy (the smell), distribute the food ect…can I just go up and ask for a gallon of milk. The people who need the food won’t want to be the ones doing the work. My mom planted a big garden every year…none of us kids wanted to help. I currently have 2 tomato plants in pots and I forget to water them. Is Denise, Susan, Lauren going to be out there helping…because I won’t…as lavage said in comment 22 what happens when playtime is over. I raised 2 lambs from bottles and when my dad slaughter them I refused to go into the house if I knew we were eating them for dinner…my mom would try to make some other food for me…but I would refuse to eat that night. I would sit outside until they were done eating. I was a camp counselor in college and they had a Hawaiian feast with an apple in a roasted pigs mouth. No one wanted to eat me or the kids. It is easy to buy food in stores because you disassociate where it came from. It is a lot of work to kill a chicken, get rid of the feathers, clean it out…clean up the mess. If you calculate the time it took, If you work your hourly rate at work you probably be a able to buy 2 chickens prepared. Goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, are really not domesticated,..they are somewhat wild. If you put something in like this it should be in the wildlife refuge on the base…plus the Vets may enjoy some on the animals.

    Comment by Joe — July 6, 2013 @ 3:58 am

  32. It’s one thing if you have an opinion of higher use, but I don’t get why people are cynical just because they don’t sport a green thumb. I thought Jean’s vision for the park was fully passive ( trees) so I was surprised to see Jim Sweeney on the parade float for community gardens. To me the electric fence seems potentially problematic and having an significant portions fenced off is a bit odd, but I reserve judgement on an urban farm until seeing a proposal. I assume most folks know about this private business:

    31. In terms of the pervasive impacts of PTSD, it’s interesting to consider potential for animals in therapy.

    Comment by MI — July 6, 2013 @ 9:26 am

  33. I know this is off subject but does any one who lives along Appenzzo Memorial Drive want to change it back to Atlantic. I think it was fairly short sighted to change the name without asking the people who live along there whether they wanted it changed just as it would be short sighted to ask the people who live along the Beltline if they want a farm there? Name a future street on the future Alameda Point to name after the suicidal mayor. Who ever is in charge don’t change the name of our streets without asking. It may offend the family, but he already offended them by commiting suicide.

    Comment by Joe — July 6, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

  34. Joe, your insensitivity is shocking.

    Comment by Not. A. Alamedan — July 6, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

  35. Thank you for being a not A Alamedan…You supposedly are not an Alamedan so why do you care? They change the names of the streets but do they actually care about the people who live there and ask if they want the name of their street changed…that is insensitivity. You don’t even identify with Alameda since you are not an Alamedan why do you care…I am an Alamedan..I care…I have been part of Alameda since the 70′ and since you are not identifying with them why?

    Comment by Joe — July 7, 2013 @ 12:10 am

  36. Joe, I have been a part of Alameda and the West End since 1943, since you are using that as some sort of seniority. I’m just fine with the name of the street. I know you probably don’t care but the Mayor also had terminal cancer.

    Comment by John P. (L) — July 7, 2013 @ 9:17 am

  37. I agree with Joe.

    I tried to understand the justification for renaming Atlantic Ave. from Webster to the base after Appazzato but the only thing I could come up with somehow it was tied to his military service and represented his beginning as a member of the military and ending as a mayor of the community.

    Ralph was a decent guy, a good mayor and an exemplar Marine but the only really remarkable thing he did while he was mayor was take his own life. That he had terminal cancer and did what marines do, in my opinion, was no reason to name a street after him. We have ex-mayors die of one thing or another all the time and it’s no big deal.

    Frankly I’d like to see a fire station named Zack since Raymond’s demise brought the community, surrounded by dirty water, water safety.

    Comment by Jack R — July 7, 2013 @ 10:13 am

  38. Jack and Joe, we name things after people that have worked to better their community. Ralph did what he could to better his community. Sorry but Raymond wasn’t able to do that. It wasn’t his fault.

    Comment by John P. (L) — July 7, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

  39. I think you just want the street renamed because neither of you can spell Appezzato. He put me on the Planning Board; leave the street name alone. Most of our ex-mayors have something named after them [Anne Diament, Chuck Corica]. I think it is odd to name the old O’Club for Al DeWitt, since he was in the Army; but I don’t want to remove his name.

    Comment by vigi — July 7, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

  40. I want that street from the base south gate towards the ships renamed Piziali Stroll.

    Comment by Jack R — July 7, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

  41. And the old medical dispensary Vigi Landing.

    Comment by Jack R — July 7, 2013 @ 5:26 pm

  42. good Jack, you have finally come to your senses.

    Comment by John P. (L) — July 7, 2013 @ 9:13 pm

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