Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Heifer Project International Announces

Urban Animal Agriculture
Initiative in Chicago

By Alison Meares Cohen

Heifer Project International (HPI) is a 52-year old organization which combats hunger and poverty and restores the environment by providing appropriate livestock, participatory training and related services to small-scale farmers worldwide.

Traditionally HPI's outreach has been to rural communities, but in September of 1996 a pilot-project in urban agriculture was launched in the city of Chicago. HPI will work with poor urban communities to bring about food and economic self-sufficiency through agriculture-related micro-enterprise. Currently one group is hoping to raise a small breed of dairy goats for cheese sales. Another group is exploring raising honeybees on rooftops.

The project is being implemented by Alison Meares, Chicago Field Rep, and supervised by Skip Polson, Director of HPI's USA/Canada Program. Alison can be reached at 773-395-9330 or via e-mail at Skip can be reached at HPI's headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas at 1-800-422-1311 or via e-mail at

In Paris, a bee hive on the roof of the Paris Opera produces a superb honey sold in exclusive shops. In London, once desolate land is animated by vivacious youngsters who come to a working farm to learn from horses and marshes and toads that plants, animals and humanity are interdependent. In Rome, sheep graze contentedly in public parks, unfazed by the mad traffic nearby. Europe is, in fact, so committed to and at ease with urban agriculture that it is home to 850 city farms.

Throughout the world, the rural tradition of householders' keeping one or two livestock has been carried into urban areas. For millions of urban poor who know hunger and poverty, city farming means survival. For others, it means income. In Jakarta, for example, a teenaged entrepreneur launched an international food export business by selling, door-to-door, eggs from chickens raised in his parents' backyard. In Chicago a few years ago, a group uniquely aware of urban issues as well as the advantages of livestock farming began to wonder whether animal agriculture might benefit the American city.

The questioning led to the March 1995 Urban Animal Agriculture Seminar, the first U.S. conference to explore that issue. Organized by the Chicago office of Heifer Project International (HPI), the seminar raised the questions:

The gathering concluded that U.S. cities need the nutritional value, economic benefits and healing presence of animals. The group took a realistic look at the potential obstacles, but determined that none is insurmountable. Further, the seminar demonstrated that the resources, interest and energy necessary for implementation are abundantly available. Thus, HPI's Chicago Urban Animal Agriculture Project was launched.

For copies of the seminar report, call Phoebe Griswold at 312-876-9991.

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Revised November 30, 2001

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture