Agriculture summit focuses on backyard farming and animals

By Grace Ellis and Kaela Nokes - Staff Reporters

You might not expect to hear clucking and bleating over the next door neighbor's fence and the smell of savory herbs wafting in the breeze might be a bit distracting, but urban agriculture experts would like that to be a part of your future.

Backyard farming is becoming more and more popular as people become more aware of what they eat and where their food comes from.

On May 31 and June 1, High- line College, in partnership with the King Conservation District, hosted a free, two-day food summit to encourage city folk to try growing things in their backyards.

And growing your own food can also go a long way towards nullifying the effects of the food desert that encompasses much of the area around Highline College.

A food desert is where there is plenty of food, but little of it is healthy ‚ÄĒ think salt-laden snacks, sugary drinks and processed foods as opposed to fresh fruit, fresh meat and healthy dairy.

The goal of the summit was to provide those attending with information with information about how to grow everything from herbs and apples to raising goats and chickens.

There was also information on building greenhouses, attracting and protecting the pollinators that make growing plants possible and even in- formation on how to find jobs in agriculture.

Growing your own herbs, for example, helps not only with the health of the environment, it can help with personal health as well.

For her part, Kerri Baily, a gardening/do-it-yourself instructor at Highline, spoke about her efforts to create an herbal certification program at the college.

She spoke about the importance of herbs in the environment, and the tendency to dis- miss the bigger role they play in people's health.

"The thing I like about plants is their connection to the earth." Baily said.

She said people are so glued to our technology these days that it seems easier to purchase herbs online rather than growing one's own. But growing your own herbs connects you to their roots and ensures that you are getting their full health benefits.

"They're like the best vitamin you could ever use," Baily said.

It is most common to incorporate herbs into your cooking, more specifically infusing herbs into tea. There are other ways to utilize herbs such as in capsules, soaps and essential oils, but tea has proven to be the most effective.

"When you brew your tea, you're getting all those vitamins and minerals straight into your body in a hydrated form," Baily said.

Having the herbs in a dry form such as a pill takes longer for the body to take in, as the body has to rehydrate the pills before absorbing it.

However, there are some risks to making your own medicine using herbs, but that mostly comes down to knowing where you are at in terms of health. The bodies of young children, elders, people on medication, and pregnant women may react badly to certain herbs.

"You want to know yourself in the fact of what your health is," Baily said. "So, don't test these herbs on your pets or your children," she said.

When it comes to using herbs for medicine, we must look at herbal energies. The herbal energies classify each herb as either hot, neutral, cold, and any- thing in between.

For example, cayenne pep- per would be a hot herb, while something leafy like basil would

be a colder herb.
"It's about balance," Baily said.
If you are hot (for example,

a fever), you would find the herb of an opposite energy to counterbalance that heat, Baily said.

Another more commonly seen effect would be taste. Often, people find themselves wanting something spicy or bitter after eating something sweet, Baily said.

"Our typical American diet is salty and sweet, so our other taste receptors give us these weird cravings," Baily said. "It really is all about balance," she said.

But urban farming isn't just about growing plants. It can also include people raising their own livestock such as, pigs, goats and chickens. And the chicken workshop was instructive as just how much city dwellers can do to grow smaller barnyard animals.

For example, chickens are more useful than people may think. Besides providing meat and eggs, and they help clean up the yard too, said Ann Ac- cetta-Scott, a Farm Girl in the Making, according to her business card.

If your yard contains a gar- den with veggies and other plants, chickens can help keep backyards alive and healthy.

Accetta-Scott gave a tip that it would be best to have a back- yard big enough for a chicken coop before attempting to raise the fowl.

"Chickens close off your gar- den for you [from unwanted weeds] and they take out all the bad plants. They also make for a good fertilizer," Accetta-Scott said.

Raising chickens gets you high quality food as well, she said.

People have been more aware about where their food has been coming from and how it was grown or raised.

When you raise animals on your own such as chickens you know exactly where it comes from.

Also, the eggs are chemical free, unlike the store-bought eggs, Accetta-Scott said.

Even if you don't have a gar- den or worry too much about where your food comes from, the chickens can be loads of fun.

"Chickens are hours of entertainment for everyone," Accetta-Scott said.

Another session at the summit focused on the benefits of raising goats.

Goats are not only good for cleaning up the yard because they eat annoying vegetation such as blackberry vines, they also produce milk and are useful in making goat cheese.

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