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Small Food Nation
Pieter Aertsen


Perhaps what's critically missing in the present manifestation of urban agriculture — into which one could lump together Fritz Haeg's Edible Estates, Slow Food Nation, Middlesbrough and temporary boutique farms, among other things — are some faunal decorations.

You don't see Holstein cows lazily lying on the lawn waiting to be milked or a herd of Texas longhorns fighting through traffic (or migrating along decommissioned subway tunnels or stampeding on a re-redesigned High Line) on its way to an abattoir amidst haute condominiums in the gentrified Meat Packing District. Where is the flock of sheep grazing on rooftop gardens while next door, higher up in their lofts, neighbors delight in such charming rural view?

There's no need to state the obvious reasons why you can't rear livestock in the front yard, but if one impediment is physical size, there is the Dexter, a miniature cattle that is “the world’s most efficient, cutest and tastiest cow.” From The Times:

For between £200 and £2,000, people can buy a cow that stands no taller than a large German shepherd dog, gives 16 pints of milk a day that can be drunk unpasteurised, keeps the grass “mown” and will be a family pet for years before ending up in the freezer.

[...]

The Dexter originated in the south of Ireland in the 1800s as an ideal “cottager’s cow”, producing enough milk for the house, and a calf a year.

Today’s mini-cattleman follows a similar pattern, choosing to keep a single “house cow”, collecting the milk each day and using artificial insemination to produce one calf annually for meat. Many people start with one cow and let it produce a calf before sending it to slaughter at the age of two, when the meat is at its most tender and high in healthy omega3 fats.


The Dexter may still be too big, in which case, you breed one no larger than a small German shepherd dog. Or tinier still that they'll fit right in with the chickens in the hen house. Throw in some miniature pigs, miniature spring lambs, miniature deer and some miniature other, and your Lilliputian ranch is set.

Of course, instead of the heroic farmer of the American Midwest or the pastoral shepherd of the Romantic past, you could emulate Doctor Moreau. New farm animals hybridized from distinct species: docile, thrive in small urban allotments, quite edible and healthy, and for the amount of food, water and energy they consume, produce proportionally more meat than their genetic parents. This is radical sustainability for the era of food crisis.

But if overcoming the psychological barrier of eating chimeras is going to take some time, they can be used to decorate your garden in the meantime. And when they enter your view from inside your tiny house — Picturesquely framed as these post-genomic peacocks are by the windows, it'll be like looking at a landscape painting by the Old Masters — you can't help but contemplate the philosophical and ethical implications of this post-industrial cuisine. Or make up new recipes for when past the barrier.


On agro
1 COMMENT —
  • sarah
  • August 21, 2008 at 12:48:00 PM CDT
  • “the world’s most efficient, cutest and tastiest cow.” From The Times:

    For between £200 and £2,000, people can buy a cow that stands no taller than a large German shepherd dog, gives 16 pints of milk a day that can be drunk unpasteurised, keeps the grass “mown” and will be a family pet for years before ending up in the freezer


    No, the worlds most efficient and cutest cow is a goat.
    Unless you particularly like a stupid animal with constant and chronic diarrhea..


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