New York Local – Eating the fruits of the five boroughs.
David Graves is the originator and keeper of rooftop beehives all over the city. Photograph by Josef Astor.
by Adam Gopnik
The New Yorker
September 3, 2007
Twelve-thirty on a beautiful summer day, and the chicken committee of the City Chicken Project is meeting at the Garden of Happiness, in the Crotona neighborhood of the Bronx. The chicken committee is devoted to the proliferation of egg-laying chickens in the outer boroughs, giving hens to people and having them raise the birds in community gardens and eat and even sell the eggs (“passing on the gift,” as this is called in the project), and thereby gain experience of chicken, eggs, and community—or fowl, food, and fellowship, as one of the more alliterative-minded organizers has said. It is the pet program of Just Food, a small organization that is administered by a startlingly young-looking woman named Jacquie Berger, who is silently monitoring the proceedings.
The Garden of Happiness is a sunny community garden with vegetable plots, a chicken coop, a corrugated-tin shed, and a few chairs beneath a grape arbor, where the chicken committee is meeting. The chicken committee is a lot more committee than chicken, its deliberations filled with references to “existing chicken situations” and “pursuit of newer egg opportunities,” and the slightly skeptical neighborhood people have to be gently won over by the carefully beaming professionals. They provide the nudging, let’s-get-back-on-track counsel that chicken-caring community organizers have to give potentially disorganized community chicken-carers.
“It’s, like, a long questionnaire, you know?” one of the neighborhood people says, about a form to be handed out to potential chicken-carers.
“Well, don’t you think that someone who isn’t prepared to fill out a few questions isn’t—don’t you have to question their commitment to caring for a chicken over the winter?”
“Yeah, I guess so. But it’s a long thing. All these questions.”