Urban farm, neighbor collide in East Austin, Texas
Louis Polanco lives across the street from HausBar Farms, and complained to the city about odors coming from the farm. Dorsey Barger, owner of HausBar Farms, is a believer in the black soldier fly composting system that composts chicken parts. Dorsey Barger of HausBar Farms has about 100 chickens, 50 rabbits, two miniature donkeys and a goat on her urban farm. Photo by Jay Janner.
“To have a backyard garden and give eggs to your neighbor is one thing, but to process and sell chickens and rabbits for wholesale? That’s a full-fledged business in an improperly zoned area.”
By Ricardo Gandara
Dec 16, 2012
On her 2 acres in East Austin, Dorsey Barger, a self-professed fanatic about composting, recycling and reusing, lives what she calls an “idyllic” life, her own little version of making a difference in the world, she says.
Her sustainable practices of urban farming produce organic vegetables, fresh eggs and range-free chickens that are sold locally and served at Austin restaurants. Her farm-fresh food, very much a part of the grow local and sell local movement, gets to the dinner table on far less fuel than supermarket suppliers use.
“I’m absolutely obsessed with what I do,” Barger said. “It’s a moral obligation to decrease the problem of global warming.”
Now, that life on her HausBar Farms on Govalle Avenue in East Austin is rubbing against a reality of city living: government regulations. While urban farms are allowed by municipal code, with restrictions, there are questions as to what activities fall within that definition.
Barger’s problems started when neighbor Louis Polanco, who has been in the neighborhood far longer than she — 50 years to be exact — called Austin 311 in November to report a foul odor. It apparently came from an outdoor composter of chicken parts discarded during the slaughtering process at HausBar Farms.
“It smelled terrible that day, and other people in the neighborhood were talking about it, too,” Polanco said. His complaint triggered three city departments to respond and visit Barger’s operation. Inspectors found that while Barger was within her rights to operate an urban farm, she was in violation of three city rules to operate her business.