"I didn't decide to raise livestock in the city in order to be the local oddball," Heidi Kooy says. She was concerned with the quality of the animal products her family was consuming, as well as the humane treatment of the animals those products came from. Terms like "organic" and "natural" only gave her a partial picture. She needed more. "Knowing the whole story of how food came to my table became an obsession for me," she says. "I wanted to understand and experience the entire process, and to be honest, to have total control over that process."
Whereas 10 years ago, statements like those might have seemed quaint, bordering on severely eccentric, now Kooy's ideas about food and food culture fall smack in the mainstream. Like so many other people, she's taking control of her own food sourcing. Kooy already had a nice-sized, 100-square-foot vegetable garden in the backyard of her small house on San Francisco's southern edge. When she added a gaggle of hens and a couple of Nigerian dwarf dairy goats to her family, her entire relationship with food changed.
"The goats provide us with the perfect amount of milk for our family," she says. "We drink it, ferment it into yogurt, make cheese and ice cream with it, and use it for creating luscious bars of goat's milk soap."
She also breeds her beloved goats named Lucy and Ethel, a process she describes in her charming blog, The Itty Bitty Farm in the City. When female goats aren't pregnant, their milk dries up. In her last attempt in 2012, she injected Lucy and Ethel with a cocktail mixture of selenium and vitamin E "that is said to regulate the lady goat cycles" and hooked them up with a couple of local studs named Fred and Ozzie. After three weeks of exhausting goat-on-goat action, the breeding worked!
Of course, it's not all fun and animal sex on the urban Itty Bitty Farm. Kooy has production records to keep, rats to exterminate, fences to build, bees to keep, decks to build and, of course, plants and herbs to cultivate. But it all works out. In 2011, the last year she kept statistics, the farm produced almost 60 pounds of produce, as well as 135 quarts of milk and 310 eggs. It wasn't a profitable business. Kooy projected that the farm cost nearly $2,500 to maintain, and the market value of the food was a little over a $1,000, but money wasn't the only concern. She's managing the process of her own food, the means of her own production, and those are intrinsic values that can't be tabulated on a numbers sheet.
"The chickens are primarily for eggs, but we also retire to the table those who have passed their egg-laying prime," she says. "I have learned the ins and outs of raising hens, from chickhood to culling, seeing each animal through, and being responsible for, its entire life cycle. I tell you, there is great satisfaction in that."
This video from Dark Rye was produced by Kelly Le Castre and edited by Jason De La Rosa.