Urban Farms Springing Up in Maine

Urban farms in Maine are growing big crops.

| September/October 2011

With its manicured lawns and upscale summer clientele, seaside Camden, Maine, isn’t the first place that springs to mind to raise a flock of chickens. But Peter Lindquist and Sarah Ruef-Lindquist decided to try, both to reduce their global footprint and to ensure a safe supply of protein for breakfast. In 2008, they bought a flock of 12 chickens for their half-acre parcel in Camden. And that's only the very beginning of the urban farms boom.

The chickens soon became a hit in the neighborhood. The couple liberally shared the oversized eggs, neighbors brought over food scraps to feed the flock, and children enjoyed the chickens’ antics.   

However, under an old ordinance, Camden residents weren’t allowed to keep chickens unless they owned at least two and a half acres. Someone squawked to the code enforcement officer about the Lindquists’ flock, and in January 2009, the couple received a letter ordering them to lose the hens or face a $250-a-day fine. They reluctantly broke up their flock.

Instead of giving up, Peter and Sarah decided to fight to change the ordinance. In recent years, urban chicken lovers across the country successfully changed local rules to allow fowl, including several Maine cities: Portland, South Portland, Falmouth, Westbrook and Biddeford. The couple first approached the town council, but council members declined to make a change.

“The town didn’t even know how to make its ordinance,” Lindquist says.

So, the couple organized a referendum, and in June, Camden residents voted overwhelmingly to change the rules. Now anyone can keep up to nine small animals, barring roosters, in their backyards. The couple regained custody of half of their original chickens, and added three more for good measure. 

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