Advocates for the Urban Farmers for Food Freedom (UFFF) filed their paperwork with the City of Visalia clerk’s office on July 6. Called the Family Food Freedom Act, the initiative will put to a vote if Visalians want to allow small farm animals in residential areas. The measure would allow up to 6 chickens and 4 miniature goats per family. The number of food-producing animals would not count against the number of dogs and cats already allowed under the city’s ordinance.
That same evening at the Visalia City Council meeting, the UFFF was at the convention center handing out “I’m Pro Goat” tee shirts and speaking during public comment. Gingi Freeman, who started the movement to legalize miniature goats, informed the council that the initiative has been submitted and that she was confident that the UFFF would obtain the signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot.
“I regret that it has come to this, but the time has come to take the decision-making power out of uncaring hands, and put it where it belongs – with the People, the voters of Visalia. Because the fact of the matter is, Visalia is pro-goat and we vote,” she said.
Freeman encouraged the city council to negotiate with the UFFF to save the city money.
“This ballot initiative will happen, as I’m sure all of you are well aware. So why do you want to be wasteful? Why would you want to burn through taxpayers’ hard earned money over an inevitable ordinance change that you could resolve yourselves? Just to be stubborn,” she said.
City Manager Mike Olmos has 15 days to prepare a ballot title and summary. Or, he may choose to negotiate with the UFFF on the terms of the initiative and suggest that the city council approve a new animal ordinance. This would legalize goats and chickens now and avoid the cost of putting the measure on the ballot.
If the UFFF collects 7000 signatures, the measure will go on the June Primary ballot and cost the city $120,000. If the UFFF gathers 4800 signatures, it will go on the November General Election ballot. There would be minimal costs if the initiative went on the November ballot because the Food Freedom Act would be sharing space and expenses with many other measures.
There is some urgency, in Freeman’s case and those with small children, she said, in that the children need to be fed now–not in either June or November.
Susan Walsh, Vice Chairwoman for UFFF, reiterated the inevitability of the initiative passing.
“Americans are waking up to their loss of liberty and when the dust settles and urban farming is embraced in the Central Valley, which side of history do you want to be on,” she said.
Walsh said that many large cities in California, and the country, allow chickens and miniature goats in residential areas.
She continued during public comment, “In these hard economic times where drought and unemployment, and other environmental and social disasters abound, Americans want to and should be free to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. You are not our parent. You are not our bosses. You are our public servants, and as such you are called by a Higher Power to do the will of the People.”
The Family Food Freedom Act is the result of a June 1 city council vote against allowing chickens in residential areas. Councilmembers Collins, Link and Nelsen voted against changing the household pet ordinance, while councilmembers Gubler and Shuklian voted in favor. The UFFF now has 180 days to get the required signatures. The following document is what the UFFF submitted to the city clerk. Olmos has until July 21 to respond.
FAMILY FOOD FREEDOM ACT
Food producing animals may be kept by any Family household within the Visalia City limits, as follows: A maximum of up to six (6) chickens, and up to four (4) miniature goats (miniature goats shall mean Nigerian Dwarf or African Pygmy breeds of goats), combined. A total maximum of ten (10) food producing animals shall not be exceeded per Family household.
The following requirements must be met:
(1) No Roosters may be kept.
(2) No intact male goats older than ten (10) weeks (intact means not neutered).
(3) There must be at least ten (10) square feet of permeable land area available for each chicken, plus adequate enclosed shelter space for all chickens.
(4) There must be at least one hundred (100) square feet of permeable land area available for each miniature goat, plus adequate shelter space for each miniature goat.
(5) Adequate shelter must be provided to protect the food producing animals from the elements and to prevent wildlife or other predators from gaining entry.
(6) Adequate fencing shall be provided to prevent the food producing animals from escaping when not in their shelters.
The number of food producing animals allowed under this section shall not be counted against the number of dogs and/or cats allowed under other provisions of this code (see the municipal codes permitting up to four dogs and/or cats combined per family household within the City limits).