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Urban Farm Store Review

With a designer chicken in a circle and someone who clearly does his own media work the urban farm store is here. Great place for a bunch of hype. Overpriced chicks, feed, and 275$ for a chicken coop!!! I'm not kidding. No selection of seeds. Many good, solid glossy books on the subject of gardening. Go to the library for info, and buy "gardening west of the cascades" ANYWHERE ELSE.
The store....
The store....
One of the reasons this review is harsh is because of this flyer that I read.

 http://us1.campaign-archive.com/?u=85a190c215a91743ce00ffa35&id=31b26c282f

The part that got to me was:

"The backyard food and chicken raising craze has many societal and public policy implications for Portland. Explore them with the man at the center of the local chicken and homegrown food scene, Robert Litt, owner of Urban Farm Store."

Local chicken and homegrown food scene? What? And my guy is claiming to be at the center of it? Excuse me?

Wow..... Then he charges 75$ to listen about how to have chickens in your backyard??
Not only is he profiting his ego by claiming to be "THE man", he is also profiting his bank account.

My dear friends...... This is how I got my beautiful flock.
I built a coop out of "trash",
Checked out a library book
Bought a heat lamp, waterer, chick starter, feed container...
Bought my beautiful chickens, One rooster and 6 ladies for 1.70 each.
(please don't tell my mom that i have more than the legal limit and my rooster is not permitted. She would worry too much)
Total cost, somewhere under 30 bucks

It is unfortunate that someone comes and takes an organically grown movement and then commodifies it. Urban farming is about growing food. No dues to pay, no rules to follow. No set quota. Don't have to have a csa to be an urban farmer. You grow food. You eat it. You do it in spots previously not thought of in our culture. That's urban farming. Right now I get a solid meal a day from my garden. My garden produces this minimum through the winter too. I am learning through communicating with people. By doing. If you are interested in growing food, talk with people who are doing it. Talk with your (and if they're not close a) grandmother/father. Talk with people who have a bunch of food in there yard. I'm probably the only person who would eye you suspiciously. Other than my Rooster. He'll definitely eye you suspiciously.

My big problem with the commodification of this movement is that food has gotten incredibly spendy. I do not want anyone to be turned off from growing food because they only have access to overpriced goods. The Urban Farm store is taking advantage of peoples ignorance in prices, and selling an image to yuppies. A very clean, upper middle class image.

I went to the urban farm store to look at their wares.....
Very little seed selection.
Overpriced chicks. 5$ for a chick is too much.
Tools made in China, except for the ones made in Germany ($$$)
Chicken coops starting at 275$ !?!?

Go shop in places with decent prices and real roots in their community.
I have only listed places with a Portland address. So much more is just outside the city.
(Phone numbers and addresses follow)


Linnton has chicks and more. Good prices on most stuff, especially seed.

Wichita has chick supplies and everything else. You have to be a little smart about prices on some stuff, but
they are a good solid store.

Foster Feed and Garden, I just found out about this place. Can't report much.

Concentrates..... LOVE them. This is bulk buying. It looks like they will be moving soon. It is a full on feed store in Portland, a real treasure. Good prices, super friendly, they know their stuff. I mentioned to Robert that how I found out about his store was that I saw the "urban farm store" truck there. His response was "I love that place, I'm there all the time!" Coincidentally a 50# bag of organic chicken feed is about 5$ less at Concentrates.

Linnton feed and seed
503-286-1291
10920 NW Saint Helens Highway Portland, Or. 97206
 http://www.linntonfeed.com/

Wichita Feed & Hardware
503-775-6767
6089 SE Johnson Creek BLVD
Portland OR 97231

Foster Feed and Garden
503-777-2967
10307 SE Foster Rd.
Portland, OR 97231

Concentrates
503-234-7501
2613 SE 8th Ave
Portland, Or. 97202
 http://www.concentratesnw.com/

Two comments 25.Aug.2009 20:13

a chicken

First, please don't buy chicks. The chicks that show up at feed stores come from exploited hens, and are the end result of a horrible process in which newly hatched infant chicks are "sexed" (someone turns them over and guesses their gender), and those deemed female are shipped off in crates across the country without food or water, often in extreme temperatures, and hundreds of them die on the way. Those deemed male are either killed outright, or else stuffed in dumpsters where they die slowly under the weight of all the other discarded chicks, or else they are off to the factory farms to be fattened and then slaughtered a few months later. This is no way to care about chickens. Please don't buy chicks.

Second, the Linnton Feed Store RULES. Dan knows everything. They sell lots of local stuff there, there are always organic seedlings, and they're just great people. (But they do sell chicks in the spring, so please don't buy those.)

Response from Urban Farm Store 26.Aug.2009 07:31

Robert

Well, thanks for visiting us! I'd like to respond to what you have said and allow the readers to make a more balanced judgment about the store.

First, the flier you saw was made by the City Club of Portland who wanted to do a fundraiser FOR THEM at the store on the subject of backyard chicken keeping. The $75 was for locally grown dinner and local, biodynamic wine as well as the forum and raising $ for this non-profit. The wording was not my own.

As for our selection and prices, things are changing seasonally and we likely have more fall veggies seeds and starts now than we did during your visit. They are priced exactly the same as other places such as People's Co Op. Our concept is to be in line with other local stores in the city on prices - if you actually price checked our chicken supplies and tools (their's are also made in China & we are looking for more local ones - are they?) they are substantially cheaper than the feed stores you mentioned. Many of our customers ride their bikes (we offer them a 5% discount) or drive a short distance to our store and prefer this to going to the feed stores miles from home.

We are phasing-out the chicken feeds that we can't be competitive on and switching to locally grown and milled, custom, organic feeds only that will not be available at other feed stores. Concentrates is a close partner of ours and we do buy wholesale from them and will continue to for other products such as grit, bedding, and fertilizers.

As for the chicks, here are a few facts to consider:

1) $4.99 is actually less than the other 2 popular sources for chicks in N. Portland. We are indeed more expensive on the chicks than country feed stores which sell them for $2.99 (1.99 for meat birds). When you factor-in our less expensive supplies needed to start the chicks (and our other supplies for older chickens), we are actually the least expensive place to buy in the whole region (I checked)! That's not to mention gas!

2) We buy a higher quality chick, offer refund for any that die in the first 2 days, find good homes for any roosters you get and have all of our chicks vaccinated. No other store can say all that that. We are just finalizing plans for getting local, organically raised chicks from a partner farm for next season to supplement what we need to buy from hatcheries. Again, this is unique.

3) Our $275 locally made coop kit is actually very cheap for a pre-made coop. Check Craigslist - they range from about $250-$1000! We also help people build their own, providing advice and recommending that they use the Rebuilding Center for materials. We also offer free chicken keeping classes, by the way.

Finally, I'd like the reader to consider that we are only 6 months old and comparing us to established stores is hardly fair. We are continually refining what we do and are more than happy to take suggestions from our customers on how we can improve what we are doing. Please come in and talk to me personally if you have any concerns or questions rather than throwing bombs without investigating deeply.

Instead of buying.. 26.Aug.2009 08:49

compassion

Instead of buying Chicks from murderous, irresponsible animal breeders such as factory farms (95% of all animal industry), please ADOPT rescued factory farmed chickens and please do not steal their eggs or eat them. Chickens form strong family ties. A mother hen begins bonding with her chicks before they are even born. She will turn her eggs as many as five times an hour and softly cluck to her unborn chicks, who will chirp back to her and to one another.
The average american gets about twice as much protein as they need.
 http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/protein/
Eggs are not needed for good health. Every home can be a Farm Sanctuary.  http://www.lighthousefarmsanctuary.org/index.html
The owner of this store is most certainly not at the center of anything good. I have been in his store. He is dishonest, co-opting a movement, and exploiting the birds.
GO VEGAN!
 http://veganthis.org/why.html

Concentrates is south of division on 8th 26.Aug.2009 10:03

girl with chickens

thanks for contributing to the discussion Robert.

you wrote "Many of our customers ride their bikes (we offer them a 5% discount) or drive a short distance to our store and prefer this to going to the feed stores miles from home."

Concentrates is mere blocks from your store and the chicken feed is MUCH cheaper. So no need to propagate the idea that people need to travel long distances to get this stuff. They offer a 10% discount for riding your bike.

it might be better for people to know that they have a bike friendly alternative in their immediate community.

Foster Feed sucks! 26.Aug.2009 10:34

Kitten lover

The only time I went into Foster Feed and Seed -- about two years ago -- they had sad-looking animals, from pullets to kitties -- in uber-small, uncomfortable cages. That was enough to make me leave, cry, and never return. I advise you to skip the store and head to Linton, or the Johnson Creek store.

a review is not "a bomb" 26.Aug.2009 14:27

Pirate Farmer

Hi Robert!

Thank you for your comments.

I wrote a review that was critical of your store. I did not throw a bomb at it. There is a slight, subtle difference.

It would have been great if you had just opened a garden store in SE Portland. Where I am taking issue, is that horrible flyer declaring you at the center of the urban farming movement. I was aware when writing this review that those words were probably written by someone else. However, you attached a link from your website to that flyer. I believe the appropriate response would have been to talk with the writer and explain that you could not be called the center, because there is no center.

I believe your products to be overpriced. 275$ for a coop KIT? One that the proud owner puts together and paints themselves? Too much.

"Many of our customers ride their bikes (we offer them a 5% discount) or drive a short distance to our store and prefer this to going to the feed stores miles from home."

Girl with chickens addressed that comment very well. There is a feed store, in town. Walking distance from you. Offering 10% off for bicycle transport, and cheaper prices to begin with.

"We buy a higher quality chick"
Designer chicks? Polite noncritical chicks? I must admit ignorance, but it seems like a rhode island red for 5$ vs. one for 2$, I don't see the quality difference. You are still buying chicks from the same hatcheries as other feed stores.

Look, you named your store after a grass roots movement. You are becoming a media darling. You're selling an image. You are most likely the most visible person locally in urban farming simply because you have advertising skills and you hijacked the name of a movement. The corporate media needs a go to guy to throw this in a box. I do not want people who are new to growing food be turned off by the "upscaleness" of it all. I am particularly talking about people who are looking for cheaper ways to feed themselves.

This is where I take issue. The commodification of urban farming.

Urban Farm Store RULES!!! 27.Aug.2009 21:39

Critical Biker

I love your idea!

I'm going to open up the Critical Mass Bicycle Store!

this article was put on to the US indymedia 30.Aug.2009 18:25

home canning is cool

I just noticed that this article was put up on the indymedia site for the US. I am not surprised.

The point of the article may have escaped the owner of the Urban Farm Store, and others who do not understand cultural appropriation or commodification.

But i do see the article going up on the national site as validation that this is a real issue, one that negatively effects people powered movements. People care, and many people across the country will read this article, and i believe, many heads will nod.

Not consumers by the way... activists.

"Urban farming" is the name of a people powered movement, if that was not pointed out.

Think about how the environmental movement is now a commodity. It is used to sell stuff that does not make sense, is just for profit, empty contributions at very best. This kind of thing hits a nerve with activists who have seen it happen to their collective work time and time again. I would not have understood the issue myself the first time i got involved in something. 20 years later, i see it as a sociological inevitability, but one that yes, deserves critique and education.

Selling the image of a cultural movement here in Portland by calling a store "the Urban Farm Store",is going to be commented on. Especially if you let yourself be spun as the center of the movement. Please do not be naive about this, and claims of persecution will just fall flat.

My friend who is a professor in Ohio (and who studied social justice movements as well as participating in them) commented that it always takes a priveleged person in a society to make this kind of move. Someone comes along with this fabulous idea, one where they can benefit from this in so many ways...ego.. identity.... money....

The corporate media spent years looking for "the leader of the anarchists" here in Portland. Many of us waited warily, knowing only our biggest fool might step up. The media would have been thrilled with our biggest fool..

I am not saying you're a fool though. Just that you might want to give this some deeper thought, and not write this off.