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Chicken Controversy Sparks Food Security Discussion

SPRINGDALE, AR -- A group of folks in Springdale is trying to convince city leaders to allow folks to have chickens in neighborhoods.
SPRINGDALE, AR -- A group of folks in Springdale is trying to convince city leaders to allow folks to have chickens in neighborhoods.

"As it stands right now, we don't allow them in residential areas," said Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse.

Fayetteville, Bentonville, Rogers and Siloam Springs all allow up to four hens in a backyard coop. In the City of Springdale, chickens are not currently welcome in backyards and city leaders have several concerns about possibly changing the current ordinances.

In a recent USDA report, Arkansas ranked first in "very low food security." Some people view the birds as a step toward sustainability, so Frankie Klimek started a petition to ask Springdale to "support its citizen's rights concerning urban agriculture, repeal current ordinances banning fowl, and introduce an ordinance to allow raising hens at home."

"Our goal is to make health and wellness achievable for everybody in our community... You can take scraps, you can compost them, put them back into the ground, the chickens will move that compost around for you, they eat the bugs," said Klimek.

Mayor Sprouse understands the benefits and affordability of gardens, but fears homeowners' feathered fowl might infect the city's economy. Many of the world's largest chicken companies are based in Springdale and some research shows contamination is often traced back to uninspected sources like backyard birds.

"We rely so heavily on the poultry industry... There could definitely be some bio-security concerns with production that actually goes on actually within our city limits," said Sprouse.

But Klimek, does not share those concerns.

"There's nothing out there that really says backyard chickens are going to affect the commercial operations... Let's put some gardens in and live good... I want to see the people of my community thrive."

Mayor Sprouse also wants to see his community thrive, but is not quite convinced that chickens are the answer.

"A lot of things would have to change and a lot of assurances and safeguards would have to be in place certainly before I would ever support it."

This chicken debate was discussed at Springdale's last committee meeting, but nothing has officially been proposed to the committee or the city council. Klimek is currently putting a proposal together and hopes to present it to the city council in the next month.

To learn more about Klimek's his efforts, click here.

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