Episode-883- Victor Alfieri on the Urban Homesteading Movement

Vic Alfieri with His 3 Hens

Vic Alfieri with His 3 Hens

Victor Alfieri lives just 17 miles from New York City on a 1/4 acre lot but he hasn’t let that stop him from being a modern homesteader.  For Victor It all started after hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast when he started to see things a little differently.   While he wasn’t directly effected by the hurricane it got him thinking about being more prepared.  He began researching the aftermath and to him there was one thing that stood out.

No one was prepared not the general public, not the local government and certainly not the federal government.

Then a year or so later, he and his wife who both had financial business backgrounds began observing signs of bad times ahead. This put them on a course for research which began with the internet and frequent trips to the library.

Victor found an old book about the depression in 1930’s and started to remember the stories my grandmother would tell me about how they survived the depression.  Eventually he discovered square foot gardening and small livestock, specifically keeping laying hens.  His hens eventually put him on a course of conflict with his local government where he continues to fight for the right of people to simply provide themselves with top quality home grown food.

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46 Responses to Episode-883- Victor Alfieri on the Urban Homesteading Movement

  1. Awesome, can’t wait to listen to this. Glad Victor was able to hook up with you for an interview.
    Barb
    (eriko on the forums)

  2. Jack–
    I am a bit confused. About 9 minutes into the show, the guest noted that rabbits lacked the protein for survival. Is this true? I thought that rabbits were nearly all lean protein but wild rabbits lacked fat. Which is it?

    • Modern Survival

      @Wayne, no not at all. I took it as his opinion and didn’t see the point of debating it. I also feel he may view it as “not enough protein” from a production stand point. Rabbits must be bred and bred often to produce bunnies to grow out for meat. They produce a lot more meat than doing the same with chickens. Yet from the stand point of eggs, you get three birds and eggs show up every day for years. So I took it more as a ease of daily production issue and again not something worth debating. I am however likely to shoot myself if I hear the stupidity about “rabbit starvation” ever again. LOL

    • I thought the same thing when I heard him say that. Fact is, rabbit meat has more protein than most other meats. I just looked up the protein content of meats. The site I found listed rabbit meat at 20.8% and chicken at 20.0%. I found eggs listed at 10.0%.

      • Thanks for your correction on the Rabbits. I remember reading in one of my books how you could not survive on rabbit meat. But I guess it’s the fat content not the protein.

        Raising rabbits for meat is something I’m going to reconsider and start doing more research on. There is a slaughterhouse not far from were I live. It cost $3.50 to slaughter a rabbit.

        Anyway this is all a learning experience for me and I thank you for your input. You forced me to do more research and that’s what this is all about. Learning. Thank you Jack

        • Modern Survival

          @Victor and even the fat is a myth. Rabbit starvation occurred with stranded mountain people ONLY eating rabbit and rabbits that were also starving. Domestic raised rabbit is “low fat” compared to 80% ground chuck for sure but it has plenty of fat for human requirements. Also if you do Jack’s Classic Braised Rabbit Roast you get plenty of additional high quality fat from the bacon grease you put in the skillet. YUM!

          3.50 per bunny isn’t bad to do all the slaughter. Likely I would do my own but for people that have a hard time doing it, it is a great option and a very fair price. Likely if I had the option I would do both. Say I had 20 to take care of, I might decide 70 bucks to have it all done for me and give me a day back was more than worth the cost. If I was doing up 1 or 2 for a weekend grilling well, I would just do it. I can do up a rabbit in about 10-15 minutes. Domestics are harder to skin then wild cotton tails too. I can do up a wild bunny in less than 2 minutes with out breaking a sweat, you barely need a knife you can almost just pull the skin off when they are still warm.

          I haven’t killed any of the bunnies on my mountain though, they are all so small I don’t think it is worth taking their life for, these must be the mountain rabbits that started the starvation myth. I have though about creating a “rabbit pasture” for them. Basically that is happening on its own.

          I was actually pretty surprised the first time I skinned a domestic rabbit. The skin clings a lot harder, more like a big squirrel then a wild rabbit.

        • Cleaned my first two domestic rabbits that were the Satin breed today, and I’m going to buy a pair of those cleaning scissors. Lots of fat on them.

  3. Good news from other parts of the country. Just last night, the City of Boise (Idah0) moved forward an ordinance that would increase the number of back yard chicken from 3 to 6 and rabbits from 2 to 4. Even an allowance for a 500 square foot produce stand in front of the house. Best of luck to Victor in a battle he shouldn’t have to fight in the first place.

  4. Not only can the small farmer not afford to fight Monsanto and their ilk, but the state of Vermont is balking at passing a labeling GMO’s law, because Monsanto has already threatened to sue them. Un American!!!

  5. Town and City Councils have their own form a parlimentary procedure. It goes sorta like this:
    Item is introduced, details clarified with staff.
    Public Hearing: people from the audience get to come up and speak for an allotted time, typically 3-5 minutes. If you get them to engage you with questions then your time will be extended. If you don’t speak on point then they will check their email and ignore you.
    Deliberation: elected officials discuss the issue and eventually vote on a motion to deny, approve, or approve the item in modified form. Their choice will often be based on what they think will be favored by the most voters.

    It’s like Jack says about Monsanto: they’re not evil, they just want to make more m-o-n-e-y. Politicians are also (mostly) not evil, they just want more votes and campaign contributions that will get them more votes.

    • Thanks for clearing it up that, Monsanto and the like, are, in fact, evil.

      Destruction (of lifestyles, health, society, etc) in exchange for money is evil enough, no?

      • If they were destroying health and such knowingly, then yes, it would be evil. Yet despite the nightmare that monsanto is producing, I don’t think their CEO sits in an egg shaped chair stroking a white cat. I think they are trying to do good with an incredibly misguided world view. Never underestimate a fool with a God complex.

        • Modern Survival

          @Andy, I think you are misguided. Now you are right it isn’t the James Bond villain archetype. No they are not doing the evil they do for evil sake, they are doing it however for MONEY’S SAKE

          However, to believe that people with the access to the SCIENCE that makes Monsanto possible don’t know what they are doing is flat out delusional. To quote Geoff Lawton, “they know precisely what they are doing”, in my view they just don’t care.

          Their goal isn’t to kill people it is to make money, however, if they kill people while making money they don’t really care as long as they can hide it.

          Realize this is the company who when caught read handed KILLING people in Anniston Alabama, stated, “we did what we had to do to protect our shareholders”. Before you defend them again even as being ignorant to the damage they do please review the following.

          http://www.chemicalindustryarchives.org/dirtysecrets/annistonindepth/chloracne.asp

          and

          http://bestmeal.info/monsanto/company-history.shtml

          and

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0uls507hvM

          Good luck defending their intentions after all that. Evil is an understatement.

        • @Jack
          Well, I was wrong. Period. Not a whole lot of good ways to response to that fact 2X4. You exposed me to a whole bunch of new information. I read the article, but I will have to watch the video tomorrow. Most of my knowledge on Monsanto comes from your show since I started listening in February. I mostly knew them for allowing you to soak food in Roundup, which is stupid. The rest, I had no idea. Good God thats evil.

        • Modern Survival

          @Andy, I did some real harsh shows about them back in the day, seems like it might be time for another one. Thanks for helping me see that. Monsanto is the single biggest threat to Americas health and small farms and ranchers in the world. They are behind the Raw Milk war because they want all dairy cows shot up with their RGBH toxins. They have private seed police that fine farmers and enforce said fines and take evidence and enter property with no public authority, it just goes on and on.

  6. Really enjoyed this podcast Jack. Victor is a very interesting and knowledgeable chap who has shown that you do not need acres of land to start homesteading.

    For someone like me who does not have the money to buy land it is inspiring and has encouraged me to start doing more with what I do have and less dreaming about what I could do if I only had more land.

    Do it now, do it small or don’t do it at all.

    aman

  7. And this shows why its very important to try to carry our neighbours on the journey with us. Ms Napolitano is sorely in need of education on the topic of urban homesteading. If she were more educated on backyard farming she would not be giving Mr Alfieri kittens about 3 laying hens.

  8. I would threaten to get the 2000 pigeons instead. See how quickly they would come round to the idea of three hens then.

  9. Another great story and inspiration! On a different note, I sent an email to you today regarding an Earth Day permaculture group project. Please take a look if you can.

    Regarding the legality with chickens, we had a similar issue before leaving the city… it’s astonishing to me that our neighbor could have a very loud barking dog but we could not have chickens and rooster though out of respect we never tried a rooster there. We eventually packed up our 3 hens and moved to unrestricted land. I hope more urban areas will get priorities straight! Applause to Mr. Alfieri for all he is doing.

  10. Raymond "Shorty" Butler

    How many of those people bitten by dogs asked for it, children included? Dogs are not inherently dangerous, stupid people are! I am not picking on the guest, I am sick and tired of animals getting the blame for dumb assed people. Kid throwing rocks at a dog, dog bites kid, dog gets called vicious and is murdered , when all along, all that was needed was a kid ass whoopin’ and dog never bites kid.

  11. Thank you so much for your show! I listen often and appreciate the useful information you put out for us each day.
    I wanted to comment on this show because I have been raised in agriculture my whole life and also married into it. Unfortunately, there is a LOT of misinformation out there regarding standard food production methods that leaves me scratching my head. I can only conclude that most of this information comes from the same kind of people that tell us that the only way our country can get out of debt is by spending more money. People who read books and sit behind desks and have never gotten real dirt under their fingernails, or had a family budget.
    The kind of resistance your guest has come up against with his chickens is the daily real world for those of us in agriculture. We are continuously regulated to death with rules and laws that make no sense in the real world put in place by people who have never even raised a house plant or any critter but the family dog. It is NOT coming from the measly less than 2% of the U.S. population that is out there every day breaking our backs to feed the other 98% of the country.
    Of course the ‘powers that be’ would like everyone to point their finger at the ‘evil farmer’ as the hurdle getting in their way of growing a garden and having a few small livestock. This just isn’t true. The small amount of people that can successfully raise enough of their own food to feed themselves is so small that it isn’t a risk to our livelihood.
    The REAL culprit is the government wanting to control what you eat. They want everyone angry at the ‘evil’ farmers so that when push comes to shove, they will have the population’s support to come in and take over our farms. Just like they did the ‘evil’ bankers when the housing bubble broke. Was it really the evil bankers fault, or the regulations they had to follow and lend to those who couldn’t afford the loans, put in place by our government?
    Please understand, farmers are on your side. In fact, we are often sought out by those around us to help them learn how to raise their own food and we are happy to help.
    If you want REAL facts about what goes into the food we produce (not the stuff in packages mixed with chemicals from laboratories), please ask and seek information from actual farmers. We eat the very food we produce and know exactly what goes into it.
    Thanks again and keep up the great job you are doing! :)

  12. Best line of this podcast:
    “If’s that’s the case, why do you care”

    As I am listening to this episode, I am painting the frames of three double glazed windows I got for $15 bucks at habitat for humanity. Three more cold frames.

    Jack, I decided to go with a 1 1/4″ PVC greenhouse instead of the portable garage idea I asked you about a while ago. I will post pics on your FaceBook page as it takes place. I invested in some good 6 mil UV treated greenhouse poly. This is the first year I used my smaller greenhouse to start some collards/lettuce/tatsoi, March 1st. Now they are outside in window boxes. I have four acres.

    • Modern Survival

      @Brent, LOL, which one of us said it and what was it in response to. I don’t recall but it sure sounds like me.

      • I asked if you thought the steel tubes would serve as a frame for the greenhouse. You suggested I try it, but after speaking to my buddy who said with our winds up here, you might want to try something thicker. I will post the first pic on TSP facebook page….

      • So far I am about $1000 in materials. The greenhouse poly was 300 bucks for a 20×100 roll

  13. I live in the same town as Victor, and he has been putting up a good fight. Unfortunately the council people are not all on board and some of them have given Victor a really hard time. I was there when they voted and the council people turned it into a big mess, they decided to debate it that night instead of during the 1 1/2 year that it was being pushed through, they were acting so unprofessional I was embarrassed for our town.

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  15. Jack,

    Great show today! Mr. Alfieri had some great points. I can’t believe he has to fight to own chickens. Who would have a problem with a few hens? I’ve seen Food Inc. and was appalled at what we allow to go on in this country. I decided that second to live my life differently. I now have a garden of my own and after hearing this podcast will be looking into getting a few hens also. The eggs must be amazing!

    Thanks for this show Jack and thanks to Mr. Alfieri for opening my eyes!

  16. I have yet to listen to this episode, but wanted to share that after almost TWO YEARS of fighting city hall, I successfully got the ordinance in Chelsea, MI changed to allow backyard chickens. Jack, you were a major inspiration in my (out of character) decision to fight city hall. If anybody is planning to do this in their town, I’d be happy to share what I learned in the process. All in all it was a positive although sometimes frustrating process. The best outcome of my campaign was making so many connections with folks that I had much in common with and just getting to know my community that much better. Thanks again Jack! https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001230406741&ref=tn_tnmn

  17. Lisapaintergirl

    On nutrition, I’ve said that for years now. We fill our stomachs, yet starve our bodies. The body is constantly sending us huner signals because the food we eat lacks nutrient content.

    • Amen sister. I never would have believed it without trying the paleo thing. Now I get to look back at 27 wasted years.

  18. I have yet to listen to this episode, but wanted to share that after almost TWO YEARS of fighting city hall, I successfully got the ordinance in Chelsea, MI changed to allow backyard chickens. Jack, you were a major inspiration in my (out of character) decision to fight city hall. If anybody is planning to do this in their town, I’d be happy to share what I learned in the process. All in all it was a positive although sometimes frustrating process. The best outcome of my campaign was making so many connections with folks that I had much in common with and just getting to know my community that much better. Thanks again Jack! Chris (Chelsea Backyard Chickens on Facebook)

  19. One of the towns here in Buffalo,NY just dealt with this issue. The woman played it cool with the officials and some radio personalities got on board with her. No big fights, no personal attacks, no demands. Everyone played nice and seems like the issue is resolving it self. Would have been better if they just allowed it with out more gov. But people will be able to get a permit to have chickens, which is better than not being allowed to at all.

    The biggest opposition of her raising chickens on her land were local home owner associations. Of which she isn’t apart of.

    http://www.buffalonews.com/city/communities/amherst/article814923.ece

  20. Being on Jack’s show was a very uplifting experience. I wanted to thank all of you for your support. I will continue to fight the fight and keep everyone posted.

    Jack….Thank you so much.

    • Sorry to hear about your problems in Wayne. I grew up mostly in the town next to you and am old enough to remember when Wayne actually had farms in it! (We lived in Wayne for a year when I was in elementary school, down the road from the farm on Black Oak Ridge Road, now a development)

      Sadly there’s little left of the Garden State that isn’t developed.

  21. Jack, they outlawed chickens in 1947, right after the war ended when everyone had a Victory Garden. I wonder if this is widespread across the USA at the same time?
    Could it be that big agriculture saw even back then that they would have to put a stop to our gardens to maintain control?
    It would be very interesting to find out if 1947 was the year they took control back into the hands of those corporations, much like how they took control of our monetary system in 1913.

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  23. @Victor @Modern Survival

    I think one good resource is to look up “Right to Farm” statutes for your state. Here is a link: http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/assets/righttofarm/

    These have been set up to protect the backyard farmers, even regular local farmers. These are great because most of the time the complaints come in the form of “nuisance”, rooster crowing , smell, animal noises… The Right to Farm protects against this. I live in New Mexico and most of the States business is agricultural in nature. Many families still supplement their incomes with farming…

    • Modern Survival

      @Kiran, unfortunately it is no help on the hog issue. Not even a little bit, they have made the pigs illegal until that changes right to farm provides the hog farmer no more protection than it would provide them the right to grow pot.

  24. “You’ve saved me another trip to the store,” is our neighbor’s response when we provide her with eggs. Since our hens seem to spend as much time on her property as they do ours, it’s the least we can do. When we ask about reining them in, she says she’s glad to have them especially for grub control. Egging You On … egg links worth a peck.

  25. Hog issue, yes I agree. I was addressing the issue of the chickens. Here in Albuquerque I just checked and you are allowed to have chickens and then 3 small animals like goats if you are under 1 acre. Other places in town folks have cows, horses, pigs… Again New Jersey is much more densely populated than New Mexico (2.5 million in the whole state, not counting the ATF and DEA fast and furious gun/drug runners) and we are like 4 times larger.

  26. Great show! One point regarding the cost/benefits associated with small-scale homesteading that I think was not mentioned is education of the next generation. I can definetly save my family money on like-for-like produce, eggs (we have 8 hens), fruit, etc. If you are concerned about overall resource use, we certainly have less “food miles” associated with these foods we produce. I have great additions to my gardens from my chickens’ manure and wood stoves (using wood that would otherwise be landfilled from tree services). But what is really important is that my kids are learning all of these skills which I believe will be invaluable in the future. Sorry if my comment sounds like the mastercard commercial, but educating others now and the next generation is “pricesless”.

  27. Before my town, Columbia, Missouri, came to its senses and passed a new ordinance to allow chickens I visited one guy in town that had feathers all over his steps. I asked if his cats caught a bird. No. The neighbor was busted for having a chicken in her backyard. While she was at court paying a $100 fine, a hawk grabbed her chicken but then dropped it on this guy’s front steps. The cats got to it before the hawk could. How many of you have ever fed a $100 chicken to your cats???
    :)

  28. Great episode Jack and Victor.

    Super timely as I’m deciding right now whether or not to obey my city zoning/ordinance against having chickens in my area, or do like several of my neighbors and raise them anyway…

    Leaning towards the “do it anyway” option haha :-) Interesting to hear what the road has been for Vic on getting some change underway.

    Cheers guys.

  29. Jack and Victor – really liked this show as it has a lot of good information on what people can do to provide their own food. I have been raising five chickens for almost a year and agree they are a great source of wonderful eggs, and also are quite entertaining when they are wandering around my property.

    Regarding the fight to have backyard chickens, not sure if you’ve heard of Andy Schneider, aka The Chicken Whisperer, who has a show on Blogtalk Radio during the week. Most of what I’ve learned about chickens has come from listening to his show. He’s also very involved in helping people get chicken friendly ordinances passed, and has even traveled to testify to city councils. http://www.chickenwhisperer.net/