GROTON — At a special event sponsored by the Groton Public Library, and tied into the GrotonREADS program, residents learned that there may be more to the common chicken than they had been led to believe.
“The rage now is how people and municipalities can become more self-sufficient,” said Selectmen Stuart Schulman, one of over 50 residents who packed a conference room at the library last Sunday afternoon. “In the not-too-distant future, we might very well see chickens in every back yard the way they used to promise a car in every garage!”
Schulman made his remarks following a presentation, put on by the 2009 edition of the GrotonREADS program, which picks a particular book and then provides copies of it for everyone to read. Once participating readers have finished the book, the library organizes a series of events tied into that subject, to promote public discussion.
This year, the book chosen was “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver, whose subject of raising one’s own farm-fresh food ties in nicely with a movement for self-sufficiency that has grown popular in town over the last year.
“When I read the book, it really changed the way I thought about how we buy and sell food in this country,” said Deborah Santoro, curator of the library’s exhibit area and one of the sponsors of Sunday’s event. “I think there was a lot of synchronicity in having Kingsolver’s book to read and the sustainability movement in town. It all feeds into itself.”
Titled “Chicken Chat,” the Sunday event concentrated on the wonderful, versatile chicken with a film presentation that celebrated little-known aspects of the common chicken and its mass-produced cousin that garnishes millions of American meals each year, as well as supplying us with eggs.
“It was hysterical!” Schulman said about the often eclectic film.
“I thought the film was very entertaining,” said a more sober Lois Underwood. “But it didn’t sell me on raising chickens. I tried it before and the foxes did better than we did!”
Nevertheless, raising chickens locally for their eggs at least has begun to catch on, as members of a panel testified following the film.
“I think that raising chickens in our backyards is a way to express your commitment to food and energy independence,” explained Anna Barker, who raises her own chickens as part of a local cooperative. “It all ties in and, besides, you get really good eggs!”
“Raising chickens is sort of fun,” agreed 11-year-old Sophie Barker. “It’s not much work and I think it’s a good idea to raise your own chickens because it’s pretty hard to get eggs that are locally produced. But if you have your own chickens, you can get all you want. I recommend other kids try it because it’s a good way to learn about chickens and the food chain.”
Roger Temple, a chicken geneticist who participated in Sunday’s panel discussion, agreed.
“Raising chickens is a really efficient way to produce food and it’s much cheaper than raising beef,” Temple said. “Other advantages are that it’s fresh, close by and offers a real learning experience, giving people an appreciation for the challenges of commercial growers who can still offer their product for a reasonable price.”
Next up for the GrotonREADS program is a Teen/Parent Cooking Class scheduled for March 31; cow story and craft on April 22; and an Eat Local Expo on April 5.
Pepperell resident Patty Walsh, who stopped in for Sunday’s event, summed up what many others probably felt when she expressed surprise at how much fun it turned out to be.
“I thought the show was going to be boring, but it turned out to be delightful!”