Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

On the corner of 5th and Washington in downtown Eugene, Ore., a former auto garage has been cleaned up and repurposed as a "candy store" for urban gardeners. I can't recall exactly what I read recently that directed me to the The Eugene Backyard Farmer's web site, but after visiting the site, Rick and I made it a point to check out the store when we were in Eugene last weekend.

Eugene is nicknamed the Emerald City for its lush landscape in the Willamette Valley, but the name seems even more appropriate because of the way this progressive university town embraces and promotes a green lifestyle.

The Eugene Backyard Farmer specializes in all things necessary to raise your own (small or large) flock of chickens in any urban setting. It also incorporates a variety of useful garden supplies (like extra-sturdy colorful tomato cages made in the USA) and a Sunday farmers market.

Rick and I have bantered back and forth for years about having a few

chickens to produce our own eggs. The idea seems ridiculous on many

levels. For one thing, we enjoy supporting ventures like the Alexandre

kids and their eggs from free range chickens. Whether we buy at the

dairy, at the Saturday market or from a local store, we benefit from the

direct link between the producer and the consumer. The eggs are so much

fresher, we know their origin and we're helping our local agriculture

community. And that's all good and so much easier than caring for

chickens year-long in all kinds of weather.

I should know. I grew up on an egg ranch. Our 10,000 white leghorns

kept my parents and me working hard. From the time I was 3 until I left

for college my daily schedule revolved around egg production chores -

gathering, cleaning, candling, grading, packing and distributing. Not to

mention fertilizer removal.

So I have been the "voice of reason" in our discussion

about raising chickens, but the "foodie" in me was curious about this

specialized store in Eugene.

As we pulled into the parking lot the first thing I saw was "Coop da

Villa" and I was hooked.

Inside owner Bill Bezuk explained why he started his business about a

year ago. He was managing the local Barnes and Noble and noticed how

many books about urban homesteading, raising chickens and building

chicken coops were being purchased.

He combined his passion for sustainability with his business savvy,

knowing that if he didn't open a store like The Eugene Backyard Farmer,

eventually someone else would. "Everybody loves chickens," he said, and

so he decided to put all his eggs in that basket. The store also

features an extensive book selection. Rick picked up "The Backyard

Homestead" and hasn't been able to put it down. Now he says we need a

hive of honey bees.

We know we can purchase all the fresh eggs we need locally but there

is something to be said for taking responsibility for one's own food

production. That is why we will most likely be introducing 3 or 4 laying

hens into our garden this year.

You don't have to drive to Oregon to get what you'll need to start

raising chickens. There are various plans for coops available on the

Internet and Del Norte County certainly offers building supplies, baby

chicks, feed and accessories.

But if you want inspiration, if you need a nudge to understand why

it's important to be self-reliant and you'd like to familiarize yourself

with the tools of the trade then visit The Eugene Backyard Farmer's web

site or stop by the store. It's worth the effort.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at

mthomas@triplicate.com, 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.