Today’s Wall Street Journal carries a story, “Backyard Farming Gets Fancy,” on yet another politically acceptable form of conspicuous consumption: backyard farming, suburban style. Do you suffer from a nagging fear that friends find you passe’, predictable, or even (gasp) inauthentic? Are you bored by the ease with which you can procure all the products you need to survive, from home and heat to (getting real here) Abbaye de Belloc and Brugse Straffe Hendrik Blonde? Searching for something ennui-free to set you apart from your circle?
Why, you need chickens! In a $1,300 coop. In the backyard–your backyard. You can feed them $40 bags of “soy-free chicken feed,” turn the earth with an Austrian hand-made $258 bronze-and-lime-wood spade, and water your tomatoes (organic, of course–please) from your $70 Williams Sonoma “vintage” watering can (part of their new Agrarian line). All so that you can eat some fresh eggs or, if you’re in the mood and have the stomach for slaughter, fresh chicken. Your neighbors may hate you come July, but you don’t really socialize with them anyway, do you? And besides, what’s a little neighborhood tiff compared to the envy and awe you’ll inspire in your set when they learn that you’ve just trumped them in the quest for bona fide, genuine, absolute authenticity? Their envy will turn them green as your Wellies parked on the back porch.
The Journal quotes Rob Ludlow, owner of BackYardChickens.com, an “online community of about 170,000 chicken enthusiasts.” (I would count myself among them if the fowl they favored were dead and cooked.) Mr. Ludlow provides the obvious pull-quote of the piece:
People wanting to be self-sufficient and eating locally grown food is synonymous with people who are affluent.
Put differently, people wanting to appear self-sufficient by augmenting their refined diet with a small percentage of conspicuously-home-grown products are synonymous with people who take Al Gore seriously and voted for Obama.
And what would a real farmer think of a $1,300 Williams Sonoma Agrarian-line chicken coop? I suspect he’d call it a load of chicken shit.