A Chicken Bus and Other Lovely Portents of the Future


Returning home from a new farmers’ market in Wooster, Ohio last Saturday (Nov. 21), I passed a scene in a farm field that might have said more about where farming is headed than any economist’s prediction I have seen lately. Out in a clover field stood a big yellow school bus full of chickens [not the one shown above]. Actually the chickens were mostly scampering in the pasture or running up and down the ramp that led into the bus. We all know about chicken tractors, but this is the first chicken bus I’ve seen. I didn’t have time to stop and check it out but I presume that when the henhouse needs to be moved to another spot in the field, or wherever, the farmer just drives it. The world’s first self-propelled chicken coop. If the motor is no longer running, one can hitch a tractor to it. Easier than pulling a coop on skids, I’d think.

After that rather revolutionary if un-bucolic scene, it was easy for me to remain excited about Local Roots, the indoor farmers market where I had spent much of the day signing books and talking to farmers and their customers. I had worried beforehand that so late in the season, market gardeners wouldn’t have much to sell. Wrong. Along with all kinds of late vegetables, fall greens and fruit, various booths offered greenhouse- grown produce, grass-fed beef and lamb, fresh and frozen pork products, chicken, duck, and other poultry, eggs, goat cheeses, maple syrup, jams and jellies, breads, muffins, scones, cookies, crackers, spiced nuts, homemade soaps, goat milk lotion, wool and yarn. Most significant of all, there were lots of customers. That was doubly impressive because on the same afternoon, Ohio was celebrating its most sacred religious event: the Ohio State-Michigan football game.

The Wooster Local Foods Cooperative, under the banner of Local Roots and Cafe, is an example of where local food distribution is heading. There are two outdoor summer markets in Wooster already. Local Roots extends the marketing season to the whole year and the product lines to just about any locally grown and processed food you can imagine. I suggested, trying to keep a straight face, that someday there might be a little bar featuring locally-grown, organic martinis. The truth is not quite that imaginative, but almost. When renovation is complete, there will be room and equipment for processing grains and preparing foods for them, a butcher shop, and a demonstration kitchen. Customers will soon be able to order food online and pick it up on designated days.

The large building that the cooperative is renovating for their indoor market is in the center of the town. The project has the full support of the city, from which the co-op is renting the building. The increased consumer traffic will benefit all of downtown so everyone in officialdom seems to be enthusiastic. The center will also act as a place where local food-related workshops can be held and groups can get together for other educational events. The co-op also makes every effort to keep customers closely informed about the membership farms supplying the food.

Both buyers and sellers can become members of the cooperative but one does not have to be a member to shop there. The co-op plans to provide personnel to help man the booths so that farmers don’t have to be tied up at the center during busy work days on the farm. I believe that is a fairly new idea. To keep the whole community informed about the center’s activities and about local foods in general, the co-op puts out a colorful monthly newsletter. Included in it is a list of foods in season for the current month, recipes and articles about healthful foods and ecological practices. The directors come from all walks of life and can therefore bring varied expertise to the daunting job of organizing and operating the market. I know several of them personally and am amazed at the range and depth of innovative thinking they represent. The Ohio Department of Agriculture is calling Local Roots “a model for a local food distribution network.”


I only ran into this older post due to Daniels recent comment. One of our neighbors converted a used church bus into a chicken house. Everybody in the Township kind of laughed till we figured out he has a good building he could move where he wanted and he would pay no property taxes for it. Here are pictures from my wife’s site


Come to think of it, an old abandoned vehicle can make a great chicken tractors too, if modified creatively. We don’t have to scratch out head thinking of a proper chicken truck design. Was the school bus that you saw were actually abondoned?

Love this, must make one for myself. I love the Local Roots Market in Wooster as well!

Nancy, I think it’s Crisswell Rd. I think it is also CR 235. Not far beyond Apple Creek. Gene

Gene, we are trying to find that schoolbus chicken coop you saw coming frm wooster. we drove by it yesterday but can’t remember what road we were on. Do you remember the road?
thanks, nancy

Faith Arnold, I am not going to get into the seed corn business. I don’t have time and if I did, everything I said about my corn would be taken as advertising by some. There is good work going on with OP corn at Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, East Troy, Wisc. last time I checked. Your work with rice sounds fascinating. Gene Logsdon

Hi again Gene,
Hmmm… How does your Reid strain compare to the original Reid’s or the ‘J Reid’s Yellow Dent’ varient? Is the stalk strength the main characteristic you see still needs improving at this point? You know, several different people working to select for a given trait could accellerate the rate of shift in the desired direction… maybe with some extra help you will get to your ideal phenotype faster.

And if the rest of us only have the less-suitable-for-homesteaders strains, it will take us many years to get to the point genetically where your strain is already. I hope I’m not sounding too “pushy”, but I’m 61 already. I don’t think I have thirty years to work on a variety! And as rapidly as things seem to be deteriorating in this world (Iran working on nukes; the bottom about to fall out of the dollar/economy, etc., etc.), the sooner more people can achieve a truly sustainable, lower-input lifestyle, the better off our whole country will be.

I’m sure you have plenty of other things to do besides being bothered by people wanting to try your improved corn seed. But if you were to reconsider your timeline for release, and could use some assistance, I would be happy to act in some capacity as a distributor for you… maybe you could sell me some seed in bulk, and I could put it in smaller packages and send it on to the requestors for a nominal fee. Are you mostly getting requests via e-mail? (See what a good job you did of “advertising” your corn in your book! LOL!)

By the way, if you ever want to try growing a few rice plants just for fun (they are very pretty plants!), you can grow them in pots and just partially submerge them. I had some beautiful rice growing in one quart plastic pots in a small turtle pond… the rice really liked the turtle-fertilized water! And getting rice seed for growing is easy… right from an organic foods store!! I have sucessfully germinated (all organic brown varieties) of short, medium, and long grain regular rice, Basmati, sweet rice, jasmine, black, and red rices! In each case I pre-germinated them in a damp paper towel, (pick out the broken seeds) then planted them in their pots. But maybe I didn’t start the red and black varieties early enough, or maybe I had a day-length problem, because they didn’t send up their infloresences early enough to set any seed. And if somone lived in an area with a slow turnover of brown rice at their store, they might have a viability problem? But they will keep at least a couple of years in the refrigerator.


Faith, I get requests for my corn all the time but I have resisted so far. When I get stalk strength up to where I am satisfied, I’ll let everyone know. Gene

Hi Gene,
I’ve been researching numerous varieties of OP corn, but none of them sound as good as the selection of Reid’s Yellow Dent that you have been improving over the years, which sounds ideal for us very small homesteader-types. Is it possible to purchase a small amount of seed (a few ounces) to start my own patch?
Thank you!

Faith Arnold

Thanks to all of you above for your comments. The fact that we can all chat here online no matter where we live is one of the few really great signs of progress in this old world. mellifera, I think the Local Roots gang is going to put out a manual-book on how they did it eventually. They are still in process so to speak and we can all hope that all goes forward. Yes, Dave, great title! Gene Logsdon

Teresa Sue Hoke-House November 29, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Wish I was in your neck of the woods so I could chat with you Gene.

The Local Roots co-op sounds fantastic- I’ve gone and posted on their blog asking them to tell us all how they did it.

It was nice chatting with you at Local Roots. Thanks for giving me the background on Nat Bump. The German language version of your next book will be ,,Heilige Scheisse”.


I’ve always thought dragging chicken tractors around on skids was tedious. Around here, there seems to be a plethora of used-up camping trailers available, so we made us a chicken camper that we can quickly move around with just a few bodies in most cases. We made big frames out of old decking ripped to 1″x1″ and stapled chicken wire to it — much easier to move than chicken wire attached to posts. (More photos at: http://www.ecoreality.org/wiki/Chicken_tractor.)

We also have a “goat camper” that, together with two strands of solar-electric fencing (knee and hip high), makes a quick-rotation paddock system for our goats.

One day some School Bus Drivers and I thought of making a community of School Bus Homes like a mobile home park and you have just added to the playful mix.

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