State to inspect farm of 'chicken man'
Posted in the Trumbull Forum
#1 Oct 15, 2013
BRIDGEPORT -- State officials will inspect the urban farm that Mayor Bill Finch allowed a transplanted New Yorker to quietly set up on city land after Bridgeport's health department tried to seize the man's dozen-plus chickens.
"Now that we're aware of it, it's something we'll have to go take a look at," Raymond Connors, who oversees animal shelters for the state Department of Agriculture, said Tuesday.
Earlier this year, the mayor granted Chris Toole's birds asylum at the animal shelter on Evergreen Street. Connors said he learned of Toole's farm -- which has expanded to include more chickens, several goats, donkeys, a pig, some rabbits and a tank of fish -- late last week from Hearst Connecticut Newspapers.
Connors said the animals don't appear abused, based on the photos accompanying the newspaper report.
Priscilla Feral, head of Friends of Animals, a nonprofit advocacy group in Darien, had the opposite reaction.
"It looks kind of like a low-grade Appalachia shelter," Feral said. "I don't like what's set up. Not at all."
And though Toole said Bridgeport health officials inspected months ago, and that he received assistance from the animal control officers, Dr. Amr Wasfi of Black Rock Animal Hospital said no one is monitoring Toole.
"The mayor is very interested in him and likes him for whatever reason," said Wasfi, who treats the shelter's dogs and cats for the city. "As far as I'm concerned, the shelter has no place for this stuff."
Also more details about Toole's finances have emerged that could impact his efforts to properly tend his farm.
Toole said last week that he has trouble paying rent and utilities for his family's East Side apartment, and that he needs the farm in part to live on the eggs and goats' milk. Then on Tuesday ,Toole acknowledged he is behind on child support owed the mothers of an 8-year-old son in Australia and a 16-year-old son in Canada.
Over the weekend, Toole announced plans to host a potluck dinner at the farm Friday and accept $5 donations.
But the mayor's staff on Tuesday told Toole they were worried about liabilities and fundraising on city land.
"They're referring it to the city attorney," Toole said.
Toole has just the kind of personal story that appeals to Finch, who is passionate about environmental sustainability. According to Toole, in 2010 he was a stressed-out Soverign Bank executive, earning a sizeable salary in Manhattan. He quit for health reasons, and re-surfaced as a self-employed urban farmer raising tilapia in the big city, he said.
Toole said he, his girlfriend, their 3-year-old son and her 8-year-old-son moved to Noble Avenue in Bridgeport a year ago to start a business raising fish. But Toole, according to the New York Post, was also embroiled in a legal battle with the landlord of his Bronx apartment building over his allegedly noisy, stinky tilapia business.
In Bridgeport, Toole similarly met resistance from the city's health department for keeping more than a dozen chickens at the family's apartment. That's when Finch decided Toole could pilot an urban farm at the shelter.
Hearst's weekend report on the farm -- and the lack of details the city provided about the arrangement or what happens to the animals this winter -- drew attention from worried readers.
Some contacted Gregg Dancho, director of Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport.
"It was the first I heard of it," Dancho said Tuesday, adding that he might contact the mayor's office to visit the farm.
Toole said Tuesday that he welcomes additional scrutiny. Addressing some of the concerns, he said the food for the animals is well-stored to keep out vermin. And he is preparing the farm to protect financially.
"But my 3-year-old who lives with me is in a precarious situation," Toole said.
#3 Oct 16, 2013
what a wonderful/ thoughtful neighbor he has been over the years to others (sarcastic).
imagine living next door?
#4 Oct 16, 2013
Darien had a "Little Appalachia" near the Stamford line for awhile, now they are building on it. This whole thing sounds like a demonrat plot to help justify growing food in landfills. Trying to make one of the worst polluted places in the country look green,ick.
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