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Ken Arno, Chick Magnate

Photo by Slobodan Dimitrov

Old Ken Arno has a farm, with plenty of cluck-clucks here and a bleat-bleat there: More than 2,000 critters, including chickens, turkeys, goats, rheas and pigeons share his suburban Lake Balboa farm. A few years ago, a neighbor’s complaints led to Arno’s being raided by the LAPD. They found nothing wrong.

They also found plenty right. Arno, a former car mechanic and self-educated farmer, uses the animals’ fresh manure in a huge, year-round organic vegetable garden. His flock of free-range chickens is so healthy and virile that he’s the largest local supplier of fertile eggs to local museums and schools that hatch baby chicks as part of their agriculture-education programs.

Yet Arno says his farm is losing money, now costing him about $3,000 a week to maintain, money he barely makes back from his portable knife-sharpening trade. (He has a stall at the Hollywood Farmers Market.) The State Department of Agriculture heard about Arno’s fiscal woes and, recognizing the unique service he provides to museums and schools, offered to assist. The state referred him to the privately funded California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. Arno plans to apply for a grant for which he’ll be required to give tours of his farm to kids and speak in public schools at least once a month. “It could help move the farm forward,” says Arno, “and it’s a great way to introduce children to farming.”