Farm City

Farm City

The Education of An Urban Farmer

Book - 2009
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Urban and rural collide in this wry, inspiring memoir of a woman who turned a vacant lot in downtown Oakland into a thriving farm

Novella Carpenter loves cities-the culture, the crowds, the energy. At the same time, she can't shake the fact that she is the daughter of two back-to-the-land hippies who taught her to love nature and eat vegetables. Ambivalent about repeating her parents' disastrous mistakes, yet drawn to the idea of backyard self-sufficiency, Carpenter decided that it might be possible to have it both ways: a homegrown vegetable plot as well as museums, bars, concerts, and a twenty-four-hour convenience mart mere minutes away. Especially when she moved to a ramshackle house in inner city Oakland and discovered a weed-choked, garbage-strewn abandoned lot next door. She closed her eyes and pictured heirloom tomatoes, a beehive, and a chicken coop.

What started out as a few egg-laying chickens led to turkeys, geese, and ducks. Soon, some rabbits joined the fun, then two three-hundred-pound pigs. And no, these charming and eccentric animals weren't pets; she was a farmer, not a zookeeper. Novella was raising these animals for dinner. Novella Carpenter's corner of downtown Oakland is populated by unforgettable characters. Lana ( anal spelled backward, she reminds us) runs a speakeasy across the street and refuses to hurt even a fly, let alone condone raising turkeys for Thanksgiving. Bobby, the homeless man who collects cars and car parts just outside the farm, is an invaluable neighborhood concierge. The turkeys, Harold and Maude, tend to escape on a daily basis to cavort with the prostitutes hanging around just off the highway nearby. Every day on this strange and beautiful farm, urban meets rural in the most surprising ways.

For anyone who has ever grown herbs on their windowsill, tomatoes on their fire escape, or obsessed over the offerings at the local farmers' market, Carpenter's story will capture your heart. And if you've ever considered leaving it all behind to become a farmer outside the city limits, or looked at the abandoned lot next door with a gleam in your eye, consider this both a cautionary tale and a full-throated call to action. Farm City is an unforgettably charming memoir, full of hilarious moments, fascinating farmers' tips, and a great deal of heart. It is also a moving meditation on urban life versus the natural world and what we have given up to live the way we do.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, c2009
ISBN: 9781594202216
Branch Call Number: ANF 630.91732 CAR
ANF 630.91732 CAR
Characteristics: 276 p. ; 24 cm


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IndyPL_SteveB Nov 30, 2018

Delightful memoir of a college-educated daughter of hippies who moves with her boyfriend to an apartment in an inner city slum in Oakland, California. She begins with beekeeping on her back deck and then adds chickens. She discovers that the empty lot next door would be perfect for a garden and begins what turns into a small city farm. In various chapters, she adds turkeys, rabbits (for food, not pets), and even two pigs. Along the way, we meet her varied assortment of friends, from the Vietnamese family downstairs, to the vegetarian arts lover across the street, to the homeless man who lives in an assortment of abandoned cars in front of her apartment. We also get a healthy helping of the history of city farms and a lot of thoughtful discussion about our relationship with the animals we raise and the food we eat. A lot of humor, too.

One of the best things about books is that they allow us to see the world through the eyes of many other people. This often shows us new things about the world; but it just as often reminds us of things we learned and then forgot. *Farm City* is an excellent example of both.

Mar 26, 2017

Even if you grew up on a farm, some of her projects (the pigs) were quite daunting. Pigs smell a lot. Good read.

Nov 14, 2015

This was a very enjoyable book. I wasn't sure what to expect from a urban gardeners memoir but, the stories shared were interesting and made me consider the issues faced by the author. I cared about the bees, birds and the outcome of her big experiments.

Feb 17, 2015

What an exciting read! The author is amazing - can't wait to read more from her. Wonderfully written, and will have you laughing throughout!

ECMORGAN Jun 24, 2013

Hilarious!! A great read for anyone with a sense of humour, although even better for anyone trying their hand at Urban Farming. She has a great blog as well, which contains the same wit as the novel, just different stories. Look up "Ghost Town Farm" for the blog

May 30, 2013

A good book to me is when I get to the last page and cry because there isn't more. I was weeping as I read the last words and whispering, 'thank you' to the author for the lovely connection I felt with her throughout the book. Even though I had to steel myself over the parts where she killed or had her farm animals killed, my deepest longing is to be like Novella who understands the beauty and gift of growing anything on this earth. Today I'm eating everything more mindfully. This is a must read for any aspiring urban gardener.


Nov 02, 2012

From killing an opossum with a shovel and feeling an urge to place its head on a spike to warn other predators to stay away from her birds, to scolding a teenage would-be mugger about the dangers of carrying a gun, there isn't a dull moment in Novella's life. When she experimented with a 100-yard diet for a month, vowing to eat only what she either grew herself or foraged, Novella resorted to consuming home decor -- the ornamental indian corn she had grown a few years earlier.

Dec 26, 2011

I'm a vegetarian for ethical reasons, and I still loved this book that includes stories of raising and slaughtering animals for food!

Sep 15, 2011

I really enjoyed this book (it was a fast read - one day) - it reads like a long conversation with an interesting, slightly loopy person. It also demonstrates how far ahead of Canada parts of the US are in urban food production.

Sep 07, 2011

This woman has no fear! She's also quite funny and although I don't think I'd want to live next door to her (particularly when she's raising her hogs!!) she sure is interesting. The book is really good and I learned more about what a person can do on their own to provide for their family's food needs than I ever realized existed. More power to her and the other urban farmers out there.

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