Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

by Novella Carpenter

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101060179
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/11/2009
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 213,415
File size: 568 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Novella Carpenter grew up in rural Idaho and Washington State. She went to University of Washington in Seattle where she majored in Biology and English. She later studied under Michael Pollan at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism for two years. She’s had many odd jobs including: assassin bug handler, book editor, media projectionist, hamster oocyte collector, and most recently, journalist. Her writing has appeared in,, (the SF Chronicle's website), and Mother Jones. She has been cultivating her farm in the city for over ten years now, and her neighbors still think she’s crazy. It all started with a few chickens, then some bees, until she had a full-blown farm near downtown Oakland, where she lives today.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Utterly enchanting.... The juxtaposition of the farming life with inner-city grit...elevates it to the realm of the magical." —-Publishers Weekly Starred Review

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Farm City 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Don Campbell More than 1 year ago
Subjects you will have to look for; everything from beekeepimg to charcuterie. A voice from my hometown that sees past the problems and makes life work. Well done!
C_Lip More than 1 year ago
This book is a very interesting insight into the world urban farming. It teaches you that farms can occur anywhere as long as the farmer is persistent. Entertaining and unique read.
RobbyBailey More than 1 year ago
As a young chef I am obsessed with the ideas of going local and growing my own things. This book made me want to be in the garden growing beautiful things in the dirt with her. You can feel the joys and the pains with Ms. Carpenter as she attempts to do the unthinkable. It is on the top of my reccomendations list and I plan to read it again, and again.
dele2451 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you're a city slicker entertaining fantasies of becoming a gentleman farmer one day, this book should be very close to the top of your reading list. It's an honest, thoughtful, interesting and funny account of a young couple struggling to become nutritionally self-sufficient in the slums of Oakland using a deck, a small townhome's yard and a squatter's garden set up on a vacant building lot. Even if you don't have agrarian tendencies, it is a great illustration of how one woman with not much more than a strong will and a little luck can a corner of the world others have forgotten or neglected. I'd recommend this book to just about everyone.
eenerd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An absolutely awesome read about the trials and triumphs of farming and gardening in the city, written by a true blue farmer, Novella Carpenter. She not only walks the talk, but writes about it so gorgeously that it is really hard to put this book down. Carpenter is refreshingly down to earth about farming and gardening; she's practical about it, and by sharing her experiences she passes on practical information to those interested in urban farming. But even if you're not on the path to food self-sufficiency, you will find this book to be an incredibly entertaining read written by a talented storyteller.
SqueakyChu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of Novella Carpenter, daughter of former hippies, who now moves to Oakland, California, with her boyfriend Bill where the two of them start an urban farm on an undeveloped lot in a run-down section of town. What starts off as a small urban farm of only produce soon evolves into one with animals, beginning easily enough with chicks, ducks, geese, and turkeys. However, this farm later evolves into one complete with its own bees, rabbits, and, finally, two Duroc pigs. Novella's adventures in raising her animals among a motley assortment of neighbors is quite funny, often laugh-out-loud so. When it came time to kill her animals, though, I became a bit squeamish. Nevertheless, Novella treated it as simply what a farmer does. Things did not go very when it came time for her pigs to be slaughtered, but you'll learn why...and probably be as angry as I was,...when you read about it in this book. All told, this is a entertaining book to read for anyone interested in the greening of America and the back-to-the-land movement.
idiotgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kindle. Loved this book. Not for the vegetarians in our midst. Makes me realize why I'm still not one. Took me back to my childhood. Lovely chickens, pigs, cows, sheep in the background. Fun to play with. Great to eat. This book is a great read for those who garden in the city. But this book focuses on the next steps: chickens, then geese and turkeys, then bunnies (moving into mammal territory now), and then pigs. Some of this reminds me of one of my favorite cooking books, Heat. Vegetables--and yes, meat--can bring you to meditations on life. As a child, I personally participated in killing the Sunday chicken. Loved little cute lambs and calves--and ate them next winter. I'm definitely into the mantra: eat less meat, more veges, be kind to your pets. But there is still a farmer inside me. The old school, Idaho kind.
bknrd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a lot of fun to read this summer or any summer for that matter. Novella Carpenter and her husband decide on an apartment in urban Oakland based on the fact that the lot next door is abandoned. She had done some urban farming and beekeeping previously in Seattle, but this one will become much larger. The book is broken into 3 parts: turkey, rabbit, pig. This will give you an idea of what is to come. Novella begins to squat garden in the lot with various plants and she soon gets a chicken coop. She has bees on the back porch on the second story apartment. I had expected more details about her gardening choices, but she really gets into the neighborhood and what life in urban cities is really like. I just loved the stories about her encounter with the local street kids and the drug dealers and so on. I also appreciated that she made the decisions to have various "farm" animals and raise them just so she can eat the meat. She actually butchers all of it! I've passed my copy off to my husband and he is enjoying it as much as I did. I look forward to her next book....
jjmcgaffey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Eh. I didn't like it, which reflects more on my preferred reading than on the book. It's more or less slice-of-life, which I find usually boring. It wasn't an adventure, because it came to no climax or conclusion; it wasn't a how-to, because it didn't go into enough detail. There were interesting bits, but most of it was annoying - she mocked her "trustafarian" friend for jumping from one thing to another, but she was doing much the same. She kept saying "now I'm a real urban farmer!" - when she got bees, when she ate the turkey, when she killed rabbits (and why it took her so long to ask her mother about methods...sheesh), when she lived off her garden (and I spotted the problem with carbs before she did - new potatoes aren't very starchy anyway) - over and over. She kept saying she'd achieved her goal and then setting a new bar for the same goal. I found her mostly annoying - ok, somewhat admirable, for sticking with the notion despite being utterly unready for the tasks she set herself, but still annoying. And it really doesn't end...just kind of dribbles off with her assurance that despite (probably, really this time, maybe) losing the space she wrote about, she'll have a farm wherever she ends up. Hmmmph.
amanderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An entertaining book about a young woman's effort at a backyard urban farm in the ghetto of Oakland. She also tells of a bevy of quirky and very diverse neighbors (one homeless, homed, different nationalities & ideologies) that nonetheless form a community. Interesting literary references and details about the more difficult & gory aspects of farming.
CatheOlson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My local library asked me to do a presentation on eating local in March when they are featuring this book so I figured it would be good to read it. This is the story of a women living in Oakland who becomes an "urban farmer" raising veggies, fruit, bees, and animals. Sort of a ghetto version of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle . . . but a lot more about the meat which was hard for me to read. Have to admire this woman's spunk though!
KatelynShesConnected on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent book and a great read for anyone concerned with the future of some of our struggling cities. Every revitilization committee should have to read this book!
hokansonh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When Novella Carpenter and boyfriend Bill move from Seattle to Oakland, they choose their apartment for its cast of eccentric neighbors and the empty lot behind the building. In short order, Novella has taken over the lot, not only with a garden of heirloom vegetables, but chickens, bees, and even pigs. Because she is essentially squatting on another¿s property, she is very generous about allowing strangers to partake of the fruits of her labor, while waiting for bulldozers to clear her space for condominiums. Being in the heart of what she describes as ¿the ghetto¿, her neighbors all turn a blind eye to her more-than-likely illegal activities because everyone there is doing something they shouldn¿t be. She fits right in.Farm City is not, however, a simple tale of a girl and a garden. Carpenter eloquently makes a case for raising your own food. Her inclusion of meat birds and pigs in her urban farm allows her to reconcile her consumption of meat and her need to harvest such food respectfully. Her dependence on those with more experience uncovers a wealth of diversity among her neighborhood and growing circle of friends. Farm city is an inspiration on many levels.
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Sometimes funny, and sad. Thoughtfully written and very enjoyable to read. Thanks!
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If these guys can do it, anybody can!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book on vacation the summer before last and liked it so much I bought the Nook book, too. I enjoyed the writing style and subject and felt like I really got to know the author. If you like Mother Earth News or Urban Homestead magazines, you'll love this book.
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