Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

( 28 )

Overview

"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

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Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

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Overview

"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, tomatoeson 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Novella Carpenter has always been of two minds. She has always loved the density and culture of cities, but this daughter of a pair of back-to-basics hippies also feels yearnings for homegrown vegetables and the clucking noises of geese and ducks. When she moved into a dilapidated house in inner-city Oakland, she didn't despair; she began working hard to clear the garbage-strewn abandoned lot next to her house. By the time she finished, she had grown not only a quite un-urban looking vegetable plot but also spawned a populous farm, complete with pigs, bees, turkeys, chickens, and the aforementioned geese and ducks. Ten years later, Novella's neighbors still think that she's crazy, but that's because they haven't read this uplifting, can-do memoir.
Dominique Browning
…easily the funniest, weirdest, most perversely provocative gardening book I've ever read. I couldn't put it down…[Carpenter's] tone is clear, relaxed and amiable
—The New York Times Book Review
Nora Krug
Urban-agrarian tension emerges at almost every turn in this entertaining account, as Carpenter's chickens meander into neighbors' apartments (during the avian flu scare!) and her farm is threatened by various forms of the city's indigenous wildlife: opossums, guard dogs, hungry vagrants, real estate developers. Carpenter rolls with it all…
—The Washington Post
Dwight Garner
Fresh, fearless and jagged around the edges, Ms. Carpenter's book…puts me in mind of Julie Powell's Julie & Julia and Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. Like those writers Ms. Carpenter is not a pampered girl or a trustafarian; in fact she has a beautifully cranky side and can drink and swear like a sailor. Like them too she is hyper-literate…And finally, like Ms. Powell and Ms. Gilbert, Ms. Carpenter is very, very funny…Farm City is filled with terrific stories.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
This upbeat account of raising poultry, rabbits, pigs and bees in the middle of a rundown neighborhood in Oakland, Calif., will make listeners either run out to reclaim some vacant lots or cringe at the thought that they might one day live next door to and downwind from such a menagerie. Karen White vividly individualizes the colorful locals, including Bobby (who lives in abandoned cars), the Buddhist monks across the way, the skeptical neighbors, the Chinese landlord and the random foragers who help themselves to Carpenter's bounty. Narrated with cheerful verve, White's performance will charm even those readers without the slightest inclination to get up close and personal with their future meals. A Penguin Press hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 20). (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
Urban eccentricity meets rural thrift and tradition in a charming debut memoir about the author's farm in downtown Oakland. Carpenter, the progeny of two hippies whose attempt to go "back to the land" ended in near disaster, was drawn to farming yet unwilling to give up the cultural and intellectual perks of an urban environment: museums, bars, libraries, etc. Already an amateur apiarist and avid gardener, she moved with her husband from the Seattle suburbs to "Ghost Town" Oakland, attracted by its energy and diversity, undeterred by the nightly drive-bys. Of equal interest to the author was the garbage-filled abandoned lot next door. Soon, her visions of heirloom tomatoes, peach trees, fresh squash, even watermelons, became a reality. Inspired, she added a few chickens, then some ducks, geese, two turkeys, a few rabbits and two pigs. Carpenter found herself increasingly enveloped in the beautiful yet brutal circle of life that rules a farm. She gives heart-rending descriptions of her emotions when stray dogs killed one of the turkeys, but also admits that she intended to harvest the remaining bird for Thanksgiving dinner. In warm, witty prose, she describes feeding her livestock with scraps foraged from neighboring restaurants, as well as visits from local children, Vietnamese monks and eccentric neighbors, many of whom joined the author for meals and enjoyed the fruits of her labors. The special relationship between farmer and food was driven home for Carpenter when a local chef taught her traditional rural Italian techniques for harvesting every part of her pigs to create delicacies from headcheese and pork broth to prosciutto and salami. Experiencing Carpenter's trials andtribulations, readers will get an honest portrait of where meals come from and an understanding that connecting with the food chain, even in the smallest ways, can enrich the palate and the soul. A fascinating, vividly written story about city and community that will change perceptions about the local farmers market.
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
Library Journal
★ 02/01/2014
Carpenter, the daughter of two nature-loving hippie parents, transforms a vacant lot next to her Oakland home into a farm. With amusing exploits of both the neighbors and the animals. (LJ 6/1/09)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143117285
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/25/2010
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 205,483
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet 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 Salon.com, Saveur.com, sfgate.com (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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 28 )
Rating Distribution

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(14)

4 Star

(10)

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(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 21, 2011

    Honest book that takes you places

    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!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 23, 2011

    Good Read

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Return of the renaissance-person/farmer

    In this account of her ghetto farm in Oakland, Carpenter shares the challenges, joys, culture, history, philosophy, soul, advantages, and practicalities of urban farming. She demonstrates some steps toward transforming a ghetto into a nurturing community and inspires each of us to take at least one pot and a few seeds and grow food. Carpenter joins other great, learned voices of the renaissance farmers, including Michael Pollan: those who know soil, animals, history, and the human spirit as well. Carpenter is the big sister each of us always wanted.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    An Amazing Read

    This is a wonderfully written memoir about an intrepid young woman who moves to a ghetto in Oakland, California and little starts up a "farm," growing her own fruits and veggies, and raising animals . . . for food.

    While a few sections are slightly graphic in nature (for purposes of reality), much of the book is charming and extremely funny and moving.

    It is a timely book as I think many people are considering such practices.

    I won't even loan my copy out because I plan to read it again.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    AMAZING!

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2014

    Bios

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2012

    An interesring take on farming

    If these guys can do it, anybody can!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2012

    A keeper.

    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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    Posted June 21, 2010

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    Posted December 25, 2011

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    Posted June 12, 2011

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    Posted January 31, 2011

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    Posted March 30, 2010

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