Friday, August 14, 2009

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter

Everywhere I looked, magazines, newspapers, online I saw rave reviews of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, by Novella Carpenter, so being the book junkie that I am, I rushed to get my fix. The book was new enough that it wasn’t available just anywhere so I ended up downloading it to my computer from eReader, a rather obscure online program through which you can download print versions. I quickly learned that eReader wasn’t nearly as “readable” as Adobe Digital and I was too busy writing grants to sit and read, so about half-way through the book I ended up downloading the audio version from, and finished listening to it on my iPod as I drove my granddaughter to and from horse camp each morning and afternoon.

Novella Carpenter is a hybrid daughter of a hippie mom and dad, who in the 60’s and 70’s dropped out to the wilds of Idaho to live as survivalists’ – growing and hunting their own food, eschewing the urban life. Mom evidently got tired of dirt under her fingernails, and took the kids back to city life, leaving dad to grow even more feral. But the farming roots were there in Novella so when she and her husband ended up in a seriously “ghetto” rental in Oakland, CA, and there was an empty lot next door, she decided that she wanted to “get closer” to her food, so she and her hubby put in a garden and small farm, consisting of chickens, ducks, turkeys and eventually pigs.

Although they are really very different books, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t help but compare Farm City, to Animal Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which is one of my fav's, so I’ll just say it. If you only have time to read one book about growing your own food, read AVM. Not that Carpenter’s book isn’t good, it is, really good, and it includes some great stories and characters – Bob, the guy that lives in a car, Lana (anal spelled backward she says), the next door neighbor who has a speakeasy, and Chris, the upscale restaurant chef/owner who trades Novella Italian sausage making-lessons for one of her hams (from her pig Big Boy).

Farm City is fun and funny and informative – you’ll learn about bee keeping, rabbits and dumpster diving (slop for the pigs), but it describes a lifestyle that doesn’t allow for a real job – it is a full-time job. It did, however make me want to drive out to Elgin to pick out a pig for my freezer. If you have even a remote interest in urban farming, or if you aspire to be a locavore, read Farm City.

Have a "cool" weekend...


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