As 2013 began, my neighborhood book club selected Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter to read and discuss. As an avid gardener I was feeling a bit smug, thinking that this was going to be a discussion where I would shine as knowledgeable. However, the deeper I got into the book the more I kept thinking, “Geez Louise this lady is crazier than a bed bug. What the heck is she doing now?” The book is less about gardening and more about a life philosophy and style of living.
In brief the book chronicles one woman’s experiences as an urban farmer. Her “farm” is a vacant lot on a dead-end street in the ghetto of Oakland, CA, one of the worst parts of the Bay Area. With her boyfriend’s help, she takes over an abandoned lot to create a vegetable garden. Those few raised beds expand into bee and poultry keeping and eventually she goes on to raise rabbits and a couple pigs. She has almost a religious belief in how to raise, prepare (kill, cook, etc.) and share her food stuffs.
After reading the book I made a mental list of things I would like to try and those that under no circumstances are an option for me.
Things to try:
- More heirloom plant types
- Start more plants from seeds
- Provide bee home or shelter options for wild bees
- Experiment more with new recipes using ingredients (vegetable or meat cuts) I haven’t used before
- Give more garden produce to the local Food Pantry
Things I will never ever do:
- Raise animals to eat
- Bring ducks into my house to kill them
- Go out in public with turkey poop on my shirt
- Dumpster dive for food for animals
I may rethink the raise animals to eat edict. When I was growing up a neighbor had a trout stream engineered in his backyard. Every spring he’d stock it with trout minnows and by fall there was a wonderful feast. If I could have a trout stream, I might reconsider meat producing.
Overall ratings on GoodReads.com gave it 4 ½ stars out of 5 with most reviewers enjoying the humor. I was intrigued with some of Novella’s ideas but never having lived in an area as urban as she described the whole concept seems foreign and outlandish. I kept wondering boring things, like how does she have time to do all these things and keep a job sufficient to pay the mortgage?
You can follow Novella Carpenter’s blog about happenings on GhostTown Farm at www.novellacarpenter.com
After thought – I should mention one member of our book club announced that after reading this book she is giving up meat entirely. Yup, vegetarian all the way.