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Farm City:
The Education Of An Urban Farmer

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

Within the array of sustainable memoirs, Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter deserves more attention than most. It is the true story of one inner-city Oakland resident's dream of creating a self-sufficient and sustainable "farm" on the small vacant lot next door.

The story chronicles just a short period of her time squatting on the vacant lot, growing vegetables in trucked-in horse manure and raising all manner of barnyard animals: turkeys, backyard chickens, bees, rabbits, and pigs. Carpenter writes with wit about her adventures with the land owner, dealing with predators and the encounters and friendships built with neighbors, nearby business owners and the homeless.

From the inside cover:

Novella Carpenter loves cities - the culture, the crowds, the energy. At the same time, she can't shake the fact that she's 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, Novella decides 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. When she moves to a ramshackle house in inner city Oakland and discovers a weed-choked, garbage-strewn abandoned lot next door, she closes her eyes and pictures heirloom tomatoes, a beehive and a chicken coop...

The story is brutally honest and thought-provoking, but witty and entertaining, as well. It's not quite as educational as many other memoirs are, with no facts and information gracing the margins. But Farm City does something most other books fail to do: it offers a simple story of all that is possible when we dare to dream right where we are. It shows us that we don't need a rural farm or several acres of land to live sustainably, feed our family and embrace our communities. We just need the audacity to step outside the box and the courage to look a little crazy while we tread the uncommon path.

This charming and amusing tale steals the heart and inspires the moxie in all of us to begin something of our own, something that stretches the limits of social expectations and sets itself apart in its adventurousness and ingenuity.

I greatly enjoyed Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer and recommend it for all urban homesteaders or urban farmers. You can read more about Novella Carpenter on her blog, Ghost Town Farm.

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