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Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (May 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143117289
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143117285
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this utterly enchanting book, food writer Carpenter chronicles with grace and generosity her experiences as an urban farmer. With her boyfriend BillÖs help, her squatterÖs vegetable garden in one of the worst parts of the Bay Area evolved into further adventures in bee and poultry keeping in the desire for such staples as home-harvested honey, eggs and home-raised meat. The built-in difficulties also required dealing with the expected noise and mess as well as interference both human and animal. When one turkey survived to see, so to speak, its way to the Thanksgiving table, the success spurred Carpenter to rabbitry and a monthlong plan to eat from her own garden. Consistently drawing on her Idaho ranch roots and determined even in the face of bodily danger, her ambitions led to ownership and care of a brace of pigs straight out of E.B. White. She chronicles the animalsÖ slaughter with grace and sensitivity, their cooking and consumption with a gastronomeÖs passion, and elegantly folds in riches like urban farming history. Her way with narrative and details, like the oddly poetic names of chicken and watermelon breeds, gives her memoir an Annie Dillard lyricism, but itÖs the juxtaposition of the farming life with inner-city grit that elevates it to the realm of the magical. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Easily the funniest, weirdest, most perversely provocative gardening book I've ever read. I couldn't put it down... The writing soars." --The New York Times Book Review

"Captivating... By turns edgy, moving, and hilarious, Farm City marks the debut of a striking new voice in American writing." --Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and Food Rules

"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." --The New York Times

"Carpenter, with [her] humor and step-by-step clarity, make[s] it seem utterly possible to grow the kind of food you want to eat, wherever you live." --Los Angeles Times





More About the Author

Novella Carpenter has a farm on a dead-end street in the ghetto of Oakland, CA. On GhostTown Farm, she has raised vegetables, chickens, rabbits, ducks, goats, turkeys, pigs, and bees. Her work has appeared in salon.com, sfgate.com, and Food and Wine magazine. She is also a member of the Biofuel Oasis Cooperative, a biodiesel station and urban farming feed store in Berkeley, CA. Her next book, due out in February 2011 is a how-to urban farm manual, written with Willow Rosenthal of City Slicker Farms. She keeps a blog about happenings on GhostTown Farm at www.novellacarpenter.com.

Customer Reviews

Her writing is funny and easy to read.
Rosemary A. Dixon
Love this book, farming in the city as a backdrop to a beautifully written story of Oakland in all its fascinating grittiness.
Judith A. King
No matter where or how you live you will gleam something from this book.
SANDRA SMITH

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Mira Rose Hilton on August 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book on a whim--as it's not my usual reading fare.

Within the first few sentences, I was hooked. This is the most engaging memoir I've ever read.

I did read Barbara Kingsolver's book ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE, and I found it both interesting and educational, but while reading it, I never seemed to lose my awareness that Barbara Kingsolver has a LOT of money. Dumping society to start a farm was a great deal of work on her family's part--but they could also afford to hire people with large equipment to come in and prepare their gardening soil. And they have a certain safety net at the prospect of failure.

In FARM CITY, Novella and her good-hearted boyfriend, Bill, are so poor, they must continually come up with creative ways to shoe-string their urban farm and keep it going. Seriously, they are scavenging wood from garbage piles to build their raised gardens. Novella takes two buckets out into the streets of the ghetto in Oakland to go "weed hunting" to bring some treats for her hens. They borrow a truck and drive way out of town to shovel up free horse manure themselves to use as fertilizer.

This alone made this book stand out for me.

One small warning though . . . vegetarians may not enjoy this book about halfway through. Some of the farm animals Novella raises are there as "food," and she does not flinch from killing them herself--and explaining the best methods. I grew up on a farm, so this didn't surprise me, but I do think readers should be warned.

Anyway, the book is wise and very funny at times and clever and unique and also provides a warm theme of community spirit. I read it in three sittings.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Christine Lee Zilka on July 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Farm City is an awesome read, written by Novella Carpenter, whose book I rank up with Bill Buford's wonderful Heat, with the spirit of Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma. And I love the voice-Novella the narrator often wonders why people open up to her and accept her so readily (among others, Chris Lee of Eccolo, who teaches her how to prepare pork from her pigs); the voice of the narrator (straightforward, funny, unblinking to the point of childlike wonder, compassionate) is hers, and as a reader I found myself liking her so very much.

I mean, she describes her community in the ghetto with compassion and humor (describing the "tumbleweeds" as "tumbleweaves").

I've been meaning to buy the book at one of our local stores, at one of Novella's book tour readings, but my availability did not intersect with her schedule. And so I ordered the book off Amazon-but for as long as I waited to buy her tome, I wasted no time in cracking it open and settling in for what turned out to be an absorbing, delightful, educational reading of a book that drips with optimism and moxie in a world that has in recent months, gone dark and brooding.

Novella has a farm. She has a farm on an abandoned lot in a part of Oakland nicknamed "Ghost Town," near the freeway and BART tracks. I've visited her farm and was astonished on my first visit to discover an oasis in a part of town that is not a destination site for many-most people drive past it on the freeway, ride past it on BART, there are very few grocery stores, and abandoned lots are many. Like the Valley of Ashes in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. But on her street corner, behind a chain link fence, is a lot full of green vegetables and myriad fruits, with a quiet symphony of animal noises.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By snowy owl books on June 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Imagine raising a pig or two in the gritty ghetto on dumpster food then having it turn out to be a project of master world class artisanal salumi making handed down by a few thousand years in Tuscany and transfered to America. Not bad work Novella. Not to mention it is a sweet recognition now when I see the sopressetta and pancettas at the store and know what they really mean and what they came from. It also explains the cost.

Novella's inspiring hard to believe adventures are really grounded in her thoughtful research and willingness to try new things, being imaginative and skilled is what it takes to create the ultimate luxury of self sufficiency on a dime, thrown in with the fact that she is a book collecting explorer of cuisine.

In this book you get the full contrast of Novella. From her inner city life filled with profanity, drug busts and homelessness framed against delicate peach blossoms and honey bees that drift delicately over to the Bhuddist monastery located on her street. It's an eye opener for those contrasts alone so that we may remember our smallest fortunes are all around us.

I hope this author continues with writing in her sharing way (sharing as a farmer shares).
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By DSPOverseas on August 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
I'm rating this book more highly than I had first intended, because it grew on me as it went on. For those few reviewers who quit within the first few chapters, it is truly a shame, as the book's crowning glory was really the third section (Pigs). Since my gripes about the book mostly came from the first part, I'll start with my main complaints:

-The book, as a few others have noted, is very heavily about raising (and slaughtering, and eating) livestock. It was probably my mistake to not realize, as another reviewer pointed out, that there is a reason that this is called "Farm City" and not "Garden City." Nonetheless, I had a hard time getting past this in the first few chapters, as I kept wanting the book to talk more about the vegetable growing, beekeeping, and even the laying hens. However, these were all things that the author had done previously; they were not new endeavors for her Oakland farm, and therefore not the focus of this book. On the plus side, once I started letting the book just "be what it was," I came to greatly appreciate the livestock-focused tale.

-As one other reviewer notes, I was mildly frustrated throughout by some of Novella's naiveté about the suffering of the human beings in her midst. Her characterizations of commercial sex workers, drug users and homeless individuals was callous at times. Even at the end, when she talks about having become "part" of her neighborhood, I had to question the reality of her statement. She may see it that way, but do her diverse and struggling neighbors? (*I add this with the caveat that I am a young, educated white female who has lived in the inner city and worked with these populations...if you don't have that kind of perspective, her descriptions probably won't bother you much.
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