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Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer Paperback – May 25, 2010


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Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer + The Essential Urban Farmer + Food and the City: Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution
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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 (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,745 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
Novella writes in such a way as to make the reader feel like if she can do these crazy things then they can too!
Alaskan Musher

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 44 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 47 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 38 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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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Veronique Chez Sheep on January 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
I have been turning around how to put a finger on what wasn't right with this book, and then I went to check out author Novella Carpenter's blog. There it was, right there on her recent November 23, 2011 entry:
"Though I have always rolled my eyes at the term, I'm trying to be more mindful."

And that is what I found wrong with her book: she does not seem very mindful or thoughtful. She's admirably intrepid, plunging right in, bringing in truckloads of manure, creating raised beds, dumpster-diving to feed her pigs. She's engaging; the book is very readable. She is doing, or attempting to do, something larger than herself in creating a garden, planting fruit trees, raising honeybees, and killing her own livestock to eat. But somewhere about the middle, you realize the story isn't going to get any deeper. Comparisons with Bill Buford's "Heat" and Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma" not withstanding, "Farm City" appears to come more out of enthusiasm than substance-- or, as we're reminded repeatedly throughout, it is more a reaction to being raised for a time in a rural environment by "hippies" (despite the fact that her mother left the farm and moved to town when Novella was four.)

There is something just...off...about her farming as well: we are treated to various scenarios of how generous she is with her produce, not locking the gates, allowing the entire neighborhood to pluck carrots and collards from her garden, taking bags of salad greens to feed the Black Panther children's reading program, and then we are met with the Month Long Experiment of Novella eating only what she raises herself.
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