Justin's Reviews > Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

Farm City by Novella Carpenter
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's review
May 19, 2010

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Read in May, 2010

This book riveted me and intrigued me, even though I wasn't such a fan of its author. Even though she retains a dry, slightly detached perspective on her own life throughout the book, urban farmer Novella Carpenter comes across as kind of smug, especially when ranking on her "trustafarian" friends who yearn to be urban farmers too, despite the fact they have all the money in the world and no need for such a hobby.

To those trustafarians, I say: Farm on! Don't listen to your "friend" Novella. Whether rich or not, we all need to do our part to make the earth more sustainable, and urban farming is a great way to do that. It makes our food source more localized, brings us closer to our food and the process of producing our food, and builds community. Everyone should urban-farm, from homeless people in Chicago to Bill Gates.

To be fair, Carpenter's negative riff on urban-farming trustafarians encapsulates only one chapter of Farm City, but it was spiteful and unnecessary enough to make me think she might be just a bit holier-than-thou. Or maybe I'm just jealous because I'm not growing a plethora of vegetables and fruits, and raising pigs, rabbits, turkeys for slaughter in an abandoned lot outside my home in the ghetto of Oakland, like she is. Oh, and Carpenter keeps bees too.

For some reason, Carpenter and her boyfriend Bill moved to Oakland years ago, setting up home in one of its most decrepit neighborhoods—which is saying a lot in the Bay Area's not-so-better half. She claims it was their fascination with unorthodox living situations. The cynic in me thinks she had a book idea from day one. Whatever the case, she quickly sets about creating a veritable farm in the middle of the ghetto, doing everything I just described. Her adventures gardening and raising and slaughtering her own meat in the slum are well told, as are the kooky characters that live all around and come to be familiar standbys on the farm. She's a pretty good writer, with a keen understanding of narrative pace and an eye for colorful details. I wish I liked her more, but all in all, I'm inspired by Farm City and I would recommend it. It prompted my girlfriend and me to plan to turn our parking space at our apartment into a little urban farm of its own. We're going to put raised beds in there, put up a little fence and grow some veggies.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Reese (new)

Reese Applause for another sharp review by Justin Sanders

message 2: by sarah (new) - added it

sarah gilbert I'm glad to see your review; I took umbrage at an interview with a local food writer last year and still hadn't picked up this book yet. when I did upon the repeated recommendations of friends this month, I immediately recalled the reasons I didn't want to, in the first place. I find myself vaguely offended most of the time, despite my enchantment with her mission.

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