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

Farm City by Novella Carpenter
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's review
Sep 02, 2012

really liked it
Read in July, 2012

We have just added chickens to our backyard and are also former Oakland residents, Novella's book had been on the shelf for a while and I decided to give it a go. I want to find fiction to read; but so far nothing satisfies. More on that later.

Her bibliography rocks and provides much fodder for garden-planning and general food related reading.

I laughed out loud while reading this book, was provoked to tears, and dog-eared several pages. Its been a few weeks now, but I think this means I enjoyed reading it. I would say the author writes in a vein of self-awareness that reminds me just a bit of a more-sincere version of the Portlandia clips I've seen; her particularly West-coast sense of political identity and relation to her rough and tumble new Oakland neighborhood blend well with her upbringing: her hippy back-to-the-garden/romantic European-touring young parents' influence on her life and the life of her sister weaves well with the chronology of her several seasons of urban farming. The book is also much about her family-of-origin relationships, the land she farms and her neighbors, and less so about her boyfriend.

Midway through the book she has a wine-fueled moment of inspiration; she will feed herself entirely from her garden/food animals..! This one I related to, not that I have done the same, but I did try what was for a student, the expensive raw/vegan life in Berkeley. The food I gleaned on walks, as well as the clear-thinking mind of a starved body, is a bit of an extreme experiment and one that is a luxury to choose; but the author handles it well and mines the spiritual gifts of the experience admirably. She writes on the eve of ending her experiment: "I would miss my intimacy with the garden. When I was eating faithfully only from her, I knew all of her secrets. Where the peas were hiding, the best lettuces, the swelling onions." We are indeed overfed and starving all at once!

I want bees of my own something fierce; my romantic heart sings along with hers during her descriptions of her beekeeping trials. I turned green with envy, and also relate to the kitchen-intimacy she chances upon with an area chef; befriended teacher of salumi-secrets and fellow-honorer of her big male pig.


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