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

Farm City by Novella Carpenter
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's review
Dec 05, 09

really liked it
bookshelves: 2009-reads, memoir-biography-autobiography, food, california
Read in December, 2009

An interesting book about establishing a (temporary, squatted) urban farm in a bad part of Oakland.

Beginning with fruit trees and vegetables, Carpenter moves on to bees, chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and then rabbits and pigs. She is looking to get to "know" her food, learn more about her own childhood on a get-back-to-nature hippie farm her parents established in Idaho, and see if she can really do this. She spends one month living only off of the products of her farm--and finds the end of that experiment bittersweet but also a relief.

Through the course of this book she learns many things: respect for what her parents accomplished, how to kill and eat small animals she has raised, the difficulties of living off your own land, the incredible amount of work that goes into raising some animals, the amazing amount of food thrown away by restaurants that chickens and especially pigs happily eat, and introduces us to the cast of characters in her "bad" neighborhood. We meet Lana the vegetarian who runs a speakeasy before moving, Willow the trustafarian who is establishing small urban plots around Oakland neighborhoods, Chris the Italian-trained chef who teachers who to make salumi from her pigs, Mr Nguyen downstairs who seems to enjoy her project, Melvin and Ali of the Black Panther Commemoration Committee (where she drops lettuce weekly for an afterschool program), Bobby the semi-homeless man who collects junk but guards and cleans their street before being forced out by the police, the Yemeni storekeeper of Brothers Market (who happily takes her accidental rooster and is impressed by her project), her sister Riana who lives in France with her French husband, Grandma who runs her own "restaurant" after a big haul fishing, and a variety of residents who come and go. The wide variety of people who grew up in a wide variety of places teach her how urban farming, unusual in this country, is nothing new to the Yemenis, Vietnamese, French, and older Americans.

I grew up in the Bay Area and spent 4 years in Berkeley, so the local aspects of the book were also very interesting to me. The first 6 chapters were the weakest, as she sets the scene, moving from Washington to Oakland.
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12/02/2009 page 63
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message 1: by Al (new) - rated it 4 stars

Al Dree:
I think you will enjoy this a lot. We seem to be flip-flopping - I'm about to start The Help


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