Thursday, December 3, 2009

Recommended: Farm City

Michael Pollan's endorsement of "Farm City" begins with the line "For anyone who thinks the local food movement has gotten a tad too precious, (...)" I can't remember anything else from his quote, but that little bit stuck with me as I read the book.

Because neither Novella Carpenter, or the story she tells in "Farm City," is the least bit precious. Set in a rough Oakland neighborhood nicknamed Ghost Town, "Farm City" describes how Novella and her boyfriend move into an apartment and begin piecing together an urban farm.

The book opens with Novella waiting for a special package to arrive. She's ordered assorted poultry chicks from a hatchery, and is soon the proud owner of baby chickens, turkeys, geese, and ducks. At this point Novella has already started a raised bed garden in the adjacent abandoned lot (with the begrudging ok of the lot owner) and set up her beehive on her deck.

The book takes us through Novella's adventures in raising her own turkey for Thanksgiving, then moving on to meat rabbits, and finally - get this - full sized pigs. Along the way she does plenty of vegetable gardening, tries a month of eating only self-grown food, introduces her assorted neighbors to the wonders of homesteading, and meets a gourmet chef who teaches her the art of charcuterie.

Novella's book is candid, speaking honestly about the the pitfalls and personal failures she encountered along the way --- just as she savors the joy of her triumphs. This is a real book, and anyone who's attempted any aspect of urban farming will smile with recognition. If you haven't yet tried to grow your own food or raise a few livestock, Novella's story will both entertain and inspire you.

You can read more about Novella and her life in Oakland on her blog:

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