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Book Review: Farm City The Education of an Urban Farmer July 6, 2013

Filed under: Book Reviews — dianatierney3 @ 12:33 pm
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farm city


TITLE/AUTHOR: Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer/ Novella Carpenter

GENRE:  Non Fiction


Farm City is the story of how Novella Carpenter created a thriving urban farm in the middle of downtown Oakland. With the space that she had from her backyard apartment and the empty lot next door that she technically squats in she manages to be able to produce a thriving garden and raise chickens, geese, turkeys, rabbits and pigs.

Just as much as we learn about her ups and downs in this farming experience, we learn about her messed up little sesame street. An urban farm has its ups and downs just like any other farm, though their problems may be a bit more unique. For example, Maude, the turkey’s fate at the paws of the dogs in the junkyard next door. Or Bobby, the loveable homeless man that lived in a broken down car at the end of the street.

What this book exemplifies the importance and joy of having an urban farm in the middle of a concrete jungle.  As Novella wrote in the book when she had her pigs, so many people who had seen her pigs commented that that was the first time they had ever seen a live pig before….and these are animals we eat all the time. In so many ways we are so far removed from our food that even in our markets our animals look nothing like they did when they were alive.

The animals that Novella raised in her farm were not as pets, these were food providing meat animals.  On the one hand I really respect her for being able to raise an animal from birth to death and to be there for every stage of it life. It’s something I for sure could not do. I however, am very cautious about the promotion of slaughtering animals in one’s back yard. (I had the same hesitation with Animal Vegetable Miracle when she harvested the turkeys in her backyard) The reason why I am hesitant about it is that not everyone is going to be educated or responsible enough to slaughter them properly. Case in point, the backyard butcher.

In Santa Clarita there was a man who was butchering animals and selling the meat to the public from his backyard. (According to California law it’s legal to butcher your own animals for your own use) However, there were a number of animals that were suffering from infections and open wounds. This is what happens when people just start raising and butchering animals without the proper education and care.

Another issue that I had with the book was that at multiple points in the story she felt the need to justify that she was a real farmer because she was able to raise animals for meat. Anyone who didn’t was just a hobby gardener.  That got on my nerves, it was also when she was at her most hipster.  Who decides what an urban farmer is? Even if someone is growing a thriving garden in their community that they are able to share with their neighbors does it really make them any less of a farmer than someone who is able to raise chickens and rabbits? To me the answer is no. I commend anyone who is able to grow food in a rough urban setting. They should not be looked down upon because they aren’t able to grow a slew of barnyard animals. In my book an Urban Farmer is anyone who primarily grows produce for their own personal use and to share the extra produce with their community.

Overall I like the book and I do recommend it to anyone who is growing a garden or small farm in an urban setting.  Novella’s book is well written, she has a great writing style that sucks you in to the story.


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