Down(town) On the Farm

Farm City
Novella Carpenter
Penguin Press, 2009, hardcover, 276 pages

Idyllic dreams of moving to the country to become a farmer abound – in this era of local food and “who’s your farmer”, most people involved in the local food scene long for their own garden patch and flock of chickens. We tell ourselves it’s impossible in the city, and if we choose to obey local by-laws, it usually is.

The answer then, is to live somewhere that is almost lawless – where the local cops have more important things to worry about than whether your turkey gets loose and runs through the neighbourhood, terrorizing the local crack dealers.

Such is the unique situation writer Novella Carpenter has found herself living in. A resident of downtown Oakland, Carpenter and her partner Bill rent a second floor flat in a house next to an abandoned lot, and over the years, she’s expanded her Ghost Town Farm from a few laying chickens and a garden to include honeybees, meat poultry, rabbits and pigs. She’s also taken over the vacant lot next door, and has encouraged neighbours to join her.

Carpenter’s book, Farm City, The Education of an Urban Farmer, chronicles the growth of Carpenter’s farm, a progression in which she continually pushes the boundaries of what a city farmer can do (and what a motley crew of neighbours will endure).

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