When Novella Carpenter and her boyfriend decide to move to an apartment at the end of a street in a rough neighborhood in Oakland, California, they base their choice on the large and vacant lot next door. Already experienced with raising chickens, gardening, and keeping bees, Carpenter wants to take on a larger challenge: creating an urban farm. Farm City is a memoir chronicling her development of the vacant lot, the acquisition of livestock, and the rich and diverse characters that populate her new neighborhood.
Carpenter's voice comes through Karen White's narration as having matter-of-fact sensibility, dotted throughout the book with dry humor and a healthy sense of irony. Carpenter is constantly planning to take the operations of her farm a step further than the season before, starting with raising ducks and turkeys in addition to her chickens; but as much as she plans, something unexpected is always around the corner. White's narration at once reflects Carpenter's excitement and frustration at setbacks, as every project turns out to be something slightly other than what she bargained for.
As the narrative of Farm City unfolds, Carpenter routinely reflects on herself in relation to the tradition of farming, and it is clear she sees herself in line with both the people of the past who farmed out of necessity and writers and scholars who have written about man's connection with earth as an intellectual exercise. Instead of trying to obtain a novel and unique experience, Carpenter wants to see herself as part of a very human tradition, and White's voice commands authority when she quotes the people who have inspired Carpenter. As Carpenter describes her rationale for deciding to raise livestock for meat and the daunting task of butchering the animals herself; White is unflinching. She conveys a confidence that what may seem brutal about killing her livestock has been a mere fact of life for human beings up until recent decades, and her candid descriptions and frank tone force the listener to wonder why it's the idea of having one's own farm that seems strange, and not the fact that so few of us has any connection at all with what we eat every day. Erin Ikeler
Ambivalent about repeating her parents' disastrous mistakes, yet drawn to the idea of backyard self-sufficiency, Carpenter decided that it might be possible to have it both ways: a homegrown vegetable plot as well as museums, bars, concerts, and a 24-hour convenience mart mere minutes away - especially when she moved to a ramshackle house in inner-city Oakland and discovered a weed-choked, garbage-strewn abandoned lot next door. She closed her eyes and pictured heirloom tomatoes, a beehive, and a chicken coop. What started out as a few egg-laying chickens led to turkeys, geese, and ducks. Soon, some rabbits joined the fun, then two 300-pound pigs. And no, these charming and eccentric animals weren't pets; she was a farmer, not a zookeeper. Novella was raising these animals for dinner.
Novella Carpenter's corner of downtown Oakland is populated by unforgettable characters. Lana (anal spelled backward, she reminds us) runs a speakeasy across the street and refuses to hurt even a fly, let alone condone raising turkeys for Thanksgiving. Bobby, the homeless man who collects cars and car parts just outside the farm, is an invaluable neighborhood concierge. The turkeys, Harold and Maude, tend to escape on a daily basis to cavort with the prostitutes hanging around just off the highway nearby.
Every day on this strange and beautiful farm, urban meets rural in the most surprising ways. For anyone who has ever grown herbs on their windowsill or tomatoes on their fire escape, or who has obsessed over the offerings at the local farmers' market, Carpenter's story will capture your heart.
©2009 Novella Carpenter; (P)2009 Tantor
"Utterly enchanting.... The juxtaposition of the farming life with inner-city grit...elevates it to the realm of the magical." (Publishers Weekly)
A little TOO much information regarding raising livestock and transformation from animal to edible. Performance was very good, overall. Love the idea of urban farming, so overall this was inspirational, though my own interest is far more produce than animal raising.
This was a fantastic book. Both funny and just downright interesting. Of course, I'm a wanna-be farmer...so maybe I'm a little biased. The reader was wonderful as well.
I loved how real it was. The author seemed like a regular person, making her very relatable. I appreciated her honesty with her interests, struggles, triumphs, and learnings. She didn't filter unnecessarily- she described things as they were, with a healthy balance of humor, reality, and gratitude.
How the author related to us her realizations of a greater connectedness and cycle with living things, communities, and herself. You could tell she had a healthy respect for what she was doing and how it impacted the world around her.
I have not; this was an excellent first.
I live in a big city and am an avid supporter of farmers markets and community gardens. But until I read Farm City, the idea of people living in U.S. cities and subsisting only on what they manage to grow and raise themselves seemed to me to be tall tales right up there with Paul Bunyan. While I have no intention of raising chickens in my living room any time soon, I'm thrilled to know that such people are not myths. Novella Carpenter, with her honesty and sense of humor, gives a great tour of her life as an urban farmer, and Karen White provides a great narration.
As a listener/reader the same age as the author's parents and part of the mindset to "return to the land," but not successful either as her parents weren't, I could relate to the author's background. However, I would have loved to see my offspring grow up to be her. I loved every minute and every word of this book. I will probably listen to it numerous times. She makes no mention of the impending food crisis in our nation as farmers who try to live by farming all die off with no replacements, except for a few stalwarts like the author of this book. And, with the impending loss of cheap transport fuels, urban farms will be the only option for a viable food production system in the future.
This book should encourage more and more urban farms, including the raising of a pig. Modern research has shown that humans evolved our big brains from meat protein and cooking.
And, once you taste, "natural" meats and vegies, you won't go back to the shipped stuff unless you are indeed starving!
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