FARM CITY by Novella Carpenter

by JF

Written in disarming, unassuming first-person autobiographical form by an urban west coast farmer with a natural gift for writing, and who has obviously honed her writing craft, this makes for an enjoyable read at the very least. More than that, however, the book often provides a lot of practical advice for modern American readers on how to grow and raise their own food and be less reliant on the unhealthy mainstream corporate-agricultural food grid. In her narrative, Carpenter records all her failures as well as her successes, and as she learns, so does the reader. A lot of readers will question the author’s wisdom in her choice of neighborhoods: Of all places to transform herself into an “urban farmer,” she chose the post-apocalyptic concrete gloom of Oakland, California. Interestingly, she does point out some of the benefits to being a non-conformist in a place like Oakland: In such urban wastelands, the authorities tend to care less what the inhabitants do, and so the bureaucrats and the police leave people alone more than they would in an artifically pristine city like a Seattle (from where the author had moved) or a San Francisco. As real estate in places like urban Oakland is harder to sell, there are evidently also more vacant unused lots to be utilized for such purposes as the author shows. Perhaps the most refreshing thing about this book is that it is an encounter with an obvious “left wing socialist” type, the type that normally would get involved with militant vegetarian movements–and yet she is an avowed meat-eater who isn’t afraid to kill and butcher her own food, just like humans have done for millenia, and still must do in order to survive in good health. The sections on urban gardening occur throughout the entire account; the first one-third of the book is also devoted to raising poultry for meat; the middle third of the book is devoted to raising rabbits for meat; for this reader, however, a drawback occurs with the final third of the book, which is dedicated to the raising of pigs and the eating of pork. The writing style and the interesting anecdotes are still present for this last part, yes it is still as intriguing as the rest of the book, but this reader has no interest in eating that ”other white meat” (note: pork is 50% fat and can make humans sick with the flu as well).

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