Novella was all over the urban homesteading blog world this spring when the City of Oakland kicked her in the proverbial nuts over her garden/mini-farm/oasis in the ghetto. She got slapped with thousands of dollars of permitting and licensing fees and there were some confusing threats of eviction.
It was a time of indignant outrage and surrogate fear for the urban homesteading community since Novella, along with Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen, is about as close to celebrity as we get. (For awhile there was this one family in Pasadena, but they were unable to fulfill their celebrity urban homesteader duties and we had to take their Vegetable Princess crown away…but I digress.)
With Novella’s name and plight fresh in my memory, I snapped up Farm City and grabbed some couch time.
What a great read. Funny, poignant, honest, unapologetic and full of characters. I came away profoundly grateful to live in my sleepy little suburb and deeply touched by the human element in the book: the ghetto kid who wants to adopt a bunny; the homeless junk collector who can’t be quashed; the butcher who deserved to get run through her own meat grinder and the chef who helped Novella complete the circle of thoughtful food production.
Novella’s struggles to establish Ghost Town Farm aren’t glossed over. I won’t go into too many details for fear of spoiling the page turning, but there are struggles. Some are the kind I don’t run into much out here in suburbia – packs of wild dogs menacing my poultry, teenagers almost mugging me while I pick some roadside weeds. Some are so universal that any gardener can relate – produce that doesn’t produce, the mess of the productive home, neighbors who really don’t get it (and neighbors who help you out when you really need it).
This book was compelling enough to keep me up reading far, far too late. When I’m awake to see my sidetable alarm clock hit 1:00 a.m., I know the next day is going to suck. But I couldn’t help myself – I couldn’t put Farm City down. I figure Novella Carpenter owes me at least two good nights of sleep.
Have you read Farm City? If you haven’t, go reserve a copy at your local library. But maybe start reading it on a Friday so you have the weekend in case you need to sleep in a bit.