Friday, June 19, 2009

Farming in Downtown Oakland, For Real!

You don't usually put "farm" and "downtown Oakland" into the same thought bubble. I've lived in Oakland, and I've been to farms, and I never would have thought the two could be mixed. But Novella Carpenter has proved me wrong, and we have the book that documents it -- Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, by Novella Carpenter.

Novella grew up in rural Idaho and Washington State, the daughter of two back-to-the-land hippies who taught her to love nature and eat vegetables. Yet she also loves cities -- the culture, the crowds, the energy. So she decides to try to have it both ways. When she moves to a ramshackle house in inner-city Oakland and discovers a weed-choked, garbage-strewn abandoned lot next door, she closes her eyes and pictures heirloom tomatoes, a beehive, and a chicken coop. And she makes it happen. The result is Ghost Town Farm. My friend Luan, who owns a wonderful little independent bookstore in Oakland (Laurel Book Store), actually got to tour Novella's farm as part of the book launch -- and I saw with my own eyes the pictures of Luan with Novella's baby goats -- so I know it's the real deal.

Farm City is an unforgettably charming memoir, full of hilarious moments, fascinating farmer's tips, and a great deal of heart. It is about the battle between urban life and the natural world, as well as a beautiful meditation on what we have given up to live the way we do. This book just arrived on our shelves this week, and it looks terrific. Come on down and check it out for yourself!

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