It wasn’t until I read Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer for the second time that I really grasped the enormity of Novella Carpenter’s drive to prove herself as a farmer, which, at times she says, felt like “the mission of an imbecile.”
It’s hard to imagine a more unconventional – or difficult - way of carving out an existence for oneself: a squatter on land in an urban neighborhood that initially doesn’t feel safe. But it turns out the garbage strewn lot next to her apartment and Oakland’s “down and out qualities” are just right for Carpenter and her boyfriend, Bill, to put down roots of all kinds.
The rollicking good ride we get to go on with Carpenter includes massive slug extermination in which the slimy, primitive creatures are ripped in two and then squished between boards (this is organic gardening, after all), prolifically pooping poultry, bees, pigs, rabbits, dumpster diving and scrounged stuff from street corners. Carpenter possesses a love of making something useful again, which she describes as “resurrecting the abandoned.” The folks we meet come to life on the page: Lana (“anal spelled backwards”), monks, men that live in wheelless parked cars. The farm changes the neighborhood and the author. Against odds and convention, Carpenter not only exists, but she thrives.
I can’t wait to meet her this week!
~ Donna McClurkan, Reading Together Steering Committee