Farming in the City

Those who believe they can’t garden or raise animals for food simply because they live in a city should meet Novella Carpenter. The Oakland, California, journalist is turning an abandoned lot next door into a fruitful and functioning farm, and she’s blogging about it at City Farmer.

Chickens, rabbits, ducks, pigs—the farm produces more than just vegetables. There is a beehive for honey, though Colony Collapse Disorder has struck the farm as well, and fruit trees for canning projects (Novella was busy making pectin from green apples earlier this month). Sustainability is a prime concern at City Farmer, and just about everything is reused or recycled: There is a system for reusing waste water, and even garden snails find their purpose, on the plate with garlic butter. The animals are not just for company: A recent recipe for rabbit begins with the instructions to “kill and clean one rabbit.”

What you really get to see, while reading the blog, is the joy and heartbreak of small-scale farming. There is the death of a flock of chickens due to predators, nursing a sick turkey back to life, and the work of hand pollinating the fruit trees when the bees disappear.

But at the base of it all is the pleasure of raising your own food.

Last night we ate a salad and fava beans and afterward he [visiting friend Andy] said it was the best meal ever. Freshness does count, doesn’t it? I feel like the food from the garden has more nutrients, we don’t have to eat as much to feel full. It makes me so happy to feed the people (and animals) I love food from the garden.

In fact, in July Novella spent a month eating only food from the garden—what she called the “100-yard diet.” She has written about her farm adventures for Salon, and a book about the experience, Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, is forthcoming from Penguin.

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