Anyone who’s followed this blog knows my love for Cormac McCarthy and knows how over the past year I’ve become a big Spaghetti Western fan. Well, Novella Carpenter might as well pull up a chair and sit with my all-time favorite macho-masculine-tough guys. Novella is the author of the latest book I read, Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer.
It doesn’t appear the ‘Green Revolution’ will be going anywhere anytime soon. And really, that’s fine with me. American car companies have vowed to make cars with better gas mileage, the Smart Car has made the trip over from Europe so you can now see them driving our streets no matter how hopelessly out of place they look next to a GM Yukon, sustainability organizations are cropping up all over the country…It’s really nice to see this movement catch on with such fervor. But my favorite aspect of this new revolution is the community gardens ‘sprouting’ all over the place. Seeing kids and adults alike clearing out rusty metal scraps, old hot water tanks, tires, and other detritus from abandoned lots can’t help but bring a smile to my face. But did you know there are some people in this country, some crazy zealots out there who are taking this one step further.
Case in point: Novella Carpenter. This nomadic, hippie generation offspring works an operating farm in an abandoned lot next to her house. In the ghetto of Oakland, CA no less. That’s right, in one of the worst neighborhoods on the Left Coast, this strong, young, able woman is raising crops, chickens, pigs, heck she even has a bee hive for honey, while not two blocks away drug dealers command city corners and gun shots ring out nightly. Now, I started a garden last year. Sure, I have tomatoes, onions, green beans, and peppers in a small 8x12 patch in my backyard. I can make some salsa here and there; I compliment my dinner with some fresh green beans. I have onions to last me until December 2012, but did it ever cross my mind to take it a step further, become totally sustainable with meat, fresh eggs, and a bee colony? Ummm….no. And you know what else I found out? It’s not just Ms. Carpenter. Urban agriculture is all the rage in some areas around the country. In Queens, NY there is an urban farm. The best part? These new farms get the community involved. Most of them have volunteer and education programs. Kids that live in a food desert can actually work the soil and see where their produce comes from. Truly amazing!
Note: After emailing Novella to gush and awkwardly tell her how cool I think she is, she told me that she and another urban farmer from the Oakland area are coming out with a book next June. In the meantime, be sure to also check out Brian Halweil’s Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket and Carla Emery’s The Encyclopedia of Country Living :An Old Fashioned Recipe Book .