Saturday, February 26, 2011

Visit "Farm City" in Oakland this weekend

One of my favorite books of the last couple years is "Farm City" by Novella Carpenter, about her daily efforts to raise her own vegetables and meat in one of the worst areas of Oakland.

If you have read the book, there's a happy ending you might not know about. Carpenter simply began raising vegetables, pigs and goats on an empty lot without the owner's permission (he eventually gave it), but she worried constantly that he would build on it, sell it, or simply lock her out.

Late last year, the owner sold her the lot; that's not in the book. I cheered aloud when I found out.

On Sunday, Feb. 27, Carpenter is holding a farm pop-up stand at her home to sell produce raised in one of the toughest spots in the Bay Area. The details, also on Novella Carpenter's blog, are these:

Feb. 27, 11 a.m. -- 2 p.m.
665 28th St., Oakland (actually in the adjacent lot, which is her Farm)
For sale at her farm: Chard, kale, rabbit pot pies, braising mix (whatever that is), nettle tea, chai made with Carpenter's honey
For sale several blocks away: Crack, heroin, short-term sexual encounters

A little more about the book: Carpenter, who studied journalism under Michael Pollan at UC Berkeley, writes in a frank style about her failures and mishaps and joys.

She had already been foraging in Chinatown dumpsters for expired produce to feed her pigs when she learned they needed protein, so she began bringing them bags of fish guts (ewww.) She used both her car and those of her friends to transport buckets of horse manure as fertilizer (ewww.)

She decided to try to survive for an entire month on only the products raised on her farm. An unexpected consequence of her unbalanced diet was that her partner complained about her bad breath, and she had to cook him a special meal hoping that he would, in her words, give her some meat.

She picks up a box full of honeybees from a nervous post office and rides home with them on her bicycle. She is accosted on the street by a teenager with a gun, and she shames him into backing down by asking what his mother would think.

That's why it's a great book: It's not like a Pollan book, and I like those, but it's not about theories of nutrition or man's relationship to nature or anything like that. It's about what it's like to try to recapture your chickens when they're running around your very urban street. I can't recommend it highly enough. And mmm, rabbit pot pie.


Anonymous said...

Rabbit pot pie and short term sexual encounters go together like Sauternes and foie gras.

Kent Benson said...

Blake, perhaps I'm very late to this party, but it sounds like you would enjoy the British series, Good Neighbors (The Good Life in the UK), if you haven't already seen it.