Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Farm City by Novella Carpenter – Giveaway!

farm city cover

Sometimes the back-to-the-landers don’t stay out there in the wild. Sometimes they come closer to civilization and become teachers or executive directors. And sometimes they spawn what we know as the urban homesteader. Novella Carpenter is the spawn of frontier-dwelling back-to-the-landers and she now tills the land of Ghost Town Farm in the Oakland ghetto. At the start of her book “Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer” Novella makes clear that a) she is not a hippy, and b) that she saw the effects of remote and hard country living on her parents, and c) that city life is her way of keeping that loneliness and boredom at bay.

I have been imploring everyone I know to read this book. This is true urban homesteading: growing a portion of your own food, preserving your homegrown harvest, overcoming challenges that city life presents, and sharing the joy of connecting to your food and the land. Novella also writes about the stink and the mess of living this way. There is blood and poop and frustration, as well as gorgeously fresh and delicious food in living this way. She delivers with candor and humor the reasons for doing things this way. Her stories steer clear of foodie superiority and elitist preciousness – not a Wolf range or granite counter top in sight – and that is incredibly refreshing. I’ve said enough. Read this book.


To be entered into a drawing to win a copy of “Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer”, leave a comment below and tell us “What are you reading?”. We want to know!


Winner!! Comment #58 goes to Margaret – congratulations!! Drop an email with your mailing address. Stay tuned for more giveaways soon, folks!


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69 Responses to “Farm City by Novella Carpenter – Giveaway!”

  1. I am reading 2 books Texas Organic Gardening, and another on vining plants and trellises…which is not with me now so I can’t quote the exact title. I live on Main Str. in my home town and I have a large garden and chickens. I would love to read Farm City and check out our similar experiences. Thanks, Rosanne Mays

  2. Jim Johnson Says:

    I am currently reading A Nation of Farmers by Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton. It was a birthday present from my wife to help me make the transition from not knowing how to grow a thing into an urban homestead. Farm City sounds like a terrific book!

  3. I’m reading “1491” a book about the indigenous people of the Americas before white Europeans came. It’s fascinating and full of information most of us never learned in school. In particular – there’s a lot of discussion about the agriculture of these ancient nations. I recommend it!

  4. Chris Goddard Says:

    I’m reading “PrairyErth” by William Least-Heat Moon. It’s a stunningly good book and I strongly recommend it. It’s about a small rural Kansas County (Chase County) and it’s told from multiple perspectives; history, economy, geology, geneology, etc. The best description I read of the book was that it is a ‘deep map’ and that I totally agree with…. p.s. 1491 is a good read to 🙂

  5. I’m reading Jill Richardson’s “Recipe for America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It”. It’s a great book from a long-time eco-foodie blogger.

  6. Emma Thurston Says:

    Just finished reading _The Organic Life_ by Joan Dye Gussow. Great to read an intensive gardening book from someone in the northeast (seems many of them are usually out west). Currently reading _Walk in the Woods_ by Bill Bryson, about his experience walking the Appalachian Trail, and _Organic Gardening Under Glass_ by George & Katie Abraham, an old book that belongs to my dad.

  7. I just finished rereading Baudolino by Umberto Eco, and now I’m reading McGee and Stucker’s Bountiful Container.

  8. I’m reading Urban Homesteading by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutsen. I’d have to say it’s pretty much the perfect manifesto for the sustainable city dwellers, and I’m honored to see them here on Can’t wait to check out Novella’s book too!

  9. I’m reading Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food — The Myth of Nutrition and the Pleasure of Eating” (Also called “In Defense of Food — An Eater’s Manifesto).

    I decided to read this follow up book to his “The Omnivore’s Dilemma — A Natural History of Four Meals” which I enjoyed tremendously, and learned something new and interesting from on every page. (…Did you know that cows weren’t built to digest corn and that, although it fattens them up quickly, they’re essentially sick every day they eat it? Did you know that 38 ingredients make up a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget and that 16 of those are corn products? )

    We currently live out in the country, but how long we’ll be able to stay out here depends on the economy. We may well find ourselves back in the city within the year. We’ve been thinking a lot lately about what we can take back with us — and how to do it.

  10. I am reading Wendell Berry’s “Unsettling of America” which is an intensive analysis of our country’s loss for agricultural and agrarian values, the need for better foresight and care of our land in harmony with nature.

    I am also reading The Santa Monica Farmers Market Cookbook which is far more than a cookbook, but a beautiful read about the farmers, the growers and the market that brings thousands together weekly since 1981. I have found it to be a wonderful surprise of a book.

  11. Just finished 2 fantastic books – ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life’ and ‘The Road’ – I highly recommend both.

    This morning I started ‘Our Enemy the State’ by Albert Jay Nock in 1936.

  12. Ty Eng Lim Says:

    I’m reading Eric Toensmeier’s “Perennial Vegetables” which is not only a easy to read and well-designed reference for awesome plants which give and give and give, but also an excellent book to read cover to cover for special tips on the special needs of perennials and the beauty of polycultures. This is a must read for all gardeners, particularly ones interested in low-maintenance growing in all settings.

  13. Thanks for the heads-up about this book! I just recently read “Deeply Rooted” by Lisa Hamilton and thoroughly enjoyed it. This looks like another good one. It’s my late grandmother’s birthday today and she was able to grow just about anything. The resourcefulness I value and enjoy – comes straight from her.

  14. I’ve been reading H.C. Flores’ book “Food Not Lawns; How to turn your yard into a garden and your neighborhood into a community” ~ it’s a FANTASTIC book that is so inspiring!! We’re really trying to not just provide for ourselves, but to bring back that community that has been lost when everyone spends all their time locked up inside sealed homes.
    I also just finished reading “Toolbox for Sustainable City Living” from the folks (names are blanking on me at the moment) at the Rhizome Collective in Texas. THAT book REALLY blew me out of the water!! WOW!!
    I highly recommend both books to anyone looking for a good read. “Farm City” sounds pretty darn good too. Now if I can only get my City Council to grasp that this notion, this way of living, isn’t going to destroy life as they know it. 😛 ha haha

  15. just finished “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan and started “Toolbox for Sustainable City Living”. can’t wait to dig into Farm city.

  16. Erika Valberg Says:

    Currently I’m reading HEIRLOOM-Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer by Tim Stark. It’s sorta a biography of him growing up in both Chicago to New York to Pennsylvania. How he didn’t mean to, but became an heirloom tomato farmer then pepper farmer. It’s a very easy read and captivating at the same time. 🙂 I’m also reading a few informational books on growing Heirloom tomatoes. This is my first year for growing the Heirloom tomatos from seeds. It’s very exciting. 🙂 The largest ones are about the size of golf balls right now. I’m getting impatient for them to ripen….but patience is a virtue. 🙂

  17. I just checked the Multnomah County Library online, and it has 8 copies of City Farmer and there are already 190 holds placed on those 8 copies. Portlanders are __really__ into urban farming. I suppose that if I’m going to read that book this year, I’m going to have to buy a copy.

    I, too, am reading A Nation of Farmers by Astyk and Newton. It may take some kind of prize for the longest sub-subtitle since those really long ones from the 18th century. Its subtitle is “Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil” and its sub-subtitle is “How City Farmers, Backyard Chicken Enthusiasts, Victory Gardeners, Small Family Farms, Kids in Edible Schoolyards, Cooks in their Kitchens, and Passionate Eaters Everywhere Can Overthrow our Destructive Industrial Agriculture, and Give us Hope for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness in a Changing World.” Whew!

    A Nation of Farmers also includes a line so perfect and so perspicacious and so perfect that I am using it for a signature on all my email these days:

    “We will never transform our nation and our culture, never even succeed at forestalling disaster in the long term, unless we remember that producing food and eating are sources of joy, the origin of most rituals of human connection, and the expression of human generosity and love.”

  18. I’m reading a book called “Little Bee”. I’m halfway through this wonderful story about a nigerian refugee and the brittish woman who takes her in…

    great giveaway, I’ve been eyeing this book!

  19. Reading — or trying to read… going to have to just buy it. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.
    And many other gardening books,..

    Working on reading more… but with my toddler it just been hard. Thanks

  20. I’m about six pages away from finishing “The Vertigo Years” by Philip Blom – thanks for all of the great next reco’s everyone! Hope I win the book, hint hint – very inspiring topic for us city dwellers…

  21. I’m not reading anything because I just finished a summer class on Don Quixote and fall semester starts next week (OIY!)… but every night I’ve been delving into some of the recipes and commentary from the book “Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden: Creative Gardening for the Adventurous Cook” by David Hirsch. It’s a Moosewood book, so you know the recipes are fantastic!

  22. peggy robinson Says:

    This is sad, but true. I am reading my Johnny’s Seed Catalog and picking out my seeds for the fall. Some new Spinach varieties and lettuce. Big time planting cabbage to put our German Crock to good use.

    Also reading a great book on Effective Microorganisms.

  23. I am currently reading The Solar Food Dryer and The Backyard Homestead. Both books I would highly recommend. The Backyard Homestead gets me so excited every time I open it up. The possibilities it lays out are so inspiring. The Solar Food Dryer is also excellent and I wish I had more time to build one this year for the summer harvest. I’m sure it will make a fun to work on project this winter though when the rain will be forcing us indoors!

  24. Currently reading: Coop, A year of poultry, pigs and parenting by Michael Perry. It’s a fun read, I had the chance to meet him at a local library reading and I enjoyed his style.

    I am awaiting my landlords blessing to have chickens in my backyard in Seattle. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

  25. I am reading Piet Oudolf’s Dream Plants for the Natural Garden. This guy is a rock star and I love all the gardens that I’ve seen of his. I’m setting aside a wildflower garden in the yard this year and I’m using his gardens as an inspiration. We’ll see how it goes!

  26. I’VE been reading worms eat my garbage ,as a avid composter living in the suburbs this would be a great way to reduce landfill waste as well as giving back to the garden.
    For my fellow Floridians I can recommend the seasonal Florida cookbook it has everything from seafood to wild game to all things that can be grown here from a 5th generation floridian .

  27. My current reading pile includes Douglas Adams – the Hitchhikers Guide series (again!), My Organic Gardening book that I always flick through as the seasons change, and a large handful of blogs which are great inspiration 🙂
    I’m not sure if this post is intended for everyone around the world or if it’s closed to just American readers? But If you’re happy to send to New Zealand, then count me in 🙂

  28. I have been reading the Internet. I have been doing this since last week when I finished a book. But I have not started a new book yet, so currently, I can only honestly say, “I am reading the Internet!”

  29. Oh, my. The stack in the kitchen is tall with the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, Putting Food By and various cookbooks. Elsewhere, I’ve got partway through How to Survive Anywhere (Christopher Nyerges), Starting a New Life in Rural America (Ragnar Benson), and The Contrary Farmer ( Gene Lodgson).

  30. i’m reading barbara kingsolver’s “animal, vegetable, miracle.” not as easy being sustainable as you’d think. but it’s worth a try!

  31. Ronald Pottol Says:

    Looks good, I’ve read her article about turkeys and such in Salon.

  32. I am currently reading Putting Food By as I put up my seasonal harvest.

  33. Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, Paddling Minnesota-Falcon guide, and A Sand County Almanac – Aldo Leopold… for the umteenth time. 🙂

  34. Cynthia Putman Says:

    A collection of cookbooks published in the 1920’s and that remind me how pure my ancestors were in their daily lives.

  35. […] » Blog Archive » Farm City by Novella Carpenter – Giveaway! – view page – cached RSS Feed » Farm City by Novella Carpenter – Giveaway! Comments Feed Corn salutations! Member blog: CynthiaR on The Art of Kefir Making — From the page […]

  36. Food Matters by Mark Bittman, who writes the Minimalist column for the NY Times. It’s all you need to know about the importance of eating simple, real, whole food, and how to find it and cook it as easily and affordably as the over-processed packaged food that most Americans swallow way too much of. Follow his advice and you’ll eat amazing, local, healthy cuisine, reduce your carbon footprint and your waistline, and really enjoy cooking from scratch again.

  37. I too am reading In Defense of Food along with Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Both books are aligned in their messages and wonderfully written.

  38. Put me down for In Defense of Food too, I’ve read about 1/2 way and really enjoy the book. In addition, I’ve been reading the 3 and 4 Ingredient Cookbook.

  39. I am currently reading Understanding Three Dimensions, and considering the space around me. Love hearing W LH Moon read aloud.

  40. I’m reading “How to Grow More Vegetables…than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine” by John Jeavons. It’s a must-have for urban gardeners like us, and really teaches you to fully utilize every inch of space.

    I’m also reading “Bringing it to the Table” by Wendell Berry – a collection of essays on agriculture and food. If you thought Omnivore’s Dilemma, or any of Pollan’s books, were good, Berry’s the guy who inspired him.

    Running our own urban homestead in St. Louis, we’re always picking up helpful and relevant reading material. Novella Carpenter’s book has been on our list for weeks now.

  41. Barrie Petersen Says:

    I am finishing “My life in France”, Julia Child memoir .
    A must read for any food lover.
    Very inspiring story of how someone discovers their passion.

  42. I’m reading 2 books right now…
    The River Family Cottage Cookbook. My son and I are having so much fun trying the recipes!! So much goodness in this book, not to mention great info as to the why’s and brief history of in front of each section. They are all kid friendly and very rustic. I love it!!
    The other book I’m currently reading is; Seven Times the Sun, Guiding Your Child Through the Rhythms of the Day by Shea Darian. Really great parenting resource for daily life. Here are the publisher’s notes;
    A one-of-a-kind book–full of ideas, reflections, and practical advice offering a fresh view of daily life in the home and family. Weaving songs, stories, family rituals, and verses throughout…” So far we’re diggin’ this book as well.
    I would love to receive Novella’s book! It sounds so insightful and I love how in the description it seems to not candy coat everything, but with humor 😀
    Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  43. I’m reading “The Soul of a Chef”…a book about my other passion, cooking fantastic food!

  44. I’m reading Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It’s been eye-opening, and I’m only halfway.

    Would love to read Farm City too.

  45. I Ajust started A Thousand Days in Tuscany, by Marlena De Blasi while I await the 5 cookbooks I just ordered.

  46. Currently I am reading Food Not Lawns by Heather C. Flores it is very inspiring! And for a little fun I just started Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart.
    Now I can’t wait to get my hands on this book, seems like it will be a good companion to Food Not Lawns:)

  47. Rachel Levi Says:

    I just finished The Earth Users Guide to Permaculture by Rosemary Morrow. A good over view of the what, why and how of designing as if people and the planet mattered.

  48. I just started the book The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. I’ve only read the first a couple pages but so far, so good. I love her books!

  49. I am reading Michael Pollan’s “Second Nature.” This book sounds excellent – I will read it next!

  50. I am reading “Path of Empowerment- Pleiadian wisdom for a world in chaos” by Barbara Marciniak which is excellent so far imho. Lots of advice on eating and living sustainably if and when the twinkies hit the fan.

  51. OK, all of these incredible comments have inspired two thoughts:
    1. We need a bookstore / library section on – I’ll work on that over the next few weeks.
    2. You people have incredible web sites and blogs!!! Please show off to the entire HOMEGROWN community by re-posting relevant posts from your site to the Member Blog section. I know, it’s hard to remember stuff like that when you’re managing your own site, but you’ll see, it works! I regularly showcase a select number of those member blogs on the home page of

    Keep up the comments! I’ll be assigning sequential numbers to each comment and using the random # generator to determine a winner on Monday.

  52. I’m almost done with “Scripture, Culture and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible” by Ellen Davis of Duke Divinity School. She’s an Old Testament scholar. It is a wonderful nerdy theological trip through the Old Testament and connecting her interpretations up with the new agrarians.

  53. I have just begun “The Duty of Delight: Diaries of Dorothy Day” a book that compiles fifty years of Day’s writings. It swings back and forth from her time in the country on Catholic Worker Farms to her days in the city at the Houses of Hospitality. A true joy to read.

  54. My latest issue of Mother Earth News!!!!! I can’t seem to put down my Peterson Field Guide of Edible Wild Plants (Eastern/Central North America) and my Florida Wild Flowers and Roadside Plants.

  55. I just started both – A homemade life: stories and recipes from my kitchen table by Molly Wizenberg & Voices from the heart: a compassionate call for responsibility edited by Eddie and Debbie Shapiro.

  56. i’m reading a bit of bill mollison’s “PERMACULTURE: a designers’ manual” every day — it’s textbook length, full of great info and ideas for creating self- and human-sustaining ecosystems in any context. i also just started “world as lover, world as self” by joanna macy on a recommendation from a friend, and already am enjoying her approach to keeping up your spirits while doing the hard work of restoring ecosystems and communities.

  57. While drinking my morning coffee I read a book about growing and cultivating succulents and cacti. It’s very entertaining at 6am.

  58. I am trying to slog my way through Permaculture a designers manual. Somehow I do not think that casual reading is what he had in mind when he wrote this one. Still it is something that I will use a lot if I get some acreage, if not, I will need to adapt some of the ideas.

  59. […] gorgeous bags!) > more janis > then back to make grow gather to find this gem of a space: homegrown where I immediately became a member and cannot wait to dive in to the recipes, photos, ideas, and […]

  60. Emily Powell Says:

    I am reading “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature” by Janine M. Benyus

  61. I live in Chicago and farm a few backyards there. I can’t imagine living in the country, I’m such a city girl. Sometimes I think I want to move to the country, to a more rural place, but I know Chicago can and does coexist with nature, and in fact is nature, so I remind myself I am already there. I love to see the small connections people are making here in the city with nature, and what an impact even having a potted plant on a balcony can make, both aesthetically and ecologically. I’m reading Confederacy of Dunces, and Awakening the Mind, Lightening the Heart, by the Dalai Lama.

  62. Michelle from Iowa Says:

    I’m reading Square Foot Gardening- over and over and over! What an awesome concept! We have four beds started and will be building more next year. I would love to win the book!

  63. I just finished “Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate” by Wendy Johnson – a long, but very wonderful story about the evolution of the organic garden at the Green Gulch Farm run by the San Francisco Zen Center. I love all the suggestions for further reading, and can’t wait to get started on a new book!

  64. Wowsers, I feel like such a wanker for only reading Fidelity by Wendell Berry! I am certainly going back over these comments with a pen and paper to add to my must read list! What a great idea. Most recent books of relevance, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral and the Omnivore’s Dilemma, then I needed something to clear my head so switched over to Wendell!

  65. Not reading any gardening books right now, but I will be making a list of the above books and get a’readin!

  66. I’m reading The Total Package, an interesting book about the evolution of modern packaging as sales devices. Also, I will be picking up What Would Jane Say? – a critique of the Burnham and Bennett Plan of Chicago from the hypothetical perspective of Jane Adams.

  67. Margaret wins the book! Thanks for participating everyone! There will be more giveaways soon.

  68. Novella passed through Portland and was interviewed for The Oregonian. Here is a link to that interview:

  69. […] Carpenter, the Farm City author and beloved blogger who raises livestock on a small plot of inner-city Oakland, CA, has long […]

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