Book Giveaway: Farm City by Novella Carpenter

In conjunction with the Eat Real Festival in Oakland last weekend, urban farm gal Novella Carpenter hosted an all day soiree at Ghost Town/Goat Town Farm, the one depicted in her very funny food memoir released earlier this summer. I swung by the event, which drew a steady crowd, to see what’s growing in the author’s garden (lots), sample some of Grandma’s peach cobbler, and ask Novella to sign a copy of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer. (For the uninitiated — and locavores — she’ll be reading at Mrs. Dalloway’s in Berkeley this Sunday.)

So, attention all city farmers and wannabe urban homesteaders: There’s a free, autographed Farm City to the person who writes the most entertaining comment about their endeavors growing or raising their own food in the asphalt jungle (or their fantasies about doing the same).

Do you have a tale to tell about a veggie patch planted in the ‘hood that produced nary a thing to eat? Have you devised innovative strategies to keep metro-dwelling predators at bay? Are you contemplating or already raising bees, chickens, goats — or even a cow — in city limits?

Bring it on. Tell us a witty, eye-opening, or inspiring snippet about city farming and I’ll pick a winner by 10 P.M. PST on Monday, September 7, which just happens to be Labor Day. Happy Harvesting.

Update: Thanks to all for creative comments about the joys and challenges of city farming.  It was hard to single out just one entry but the autographed copy of Farm City goes to….Velma for her planted chicken story (scroll below for details). The author herself judged the comp and Novella noted that she chose Velma because she was moved by the childhood innocence of her tale.

Velma: Send me your contact details and I’ll ship the book off to you. My email is:

Thanks again for playing. And stay tuned for a school food book giveaway later this month.


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26 Responses to “Book Giveaway: Farm City by Novella Carpenter”

  1. carol Says:

    sounds like a great read

  2. susan varney Says:

    watch your veggies don’t get run over

  3. Rona Says:

    Great idea! I’ll try to submit something soon. How should I get it to you? Didn’t see an email address anywhere. Thanks!

  4. Sarah Henry Says:

    Rona, Just leave a comment here and I’ll pick a winner from the pack & we’ll swap contact details then.

  5. Christine V Says:

    big wind blew away my zucchini plants, but, my tomato plants are bigger than me!

  6. Anne Hamersky Says:

    One unusually hot San Francisco summer a number of years ago, I was growing a bumper crop of luscious tomatoes in Noe Valley. Our son, Joey was a wee tot back then, so we also had a plastic wading pool in our urban backyard. One balmy night, through our opened windows, we heard an unusual noise in the garden. We turned on the outside lights and what did we see? Much to our astonishment, a family of raccoons was busy washing their…OUR tomatoes in the purple plastic pool and making a huge racket. A shock and a delight that I’ll never forget. “Oh well, we do have enough tomatoes to go around,” we thought!

  7. Colleen S Says:

    I made a cute wreath out of sunflower heads for a Fall decoration outside. Later that winter I spread the decorative hay bale in the garden along with the wreath. We are now engulfed in sunflowers.

  8. Elsie Says:

    Nothing quite like my city farm,
    A few tales that might alarm…
    I have critters in the night,
    They scurry to meet and have a bite…

    Both 4 legged and the 2 legged kind,
    And bicycles that pillage through,
    Grabbing corn and melons too,
    What’s a lady left to do,

    …Became a scarecrow and stood so still,
    And waited til the moon was full…
    And jumped at those who dared to come
    Into my garden, every one!

  9. Nancy Says:

    Last summer I was entranced by the Tumbling Tom tomatoes cascading out of a hanging basket at the farmer’s market. So this year I purchased the seeds at the local nursery and planted them in a rectangular planter that I placed in full sun on our old wooden deck. The plants were growing nicely and putting on flowers. One day I was watering the planter when a thin top layer of wood splintered up from the deck and I accidently walked into it since I was looking at my plants and not the deck. The thin plank of splinters stabbed into the top of my foot, spearing me. (I was wearing shoes at the time.) Later my husband removed what he could find of the splinters. The foot was painful, swollen, red and bruised and a few days later I went to the doctor who removed more deeply embedded splinters. My gusto for gardening decreased as I was hobbling around on my painful foot for a couple of months. At the end of the summer my husband was clearing up planters from the deck and emptied the Tumbling Tom tomato planter. He did bring me a prize – a single Tumbling Tom tomato, the entire crop from my endeavor. As I washed it and popped it into my mouth, I decided it had better be delicious. When you include the planting supplies and the doctor’s bill, that single tiny tomato cost me several hundred dollars as well as a lot of pain! The moral of this story is: Be careful when you container garden on an old wooden deck!

  10. Aisling Says:

    My son has a small house on a small lot in a small city, but his vegetable garden is fantastic. It covers basically the entire backyard and he grows everything from asparagus and kale to spinach and zucchini. He shares with friends, family and neighbors. People stop by frequently and ask to buy some of his produce or seeds which he then gives to them. Sometimes people steal food from the garden (as do the rabbits and other small wildlife in the neighborhood). He just laughs and says he has plenty to go around and at least they’re getting something that’s healthy for them.

  11. Benita Says:

    I’m a city girl, so growing veggies is out. But, I do belong to a food coop. The premise is simple. We pay for a share, just like a coop. There is a farm upstate that we can visit. Every week they bring our food and we divvy it up. Some years we get lots of food. Some years we get little. Well, this year was not good at all. With so much rain, most of our crops were destroyed. It is a pity. We depend so much on food and have absolutely no control over the myriad conditions effecting its growth and bringing it out to us. I am very respectful of all who make that possible, from the farmers, to the people who cook it. It is truly a labor of love.


  12. Rona Says:

    About a month or so ago, I got it into my head to start growing a garden in the terraced yard space behind my apartment building. Notice I said apartment, not condo. Luckily, the landlord decided to have the whole yard weed-whacked around the same time, so the jungle of urban weeds (most notably ragweed which made me sneeze and scratch my neck every time I went back there) had been cleared for me, the would-be gardener. I promptly bought a few heirloom tomato starts, which I eventually put in the ground. There were some old cages back there from a neighbor’s gardening efforts–said neighbor had moved away about a year earlier, so I didn’t think anything of using the abandoned materials. Plus, I was pretty broke. Then, a few weeks after my tomatoes had been planted and staked on the cages, I looked out my window and noticed that my tomatoes were drooping towards the ground. Someone had stolen my cages! I went to the backyard and looked everywhere, but they could not be found. Annoyed and sad, I got on Facebook and posted my predicament in my status update. Within minutes, I had offers of at least five new cages, with sympathetic messages from friends about how ‘low-down’ and ‘wrong’ it was for someone to steal my cages. I felt happy to get replacements, and my tomatoes hadn’t been pulled out of the ground or anything, but I was still confused as to why anyone would want to take a few metal wire frames in the first place. The next day, I got a voicemail message from my old neighbor, yes the one who’d left behind the tomato cages a year earlier: “Hi, Rona, I’m your old neighbor Barbara [name changed to protect the guilty]. I don’t know if you were the one growing those tomato plants in the backyard, but I had left those cages back there over a year ago when I moved to Marin and I really needed them back…”

  13. Ed Nemmers Says:

    I would like to be a big city farmer!

  14. Donna Hunt Says:

    While I was growing up, my parents had a garden on the side of our house–complete with a mulch heap. When I was seven, we had a watermelon in the summer and I asked my dad what would happen if we put the seeds in this mulch heap. He told me he wasn’t sure so we’d try it and find out. Nothing happened that we could see and we eventually forgot all about it. Just before the next summer, when it started getting warm outside again, my dad went past the mulch heap on his way to water the tomatoes and found a watermelon just beginning to peak out of the pile. We left it alone for awhile and ended up having home-grown watermelon for about a month and a half–and I have never tasted a sweeter fruit! Thank you for the contest!

  15. Sarah Z Says:

    This would be perfect for my sister, she keeps talking about wanting to grow a garden and can food – she has even started by trying to make sweet pickles! My only story is tomatoes on my porch but I just caught tomato worms on them – big fat ones!

  16. Melanie Says:

    We used to live in the country and farming and gardening was easy and fun.
    Now living in a suburb of the city, I have to deal with disgusting creatures…MOLES! They are completely destroying my vegetables, and I don’t like it.

  17. Velma G Says:

    Because my father was so frugal he made sure we did not waste any food. He would grow tomatoes, peppers, okra, cucumbers, watermelons, greens, and beans. We ate so many vegetables that I thought I would turn green. We rarely had meat. One day I asked why is it we don’t have chicken. My father replied- “We can’t grow chickens.” Well as the story was told to me, I took all of my toy and stuffed animals and planted them. When my father saw what I had done we had chicken that night.

  18. Amy Tucker Says:

    I tried indoor gardening this year. I did not realize that you should plant seeds in early, early spring indoors. Ironically, it is now September and my tomato plants are just starting to grow. I planted in June. Oops…maybe the tomatoes will be ready for next spring.

  19. Marjorie Whitney Says:

    With my first attempt at suburban gardening, I discovered just how close to the surface shale is in our area… Next year container gardening, perhaps?

  20. Gabriel J. Says:

    Great read, great contest!

  21. susan smoaks Says:

    to garden in the city we use the aerogarden!

  22. Marci Says:

    If you like tomatoes and don’t have the room the topsy turvy does really work….GREAT!

  23. Jill Says:

    I garden in the country now, but in college… we had a (rescued) pet goat where we weren’t really allowed to, but no one ever said a word. He was quite the character- he was raised with our dog, and the goat truly thought he was a German Shepherd too. He loved to go for walks and would get very upset (and LOUD) if we took our dog for a walk and didn’t take him along.

  24. Ilissa Says:

    Sounds fabulous. I don’t have a garden but I’d really like to start one. I’m sure this would teach me a thing or two about getting started!

  25. Lily Kwan Says:

    I saw a news report on city dwellers raising chickens and that got me thinking about doing that too.

  26. Janet Says:

    sounds like a really great read

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