US: Gardening, animal husbandry go to town in 'Farm City'
Posted: June 25th, 2009 - 8:48am
Source: USA Today
Novella Carpenter has one word of advice for first lady Michelle Obama: chickens.
Carpenter, author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer (Penguin, 269 pp., $25.95), was gardening in the inner city years before the Obamas turned sod in March for their vegetable garden at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Carpenter's environs just aren't quite as fancy. Her garden is in a drug-riddled area of downtown Oakland. Her neighbors live in abandoned cars. Gunshots are not uncommon, nor are prostitutes. And her watermelons get stolen.
But "this is an amazing place to grow food," says Carpenter, 36, of the Bay Area. "You can grow year-round."
Carpenter began her garden in an abandoned, garbage-strewn lot next to her ramshackle apartment house in 2003. Over the years she has raised bees, rabbits, chickens, pigs and two turkeys named Harold and Maude. She has moved on to goats. Six of them. This is in addition to peas and raspberries, beans and tomatoes, carrots and melons.
And lucky for her, it's a bad economy. Her garden plot, where she has been squatting now for almost six years, has been sold for development, but Carpenter feels confident nothing will happen on the site for a few more years.
The burgeoning urban gardening movement also is good for Carpenter, who is writing a how-to book, due next June. She also has opened an urban farming supply store in South Berkeley, offering such necessities as chicken feed and bales of straw.
"More and more people are starting to see (urban gardening's) advantages, accepting it as a way to eat healthy," she says.
But the best thing she has realized about city gardening isn't so much eating what you grow but sharing it with neighbors.
As for chickens for the Obamas, Carpenter says the suggestion is practical, because her own chickens have proven so useful in the garden.
"Their manure is good, and it's good for kids to collect warm, brown eggs. It's part of the balance of keeping a garden. I call it chicken television."