Thursday, August 19, 2010

Farm City

I just finished reading Novella Carpenter's Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, which is now out in paperback. I don't think for a second that this very successful book needs my endorsement, but I'm happy to add my voice to the choir.

I relished Novella's account of establishing a little farm on an empty lot in Oakland's "Ghost Town" (28th Street). Her story focuses less on veggies and more on bees and critters, which I didn't realize until I dug into the book. Bay Area folks will recognize many landmarks, including Eccolo on 4th Street in Berkeley, which figures prominently in the story. (I've had many enjoyable lunches there, but my computer tells me it's closed now.)

As someone who teaches a class on California culture, I'm especially interested in the tension between two proximate but incompatible approaches to food production and consumption. In the Bay Area, we hear a lot about Michael Pollan's critique of the industrial food system, the Slow Food movement, flourishing organic and farmers' markets, etc. An hour's drive away, UC Davis researchers are pushing back the frontiers of Frankenfood. (I just read on the Food Science & Technology department's website that one faculty member was honored by the Frozen Food Foundation.) Both represent different aspects of the California Dream: one that reveres nature and the environment, the other high-tech.

I had the pleasure of meeting Novella briefly at a Berkeley Library Foundation event earlier this year, and a Bay Area News Group Q & A with her graced my daily newspaper, the West County Times, yesterday.

Novella has been keeping a blog about her experiences, too. She seems to be on hiatus now, but it sounds like she'll be back soon.


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