Posts Tagged ‘farm city’


In the war between Human Civilization and Mother Nature, the abundance of big box stores, pavement, freeways and housing developments may signal that Team Industrialization is winning.  However, some creative and enterprising Homo sapiens are not willing to let the world go the way of the machine without a good fight.

The guerrilla gardening movement allies plants with gardeners who install them in public or private spaces that they themselves do not own.  This type of clandestine cultivation transforms neglected or abandoned properties through the creation of full vegetable gardens,  seed or plant “bombing, art installations or green graffiti.  Much of the movement’s guiding principles are centered around the notions of food independence, land reform, ecological awareness and environmental reclamation.

Modern incarnations of guerrilla gardening take almost as many forms as the plants themselves, beginning with the coining of the term in the 1970’s by Liz Christy and the Green Guerillas, who revitalized a New York plot by establishing a community garden.  By throwing “green-aids”, or seed bombs over the fence of their target site, they began colonizing the vacant lot with fruits and vegetables.  After hauling away trash and amending the soil, the Guerillas launched a more aggressive mission to establish a more permanent local green space for their community.  Currently, they are an established non-profit who promote education, sustain grass-root coalitions and engage youth organizations with the mission of spreading land reform and green public areas.

Since New York’s pioneering urban green space, guerrilla gardening movements have spread across thirty documented countries and have become the topic of a number of thriving internet forums and websites. The latest such venture to catch our attention comes from Heather Powazek Champ, who knits plants pockets and drops them secretly and strategically around the city of San Francisco (as per the featured photo, above).

For a humorous and inspiring account of one urban farmer’s adventures in squatting, pick up a copy of Novella Carpenter’s Farm City.  Further tips and stories from the front lines can be found through the, an excellent resource for the history of the movement, outlines and suggestions for your own project, and links to guerrilla groups in your area.

Where would you take a stand and plant the seeds for a little rebellion?

Whether you are a fan of organic farming, urban redevelopment, social justice, or just plain good writing, you will thoroughly enjoy Novella Carpenter’s Farm City. Detailing her move to the ghetto of Oakland and her adventures as an urban farmer, Novella writes with humor, candor, and lyricism that would impress any critic regardless of topic.

Her chronicles of late night dumpster dives to feed her pigs, rabbits and chickens, reflections over her complex and mixed emotions over killing and preparing animals she has raised and defended, and the character sketches of the people inhabiting her neighborhood are all extremely engaging.  Carpenter’s work inspires conscious and deep reflection on how food is produced and appreciation for the effort and emotion required to put together a meal.

Before beginning Novella’s account of city crop cultivation, I wondered to myself about what kind of personality would be willing to move from idyllic Portland, Oregon to the concrete jungle.  My preconceptions ranged from the Flighty Hippy and the Idealistic Environmentalist to the Anarchist Off-the-Grid Warrier and Starving Activist.  Surprisingly, I found Carpenter as someone I would be delighted to have a close friend.  Her passion for food and its connection to community and social justice is evident through her generosity.  She shares her harvests with neighbors, inner-city literacy programs, friends, and anyone off the street interested in her garden.

Her sense of humor and clear-eyed observations of her neighborhood cut through any bucolic delusions of saving the world through a backyard vegetable plot.  She acknowledges the hardships and squalor or Oakland’s gang and drug scene, poverty, and urban decay.  Bleak profiles of city life are contrasted with impressions of nature trying to eke out an existence along with the inhabitants of the ghetto, stories of charity and potlucks, and self-effacing evaluations of her own personality.  Carpenter is candid with her joys as well as her anger, frustrations and disappointments (see the story of her possum “murder” or vitriolic description of the woman who butchered her pigs).  A lady who can raise her own food, learn to cure her own meat, dumpster-dive for scraps with a headlamp and brave the inner-city with grace and humor is someone I can respect.

Farm City is a fairly quick read, and a great choice for a summer book.  Who knows, you may be inspired to catch your own swarm of bees, plant a rare breed of watermelon, or order poultry through the mail!  I’m contemplating some raised veggie beds and a compost heap as we speak…

Let us know if you have any further book review suggestions!