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Novella Carpenter        

Journalist & Best-selling Author of "Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer"

Novella Carpenter is an author, journalist and urban farmer. In addition to her farming and writing, She is an adjunct professor of Environmental Studies at the University of San Francisco, teaching urban agriculture and writing in the university's College of Arts and Sciences.

She is the author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer. Her follow-up book is The Essential Urban Farmer, a "how-to" guide for a new generation of farmers. The book describes her extensive garden in Ghost Town, a run-down neighborhood about a mile from downtown Oakland, California. In 2014, she released her memoir Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild which was selected as a Library Journal Best Book of 2014 and a Northern California Book Award Nominee for Best Creative Nonfiction of 2014.

A child of back-to-the-land hippies, Novella Carpenter grew up in the rural areas of Idaho and Washington State. A biology and English major, she worked many odd jobs, including assassin bug handler, book editor, media projectionist, and, most recently, freelance journalist and memoirist.

For more than ten years, Carpenter has been farming in downtown Oakland, California, raising and living off of her own rabbits, chickens, bees, fruits, and vegetables. Her memoir is one of the most popular books on practical, sustainable living. Engaging and lively, it is a funny and frank look at what it means to live off the land and live a contemporary city life.

Carpenter studied under Michael Pollan, one of the leaders of the new food movement, at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism for two years. A writer for Mother Jones, Food & Wine,, and more, she shares stories of farming, food, the environment, and culture.

Speech Topics

Food and Community

Novella Carpenter is the antidote to high-maintenance foodies. She started urban farming partially because eating organic local food can be prohibitively expensive and is often seen as an elitist pursuit. In Farm City, she writes, “as a poor scrounger with three low-paying jobs and no health insurance, I couldn’t afford the good stuff. Since I liked eating quality meat and have always had more skill than money, I decided to take matters into my own hands.” And so she did, raising turkeys, ducks, rabbits, and even pigs, using thrifty (and sometimes gross) techniques in order to make her pursuit sustainable. She wound up getting an education in gourmet food production along the way, learning how to make duck confit, pancetta, lardo, and roasted heritage turkey. As she will describe in her talk, she also got an education in how hungry her community was, and how she went about to mend that situation. Even the desperately poor people in her area rallied around the farm and helped create an oasis in a blighted neighborhood. Good food, as food justice advocates say, is for everyone. Novella will also talk about how the good food movement is shaping up in the U.S. and is reaching more people than ever before.

Urban Farming: One Woman’s Story

Novella Carpenter will present a slideshow about her urban farm, which has featured, over the years, turkeys, bees, rabbits, chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, and goats. Her misadventures in squat farming in the middle of downtown Oakland inspired The New York Times to call her book “easily the funniest, weirdest, most perversely provocative gardening book I’ve ever read. I couldn’t put it down.” In addition to reading from her book and giving a PowerPoint presentation about the evolution of her farm and her lessons learned, Novella will discuss the history of urban farming in America, the state of the movement today, and what we can learn from urban farmers around the world.


Novella Carpenter's Blog
Sorry everyone, have to cancel Friday and Saturday's open farm. My dad is sick and I am flying to Idaho tomorrow. View more on Novella Carpenter's website ».
Novella Carpenter (Author of Farm City)
Novella Carpenter grew up in rural Idaho and Washington State. She majored in biology and English at the University of Washington in Seattle. While atten...

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