Book Review: Reading Menu

Novella Carpenter

Reading Menu

Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

by Novella Carpenter
Penguin Press, 288 pp., $25.95

House Chamber: Sunday, Nov. 1, 2pm

I can't wait to meet Novella Carpenter when she comes to town for the Texas Book Festiv­al, because I want to be her. Reading Farm City set my head off in a fireworks explosion of possibilities for urban farming. I read it at 3am, too excited to sleep because my partner, Susan Hausmann, and I had just signed a contract to buy 2 acres in East Austin to start our own urban farm. Carpenter's book reads like a to-do list for me. Not content simply to watch the current craze for all things local/organic from the sidelines, she turned a junked-out lot next to her Oakland ghetto apartment into an urban farm and became a player in the game. It wasn't the part about her raising vegetables in a ghetto that made me want to be her. It was the part about her raising and then slaughtering her own meat, raising chickens and ducks and even her own Thanksgiving turkey, and then making them dinner.

I was brave enough to open the Eastside Cafe, with its own organic garden on Manor Road in the 1980s, when the street was riddled with prostitutes and crack dealers and people were being shot to death two blocks away. But could I ever be as brave as Novella Carpenter and take a chicken I had raised from a chick, slit its throat, and pull out its still-warm guts? Her book made me want to be. Could I ever be as brave as she was when she bought two baby pigs and fed their insatiable appetites for six months by Dumpster diving at restaurants in Oakland and San Francisco and then having them slaughtered so she could have the experience of making her own prosciutto and soppressata? I don't know, but I intend to find out. Susan and I now own the land we're going to farm in East Austin, and I already have my own restaurant Dumpster to dive in. We'll be in the front row during Carpenter's panel discussion, learning everything we can.

The Best of Austin: Restaurants ballot is here! Nominations can be made now through Monday, August 22, at midnight. Vote now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More urban farming
Communication Breakdown
Communication Breakdown
Does the closure of HausBar Farms spell trouble for the urban farming movement?

Anna Toon, April 12, 2013

The Fourth Annual East Austin Urban Farm Tour
The Fourth Annual East Austin Urban Farm Tour
Stroll through Eastside urban farms and enjoy tasty eats and drinks from local vendors

Jessi Cape, April 12, 2013

More locavore
Locavores Before It Was Cool
Locavores Before It Was Cool
Austin's homegrown Kerbey Lane Cafe

Virginia B. Wood, March 5, 2010

Holiday Treats for the Locavore Carnivore
Holiday Treats for the Locavore Carnivore
With local meats, you and your holiday guests can eat healthily and humanely

Mick Vann, Nov. 20, 2009

More Food Reviews
I Am a Filipino and This Is How We Cook
I Am a Filipino and This Is How We Cook

Kahron Spearman, Oct. 26, 2018

Buttermilk Graffiti
Buttermilk Graffiti

Jessi Devenyns, Oct. 26, 2018


urban farming, locavore, local food

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle