Environment: Making it better wherever you are
Ghost Town Farms
Those of us who live in the city pass by vacant lots, abandoned buildings and boarded-up houses daily. It’s all just part of the landscape. But there are those who look at this landscape and actually think about landscaping, you know, transforming the scene into one that is aesthetically pleasing and possibly beneficial to the neighborhood.
Novella Carpenter moved to the heart of Oakland, California some ten years ago. When I say “heart” I mean the gritty, inner-city heart, the one that beats with the sound of the streets. Novella and her boyfriend, Bill, moved to a house within sight of one of the major freeways that dissects the city into an asymmetric crazy-quilt of chaos. Aside from the constant whir of traffic, Novella’s house is next to the overhead subway tracks, adding to the orchestrated frenzy, not to mention the streets filled with buses, cars and trucks rattling her windows day and night.
Shortly after Novella and Bill moved in, the vacant lot next door came up for sale. However, they thought it ludicrous to pay $450,000 for 4,500 square feet of land filled with weeds growing over layers of rubbish. The woman who bought the land gave Novella permission to plant whatever she wanted to on the plot as long as it wasn’t illegal. Novella and Bill got to work. After they had cleared the weeds and hauled out the trash, they had the land tested for heavy metals and were glad to find out that the patch of dirt was metal-free. What a glorious opportunity to turn this corner into a thriving farm - and that’s what they did. They envisioned a place to grow food not just for themselves, but for the neighborhood, and along the way create a program to educate urban dwellers unfamiliar with how food gets from the land to the table.
Novella’s background in journalism fuels her blog which she began in 2007 and details her experience as an urban farmer. Her latest book, published last month, “Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild” gives a picture of her unconventional life.
Here is a review from Booklist:
Like the offspring of so many of the hippie back-to-the-landers of the 1970s, Carpenter, herself an urban farmer (Farm City, 2009), and her sister received only minimal parental attention, which was further diminished when their parents split over the strain of free love and a lax work ethic. When her mother took the girls to Washington, leaving their father behind on a sprawling Idaho homestead, they never thought he would disappear from their lives. The phone call that comes nearly 30 years later saying that George, their now 73-year-old father, really has gone missing motivates Carpenter to try to find the man, literally and figuratively, whom her father became. Spurred on by a desire to raise a family of her own and decipher the genetic code for either survival or destruction that she might be passing on, Carpenter performs a wild pas de deux with the cantankerous George, approaching him as one would a wild animal with no trust in humanity. Carpenter chronicles her daring quest for understanding and familial continuity in this sincere and remarkably uninhibited memoir. --Carol Haggas
Here’s a link to Ghost Town Farms: http://ghosttownfarm.wordpress.com/