We Visited Novella’s Farm Today

Oakland’s gaining a reputation for urban farming due to its rock star, Novella Carpenter.  She runs the Ghost Town Farm, on Martin Luther King and 28th, and also has written a popular and well-reviewed tome about farming in the ‘hood, called Farm City.

Today, Carpenter held an open house at her farm.  Some animals were introduced, though this event took place in the garden area.  We just had to see what this urban farmer had done with her own two hands – and it’s very impressive!

The Farm Footprint

You might blink and miss the farm, so we took several pictures to share with you.  Let’s start with what you see after stepping through the gates, a verdant array of plants and walks.  This mini-farm is a true oasis, and is very orderly to boot.

When you step across the street, you only notice an unbuilt and fenced corner lot.  In fact, the farm would be impossible to detect as you drive down Martin Luther King, a stone’s throw (well a block or two) from Highway 980.

Now look across the street at this marvelously blighted building, boarded up with gang graffiti above and colorful decoration for a now-vacated (we think) temple below.  Forgive the Jeep driving by, but it’s a fairly busy thoroughfare.

What Grows In The Garden

In a word, plenty.  The garden area is remarkably humble yet productive – and the opposite of some mono-culture farm.  Let’s start with this patch of delectable mushrooms and greens.

There were also potatoes scattered about.  According to the tour sign, this potato tower’s just getting started.  We didn’t think about the possibilities of growing ’em in such a dry place before.

The biggest excitement took place in the bee-keeping area.  We had read about the farm’s bees in the New York Times, and they certainly buzzed around today.  We think bees are social and curious, period.

Next For Novella

Next, our urban farmer is going on book tour for the softcover release of Farm City.  She’s writing a couple other things, including a farming guide and a non-fiction work about her father and life.  Plus there are the ongoing, endless farming chores which come with the territory.

We were able to chat with Novella for a little bit, and she’s quite down-to-earth.  It seems like all the Oaklanders involved in farming and husbandry know each other.  When I mentioned that Montclarions were doing things, she knew about the active goat-keepers and 4-H participants – and may even be speaking to the 4-H kids sometime soon.

Anyway, checking out Ghost Town Farm in person was better than reading the book!  The farm’s a tough accomplishment to this eyewitness.  What’s even more amazing is the absence of blight or destruction here, as Gaia Earth gets respected by the neighborhood.

April 2nd Update:  We just discovered another open house visitor’s excellent snapshots of Novella Carpenter and her animals, in addition to the farm itself.

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