Book review


My Empire of Dirt: How One Man Turned his Big City Backyard into a Farm by Manny Howard, (Scribner, 2010), and Farm City: The Education of An Urban Farm by Novella Carpenter (Penguin, 2009) are two recent publications by urbanites who converted their property into farms. Manny’s story was more poignant in that his obsession with his 800 sf Brooklyn farm stressed out his marriage, and was beset by several weather and heart-wrenching livestock calamities. Novella, who has a little cult following now, told a more quirky tale, closer to home (Oakland) — with her neighbors chasing loose pigs down the ghetto street, encounters with homeless characters, and other urban situations. Novella’s accounts of her nightly dumpster dives to feed the voracious-but-thankful pigs are priceless. (The pigs squealed with delight at the better scraps from Chinese restaurants.)

Both authors discussed the need to trade and barter to complement one’s own produce. as they tried to live off their farms for a few months. Novella was determined to try meat production, and her research regarding slaughter and sausage production techniques is not for the vegetarian.

renee montgomery


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