Category Archives: farm city

Lessons from the Road

I think I gained 10 pounds on book tour. It was just gross. I mean, I ordered room service so many times. It’s just sick. What wasn’t sick was I got to meet so many kick ass urban farmers! Of course I can’t get most of the images off my camera to show you, but eventually I will and you’ll be as impressed as I was. Here’s the break-down:

Boston. Ok, I was too jet lagged to find the Food Project, but I swear I will find them and see their farm some day.

Philadelphia. Greensgrow’s farm manager, Ryan, picked me up from the airport and gave me a whirlwind tour of the Philly Farm Scene. Mill Creek Farm was an oasis of lush, with almost two acres in production, beehives, a composting toilet, solar panels, and a cob oven. They sell to CSA members and have a produce stand. Then I saw a high school garden that is funded through a nutrition program. Then onto Greensgrown. It has been on my blogroll for awhile, but I had no idea what they’re up to. What I discovered was: they’re up to a lot. They are a plant nursery, an apiary, a CSA curator (meaning they bring together all kinds of farms to set up a nice CSA box of meat, eggs, milk, butter, and vegetables), an education center, and a farm. They have lots of poly houses growing beans and tomatoes, chard and strawberries. They also have the coolest cool room, using a Cool Bot, which is a hacked AC unit. They also make their own biodiesel and they have methanol recovery. I mean, what don’t they do? It honestly made me feel like a slacker. Also I found out the following: philadelphia still has cowboys with horses in the city. If I didn’t love Oakland, I’d move to Philly…

Or, Baltimore. I heart Baltimore so much. I got to stay in my friend’s warehouse near downtown. She only pays $400 for an enormous room and studio and shared space. And the people of Baltimore were so amazing. They laughed their asses off at my jokes during my reading, and I found out there is hardly any urban farming going on there, despite the fact there’s tons of vacant land. I did meet this one farmer guy and a really nice lady who are working on starting farms in abandoned areas. I’m telling you, I’m in love with Baltimore. Finally, this is crazy, there’s this: erected this photo in the window of the freaking public library:

These were my hosts: my friend Emily, Judy from Enoch Pratt Library, and Linda from Baltimore Green Works. Now that poster is just scary big, right?

Then off I scampered to Salt Lake City. There I discovered the most amazing urban “gardener” named David Bell, Jill Bell and Celia Bell (David’s sis-in-law). David was a total breath of fresh air. I was blown away by the amount of land in production and how much they’ve accomplished down there. I enjoyed their irrigation methods (ditch), their poly houses which had big green tomatoes, and their attitude that they’re just doing large scale backyard gardening. Love that, and it made me rethink my farmer pretensions. I mean, what’s so bad about being a gardener anyway? Here’s David, and his soil block maker (has anyone used these?). I’m pretty excited to get one because you don’t have to use plastic trays and six packs, which I loathe. David was just putting the blocks on recycled metal bread trays. Celia is a total bad-ass, but I only got to meet her for a second, she keeps goats and chickens and a huge garden in the ghetto of SLC (i had no idea they existed).

Now I’m home, head swirling with all these new ideas and new people and urban farm–I mean gardening–love.

If you’re keen to hang out, here’s where I’ll be:

Wednesday, June 16 @ 7pm Green Arcade Books in SF on Market next to Zuni Cafe (not that I’ve eaten there).

Sunday, June 20, 9:30-12:30 teaching a Goat Class! To sign up, go to www.biofueloasis.com. If goats aren’t your thing, Nishanga Bliss (!) is teaching a fermentation class later that same day.

Next Farmstand: May 29

Guess what? The paperback version of Farm City is out in stores starting today! The softcover version features an air-brushed photo of me on the backcover. Bill said it looked like I had a face-lift. But so what? The paperback is very affordable at $16, so I’m pretty excited and hope to sell a bunch of copies.

With that in mind, I’ll be popping up at 665 28th street to sell some farm produce like leeks, baby greens, salad mix, and fava beans AND copies of Farm City, both hard and softcover. Feel free to stop by from 10am-2pm on saturday may 29. There won’t be tours, but I might be convinced to bring out a very special guest we have at the farm (ssshhhh….)–his name is Mr. Lincoln. “At your stud service, m’am.” Because Bebe and Gingey still aren’t knocked up, even after a month of vacation in Vacaville. I’m getting desperate.

In other news, there’s a very cool City Slicker Fundraiser that you must attend. I’ll be there, snarfing up all the food! Willow and I might do a little soft shoe for our presentation. I’m pretty sure it’s tax-deductible, too.

FERMENT CHANGE! :
A CULTURED DINNER FOR
CITY SLICKER FARMS

Join us Friday June 4th, from 6-10pm
for a night of culture and entertainment.

There will be music, art, a four course fermented feast
with locally crafted fermented drinks and guest speakers Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City, and Willow Rosenthal, founder of City Slicker Farms, plus a CSF Backyard Gardener to speak about their program.

It’s sure to be a great night, so spread the word, tell your friends and come on out!

Tickets are $75 and available HERE. Kids accompanied by parents get in free.

Ferment Change is an annual celebration
of fermented foods and urban agriculture benefiting the work of City Slicker Farms.

Location: St. Paul’s Episcopal School – Parish Hall, 116 Montecito Ave., Oakland

6-7pm:
An outdoor reception,
hors d’oeuvres, music and a silent art auction.

7:00-8:30pm:
A four course dinner of…

· Sprouted Pea Bisque w/ a simple red cabbage kraut and pea shoot garnish. Served with rustic sourdough rolls and Straus butter.

· A Salad of Little City Garden Greens w/ spiced walnuts and chevre; tossed w/ a Fuyu persimmon vinaigrette.

· A main course of Dijon-braised tempeh triangles with peach chutney, slow roasted root vegetables in an herbed Champagne vinaigrette w/a side of steamed greens and pickled sea vegetables.

· Chocolate cake drizzled with a local honey-oat yogurt glaze and TripleSec roasted Swanton strawberries.

Plus a sample of locally fermented krauts and plenty of homebrew, ginger beer, and Kombucha!

8:30-9:30pm: Guest Speakers

Tickets are $75 and available from Brown Paper Tickets HERE.

Goat Town Tour, Dec 20

Due to popular demand, I’m going to have another farm tour!

When: Sunday, December 20, 11am-2pm

What: Signed copies of Farm City, Goat Town t-shirts, fried green tomatoes, and hot chocolate made with goat milk for sale. Goat snuggling and tours free.

Where: Ghosttown Farm, 665 28th Street, at Martin Luther King

How: Don’t park on 28th Street!! Park on MLK, and walk over. Please. I’ll give you the stink-eye if you drive down 28th Street, which is a dead-end street where my neighbors enjoy parking their cars.

My garden looks like hell, especially in December, so arrive with low expectations.

See you there!

Talking turkey in Austin

No one brought a camera for the turkey slaughter class in Austin, including me. It was more personal that way.

Heck, it was personal on so many levels. First off, one of my best friends in the world hosted the class at her little urban farm in East Austin. Leilani is from the Bay Area and I have been missing her for a few years now as she’s settled into life in Austin. Part of settling there involved raising chickens and turkeys. She and her beau, Luke, starting keeping a few Rio Grande turkeys, the oldest relative to the original turkey of North America.

Instead of just buying turkeys every year, they reasoned, they would retain a breeding pair and let the tom and hen go for it. This spring, the turkeys mated secretly, and the hen hatched out 8 adorable little poults. Tom and mom protected the poults, showed them what to eat, draped their wings over the babies at night. When I first saw the poults, they were almost full grown, five months old. And frankly, they were ready to eat.

I had come to Austin for the Texas Book Festival to be on a panel with a famous vegetarian, Jonathan Safran Foer; a professor; and a bad boy chef named Jason Sheehan (for that round-up, see here). Like any book related trip, I wanted to do some hands-on work. It was a delicate issue–err, Leilani, can I kill one of your turkeys? and teach other people how to raise turkeys…at your house? Any other friend would have been annoyed. Leilani, on the other hand, was delighted. She loves hosting parties and doing workshops.

And so, the four people who could make it to a Halloween turkey slaughter class arrived that Saturday, dressed for the occasion, ready to learn. I was charmed by the easy-going nature of Texans, their good humor, their independence. That was why they were there. After an hour discussing the ins and outs of turkey husbandry, we went up to the coop to collect our girl for slaughter. Leilani grabbed her, I did some wrangling–these were almost wild turkeys!–and we brought her down to the burning sage area. The turkey seemed mildly curious, we said our thanks and goodbyes and got out the loppers (my new dispatching implement). Her death was swift, with good intentions from all of us. Then we dipped her in hot water, gathered around the table, and plucked all her feathers away.

The difficult part–the real reason for anyone to take a class like mine, was the evisceration. I showed people my almost fail-safe method to avoid contaminating the meat. This is the thing that trips up most people, and by showing them this, I feel like I am really imparting some important, empowering knowlege. Someone fished out the lungs. Someone else examined the gizzard, cut it open, and saw what the turkey had been eating. And then our turkey was all cleaned up. And she was beautiful, with perfect conformation, wonderful black feet, meaty breast area (but not abnormal like those Standard Whites). She had been born on this farm, lived a great life, and now was ready for eating.

Almost. First we put the bird in some salted water for a few hours, just to get any residual blood out. Then we rinsed and dried the turkey off, wrapped it in a tea towel and stowed it in the fridge to rest.

While the turkey rested, we were invited to a great dinner party at Boggy Creek Farm, an urban farm nearby. The farmers–Carol Ann and Larry–have been farming in Austin since 1991, and have a famous farm stand that Austinites flock to every week. I was so amazed how sweet and friendly Carol Ann and Larry were, they showered me with gifts like Holly Honey and smoked tomatoes. The dinner, cooked by Elizabeth from Farmhouse Delivery, was off the hook–local blue cheese and apples, arugula salad, and seafood stew made with local shrimp and fish, and finally persimmon pudding. Holy crap, Texans eat good!

I was only in Texas for a few days, so I left Leilani and Luke instructions for cooking the turkey and hoped for the best. Chefs had told me heritage birds need high heat, over a shorter period of time, and the turkey should be rotated every fifteen minutes or so. They also said to remove the legs and roast or braise them for a little longer. Leilani seemed a bit skeptical–their last turkey had just been okay. Today Leilani called me to give me the report. After four days of resting in the fridge, she rubbed it with olive oil, salt and pepper and put it in the oven.

“I didn’t turn it every 15 minutes,” she admitted. Despite that, the turkey came out great–roasted at 400 degrees for a little less than two hours. The breast meat was tender and juicy, the legs were perfectly delicious. She sounded like they are going to harvest the rest of the turkeys, keeping the tom and hen and following the cycle again next year. After I hung up the phone with Leilani, I felt so proud of her–of us–for raising, preparing and cooking our own Thanksgiving turkey, with love.

Turkey Class: Austin, Texas

Welp, I’m going to do it. Teach a turkey raisin’ and killin’ class in Austin. The day before I go on a panel with Jonathan Safran Foer, vegetarian author of Eating Animals (and two great novels). There’s another guy on the panel who will be talking about how local food and eating meat is just all wrong. Don’t think I don’t recognize a paradox: I’m the nutball Californian coming to Texas where I will be the only gal (ahem) on stage promoting meat eating. 

It is fitting, then, that while I’m in Texas, I’m going to revisit the first meat bird I raised: the all-American turkey. A small-scale, locally raised, heritage breed turkey embodies all of the issues I grappled with as a blossoming urban farmer: why eat meat? can I kill it myself? how does this turkey feel about this process? how does this make me more or less human?

But this time, come October 31, I’m going to teach other people how to do it. I’ve taught this class before: last year, to a group of college students who were learning about urban farming. The feedback I got was powerful: the students had a new understanding of Thanksgiving, of what it means to eat meat. One of the students was a vegan, and I respected him so much for coming to see exactly what he opposed and to figure out why. I think that’s great. I do think people should eat less meat. And I think it’s good to take a really close look. 

I’m lucky that my brilliant and wonderful friend happens to be an urban farmer in Austin, and she raises heritage breed turkeys on her farm! She has graciously offered her urban farm as a place to host a class. And so, if you are in Austin, or know someone in Austin, please sign up or spread the word; details follow. 

The Complete Turkey

Saturday, Oct 31, 10am-1pm

For meat eaters, raising turkeys is a dare, a stunt, a Herculean effort. The turkey is the most American of birds—native to North America, eaten by Indians, Aztecs, and pilgrims. Most people, come November, eat a Thanksgiving turkey without really knowing what a turkey looks or acts like, much less all the work that goes into raising one of these birds for the table.  In this class, we will show best practices for raising your own Thanksgiving turkey, including feeding, coop construction, breeding, and day to day care.

Following these basics, we will “harvest” a heritage breed turkey. Novella will demonstrate a humane, fool-proof method of dispatching a turkey, including plucking and cleaning. Seeing this process firsthand will make your upcoming Thanksgiving more meaningful than ever.

What: Complete Turkey, Oct 31

How much: $30/person

Time: 10am-1pm; 3 hours total

Attending: 15 max

Where: East Austin, address given upon registration.

About the Instructor Novella Carpenter is the author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer (the Penguin Press, June 2009). She farms on a 4500 square foot abandoned lot near downtown Oakland and has been raising farm animals in urban areas for over ten years. Her writings have appeared in Mother Jones, Food and Wine, salon.com, and more. She studied with Michael Pollan for two years at University of California Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.

To sign up, email novellacarpenter@gmail dot com for further instructions.turkey1

Coming to a Town Near You: Update

So, I’m heading out on vacation in a few hours. Billy and I are flying to Florida, then I’ll go over to France. I’ll be back in the urban farming saddle September 29. We were lucky to find a housesitter and our downstairs neighbors will make sure the goats get fed and watered. We also have a mighty milking list with all my kind friends who are going to squeeze Bebe’s teats while I’m gone. Whew, what a relief. It’s so hard to tear myself away but I really really need to rest.

When I come back, I’m glad to report that this October and November, I’ll be visiting many cities to promote my book Farm City. Dates in italics are not yet filled, and I have put requests for places I want to go, so drop a line, and we’ll see if I can spread out a little more. I might want to sleep on your couch or goat shed…

October 5, Corte Madera, CA, Reading, Book Passages book store, 7pm

October 8, Madison, Wisconsin, Reading, Wisconsin Book Festival, A Room of One’s Own, at 307 W. Johnson Street, 5:30.

October 9, Chicago: visit with urban farmers!

October 10, Chicago: visit with urban farmers!

October 17, San Francisco, Reading, LitQuake at 18 Reasons, time TBA

October 18, Berkeley, CA, Chicken 101 class, Biofuel Oasis, 1441 Ashby Ave, 10-1pm (must pre-register)

October 19, Moscow, ID,  Reading, University of Idaho, Administration Building Auditorium, 7pm

October 20 & 21, Spokane, WA

October 24, Kansas City, Reading, Bad Seed Kitchen

October 25, Kansas City, Complete Chicken class, TBA 10am-1pm

October 31, Austin, Texas, The Complete Turkey class, 10-2, venue TBA

November 1, Austin, Texas, Austin Book Festival panelist, details TBA

November 10, New York, NY; Horticultural Society of New York, 6pm
148 West 37th Street, 13th Floor, New York, NY, Telephone: 212.757.0915

November 11, Brooklyn, NY, Vox Pop Cafe, details TBA

November 12, Providence, RI, details TBA

November 13, Boston, Mass, details TBA

November 14, Portland, Maine, details TBA

November 15 & 16, NYC chicken and rabbit processing classes with Samin, details TBA

November 21, Sacramento, CA, The Complete Chicken/Reading, details TBA

December 5, Berkeley, CA The Pasta Shop, 4th Street, 1-3pm

December 6, Lafayette, CA, Mt. Diablo Nursery, 10-12

Thank you everyone who helped organize this, especially Hamida!