Brooklyn farmer fella

Ok, okay, let’s talk about this guy.
He’s an ‘urban farmer’ in Brooklyn. He spent $11K to create an insta-urban farm and wrote about it for New York magazine, which earned him a book deal so he doesn’t have to sweat it–that was money well-spent. In the article we find out that Manny doesn’t know why his chickens are eating their eggs (calcium deficiency), or why his rabbits are killing their babies (improper nesting boxes), and it sure is funny when his kid kills a duckling. He went on a farm fast in August that sounded a lot like mine, except his featured a tornado. The saddest thing, though, was that somehow he thought it would be a good idea to eat a chicken EVERY SINGLE DAY on his farm feast. Dude, that’s a lot of chicken. And yet he still, based on this photo, doesn’t know how to hold one (going to break its wing manhandling it like that). No wonder why he sounds a little traumatized on this radio show.
Manny, if you’re out there, I challenge you to the following urban farmer rumble (next time I’m in NYC): corn shucking speed round, timed chicken plucking and cleaning (he should be a ringer for this one), and tomato canning contest. Any ties will be broken by a vegetable flash card identification round and a get-to-know-a-bum in five minutes contest.

22 responses to “Brooklyn farmer fella

  1. Note that his occupation is “Magazine writer” not “Urban farmer”. I.e. it was an experiment, not a lifestyle choice. TILAPIA POND! LOL HAHAHA. Pushing a stroller with a rooster in a doll’s dress? That must have been a dead bird.

    Speaking of which, when is your book coming out? Can you get an NPR spot in conjunction with the publication?

  2. Riana Lagarde

    Manny can kiss my fanny.

    What a jackass spending 11K to feed only himself for a month (his kids and wife refused to be a part of his eat local stunt!)

    Not to mention all the critters that he killed accidentally(new job as undertaker)as funny fodder for his book.

    Mother Earth thinks he is a sham too and set a tornado down in his backyard to stop him from the moronic home depot shopping, hot house lamp using, beer drinking and ditch digging idiotic ways.

  3. Novella Carpenter

    yay! you’ve got my back, right? my book comes out spring 2009….i do think an urban farmer death match would rule, tho.

  4. urbangardener510

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now, and really enjoy all of the reports about urban farming. However, I get annoyed by this and the other comments you’ve made about other writers. Why do you think you are better than them? You have a book contract, too, so how is it different? I agree that this guy’s experience was kind of ridiculous, but really, everyone including yourself has made mistakes in the urban farming experience. Everyone wants to make a living, and lots of people want to be writers like you. If your book is good, who cares if other people write terrible books — that’s just how the world is…

    Personally, I look to the folks over at Path to Freedom for inspiration. They have been urban homesteading for years quietly and without needing to write a book about it and get famous:

    Please consider not being so judgmental — your experience is really inspiring, but the criticism of others detracts from it. I would much rather hear more about the odd-shaped squashes, the chickens, etc. 🙂

  5. Not so, not so.

    You don’t need to make nice, Novella.

    We want to hear all your thoughts, sweet or sour, hot or bitter.

    Manny can take it.

    So can urbangardener510.

    No censorship necessary.

    (And I, for one, am most certainly in favor of an urban farmer death match!)

  6. I find your story inspiring. In fact I’m going to attempt some indoor gardening this winter (tomatoes and lettuce).

    This man’s story… is not so inspiring. An urban farm is not just something you go out and buy, it’s something you cultivate.

    It makes me happy to know that I don’t have to move out to the middle of nowhere to be more self sufficient.

  7. Novella Carpenter

    hey. ok. i see manny as competition. but as rebecca said, i’m not going to pretend to support every urban farmer out there.
    here’s a letter i sent to new york magazine, though i don’t think they published it.

    Dear New York magazine;

    Your gonzo reporter, Manny Howard, is clearly insane. I know, because I did the same 100-yard diet this July on my mini-farm (chickens, bees, pigs) in Oakland, CA and went slightly nuts. After the caffeine headaches ceased (somehow I didn’t think to allow myself any cheats), I found myself desperate for carbohydrates, and I could smell a hot dog a mile away.

    Insane as we both are, it’s still a good stunt–it
    makes us look at our food as a primary thing, and
    recognize our connection to the soil and animals.

    I look forward to hearing more about Howard’s
    adventures, but a word of caution: anything meaningful takes time. I’ve slowly built up my urban farm over a period of many years, incorporating new animals only after feeling entirely comfortable with them (“The
    chicken is eating the eggs because she has a calcium deficiency!” I yelled when I read about his cannibal chicken). I daresay my model might be a bit less expensive than Howard’s $11,000 insta-farm, too–both to the well-being of the animals and my own personal sanity.

    Readers shouldn’t be swayed from taking a plunge into urban farming by reading about this spiral into madness, but I wouldn’t recommend cannonballing like Howard–maybe some gentle wading to start.

  8. Hi urbangardener –

    Novella was undoubtedly a little hot around the collar in her initial post. If Manny’s book get published and Novella’s does also, that will be good business for both of them. Them’s publishing rules – the more the merrier.

    What’s not good business is introducing urban farming to newbies in the manner which Manny did. (I said “did” because he makes no mention of a sustainable urban farm.) His methods were reckless and irresponsible. Maybe he had a better time of it than the NPR piece portrayed (the media can do that to you if you’re not careful). But comparing apples-for-apples, Novella’s recent inclusion in the NYT article on urban farming wasn’t a comedy of errors that the piece on Manny suggests.

    Everyone makes mistakes and since you read Novella’s blog regularly, you’ll note that she’s not afraid to publish her failures. But she’s not going insane and didn’t reconstitute the farm overnight with a credit card. Spending mad cash on an insta-farm misses much of the importance of urban farming, of which I’m sure you’re aware.

  9. I was pretty annoyed when I saw the article in NY Mag as well. if he’d done any kind of real research before embarking on his ill-fated experiment, he would have known better than to stack rabbit cages on top of one another, etc, devote most of his arable space to corn, etc. It’s this kind of disaster that dissuades people from attempting to grow some of their own, damn food.

    Why his sad attempt warranted such an immense spread I cannot imagine, unless it is, as nat said, that he is a magazine writer.

    You’ve been so successful that I’ve been tempted to give you props over at Gristmill, but that forum has gotten infested by rabid vegans. I don’t want to inflict any PETA nuts on you.

  10. urbangardener510

    Hey, thanks for the follow-ups on this. I completely agree this guy is not very smart and it does not paint a great picture of urban gardening. And I love that this blog is so honest and open — it’s great reading. I just think that starting off the post with a remark about the book deal detracts from the main point and makes it look like you’re envious of his attention. I remember that earlier this year there was a similar post here about No Impact Man that left me with a similar feeling.

    As someone has been slowly working on urban farming/homesteading for several years and desparately looking for good stories about other people’s experiences, I really hate to see stories like the Brooklyn farmer and No Impact Man, too. I just think the comments about their book deals (when you have one yourself) detracts from the points you were trying to make about both of these guy’s experiments and just makes it appear that you’re trying to attack them because you’re not getting the attention yet. If your book is as good as your blog has been, I think your book will do well, too! I hope so, so that people can see what it’s really like!

  11. Novella Carpenter

    urbangardener510: you’re so sweet! thanks for the advice, you’re absolutely right, snark is ugly. but sometimes i can’t stop it.
    do you know what that caterpillar is?

  12. i don’t mind a little snark here and there. especially when it’s pointed at imposters and/or hypocrites.

  13. Here’s the guy’s original article. The picture on the second page of his spread is very illustrative.

  14. thank you, sfvalues, for the link! i just read it–and while i found the article enlightening, i read it with an undercurrent of horror. he killed SO many animals! and because of how he focused the article, i don’t know how he felt, or if he felt remorse or tried to fix his mistakes, or tried to figure out the causes, but…i wouldn’t trust this guy with my pet dogs.

    this was, truly as nat states, an experiment to him, and it reads as such. if anything, this freaks me out so much that i would find it impossible to live off one’s own urban farm…if not for the fact that novella was able to accomplish it here.

    still, i do admire his chutzpah.

  15. Novella Carpenter,

    Sorry for the delay replying to your post. Sorry about my book deal, too. There is no justice in the world. Calcium deficiency, huh? Yeah, once I got a minute, I researched the problem. You shoulda seen me crushing 20 lbs. of oyster shells with a 4 lb. sledge using only 3 of 4 working fingers. (Yup, that’s right, I could have purchased those shells by the sack, but, as I am certain you already know, crushed oyster shells are hard to come by in the 5 boroughs and the nearest Agway is quite a haul. However, I am sure you’d agree, better to do the work yourself, if at all possible–hard, painful work is intoxicating, is it not?
    As with all things Divine, I don’t know about the twister being retribution from an angry and vengeful God (see comments from shrill, scold Riana Lagarde, below), but the thought that the Unmoved Mover had darkened the sky above The Farm had occurred to me: 139 years without a tornado IS an awfully long time. God or no God, at least I was not the author of THAT disaster.
    You can imagine my relief, it was so great that it momentarily pierced my growing conviction that no good could come of the project and karmic payback was in the offing–by late July I was given to fantasies of the arrival of Animal Control. In waking dreams an elite unite would sweep through The Farm, taeser me senseless, zip-tie my limbs as I lay twitching on the driveway. The XO pausing briefly to pin a ticket to my filthy work shirt, before the unit pulled away from the curb with ‘my’ livestock safe in their unmarked, white Dodge Sprinter vans.
    As re. the kit box proportions, careful reader, even I could tell that the directions I had followed would cause disaster, though, tragically, not until after the fact. Guilt about my gestational oversight and the panic caused by the ‘sudden’ appearance of so many kits temporarily blinded this fool. I worked mightily to remedy the error. But, as with so many of my efforts, projects and plans this summer, the work was all in vain.

    Please assure C(h)ristine, the dog (mine, not hers) is quite well.

    Either by accident or with grim determination, I am so very tired of killing.
    Now, regarding this rumble between urban farmers…

  16. Novella Carpenter

    you stud.
    let’s rumble!
    it’ll help both our books sell like hotcakes….

  17. This guy annoys the crap out of me. I live near his neighborhood and walk by his house everyday. And every morning I see their personal driver waiting out front and I want to go knock on their door and hand them a subway schedule. we live right near 3 different lines.

    He’s not doing anything new. He’s just some rich guy playing in the dirt. So, what’s the big deal?

  18. I’m almost positive this guy doesn’t cut his own grass in his front yard. I too live in his west Flatbush neighborhood, and am disappointed that this is just a publicity stunt for a book deal. Come on Manny, would an auto mechanic drop his personal car off at Jiffy-Lube?? I’m sure you could find a window in your busy schedule (managing your mighty .25 acre) to mow.

    I want better urban gardening/farming heroes. This city has a history of resourceful immigrants, who made the most of their neighborhoods (eg. gardens, root cellars, etc.).

    ‘But he’s raising awareness,’ you say. Thanks, but I’d rather wait for a more worthy torch bearer.

  19. Novella:

    Sorry. Just found this in my in box. It’s on!

    Big kiss Urban-Farmer-Enemy-Mine.

    First event: winter wheat!


  20. Pingback: Manny Howard Update « Ghost Town Farm

  21. Please let Manny know, he can buy crushed oyster shells for his chickens at any Petland Discounts store. It’s in the bird food isle. (or any other pet shop, or the pet isle in the grocery store.)

  22. I read Manny’s book about a week or two before I started yours, Novella. It was entertaining, but totally reflected that he was doing it as a job, not because he had any sort of passion for the experiment. I think he is a good writer – and I am sure his book held a lot of appeal to people who would NEVER ACTUALLY HAVE an urban farm.

    Your book, on the other hand, reflects the passion that you have for what you are doing. It is inspiring and real.

    I don’t usually post on blogs but Manny’s book irked me somewhat and I (and my boyfriend) are really enjoying yours.

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