"There are so many books about how to farm and garden, so why'd we want to write another book?" says Novella Carpenter, co-author of the recently published The Essential Urban Farmer along with City Slicker Farms' Willow Rosenthal. "What we figured out, though, is that Wilow and I get questions all the time specific to urban agriculture."
It has taken three years and 500 pages for Carpenter and Rosenthal to answer all those questions. Their book, which was released in late December, covers subjects as diverse as picking the right tools, designing a space-efficient garden, dealing with city regulations, spotting plant diseases, keeping bee hives, and raising -- and slaughtering -- chickens and rabbits for food. Moreover, Carpenter's wry, frank voice makes the manual enjoyable to read.
What were some of the specific issues the two authors included in the book? "Land acquisition is one," Carpenter says. "How to get permission from your landlord for a backyard garden or chicken coop, or from the owner of a lot next to your house." Getting the OK from your neighbors to keep a beehive on the property is another, she adds.
Carpenter says The Essential Urban Farmer also takes prospective farmers through the process of soil testing, a common concern in the Bay Area. "We also pay municipal water rates, instead of agricultural rates," Carpenter says, "so we address how you save water, either by using gray water or doing a good job with drip irrigation or dry farming."
Carpenter and Rosenthal will be reading from The Essential Urban Farmer next Wednesday in the Mission in an event sponsored by 18 Reasons. (There's an author dinner at the 18 Reasons space afterward, though it's sold out.) On March 10, Berkeley's Biofuel Oasis, where Carpenter is a worker-owner, will be hosting a book release party for the two authors that will include demos and a Q&A session with the authors -- just in time for summer planting season.
Essential Urban Farmer Reading
Time: Wednesday, Feb. 29, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Place: Audre Lorde Room, second floor of the Women's Building, 3543 18th St. (at Lapidge)
Cost: Free, though there's a suggested $2 donation to cover the space