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We’re live blogging at Washington Lee High School in Arlington this afternoon – Novella Carpenter, author of “Farm City: the education of an urban farmer” will be reading for and taking questions from Arlington high school science students.

Novella is really good at talking to kids — she talks the way she writes, very comfortably and friendly, very funny.

She starts out by showing the students photos of her neighborhood in Oakland, called Ghost Town. She does most of her farming in a vacant lot, but keeps her animals in her back yard. Shows us great photos of the ducks that come in the mail – ridiculously cute. Then she says,”the great thing about urban poultry is that they make eggs!” and “turkeys are like ducks, on acid.”  Novella is a big fan of turkeys – she agrees with Ben Franklin’s wish that the turkey would have been the national bird – very adventurous, pleasant fowl.

She used to be a vegetarian – her whole family when veg for her sake – but stopped being a vegetarian when she realized that she could raise / kill her own meat. And yes, turkey chicks are very, very cute – but then they grow up and are ready to be harvested.

After turkeys she tried rabbits – still VERY cute.  Shows us a photo of her and her sister as kids, holding a pet rabbit. She was raised by hippies – who raised meat rabbits.

How did she get into raising pigs? From dumpster diving in China Town – tells us about the fish guts…. Now Novella is reading the section when they first get fish guts for the pigs, and get offered money by a homeless guy because they look so pathetic and desperate doing so.  And then she shows us a photo of pig heads in buckets – she thinks they look optimistic!  A student has to walk out for a minute..

She discovered that pigs liked cooked food even more than fish guts, so she started cooking for them – until she realized that restaurants throw away COOKED food. So then she got caught dumpster diving in restaurant dumpsters….. Then she got tired of pigs – so much mess and work to feed them – and shifted to goats.

And chickens! Chickens are a popular option – her friend Patrick started an egg collective – 10 families take care of a flock of chickens together.

And now she’s talking about the history of urban farming… Photo of SF City Hall’s Victory Garden in 2008. Very Cool. Black Panthers had a farming initiative. And photos of urban farms she’s visited all over the country. And Will Allen’s Growing Power.

She’s taking questions – tells us she visited a Bronx HS recently – best question was “What’s the grossest thing that’s ever happened to you?” Answer: Putting turkey intestines in the washing machine by mistake, and not realizing she’d done so until after she emptied the wash.

Favorite part of urban farming? Not being isolated from other people while farming – the garden becomes a conversation.

What makes her different from other urban farmers?

How do you get up the courage to start farming in an empty lot?

How did she become an urban farmer? At first, she didn’t know that she was one:

When did she last hear from Lana? – she moved to Mexico and then Portland – saw her in Portland, L did her makeup for a TV appearance.

Now that N knows what does and doesn’t work in the garden, how does she keep it new and exciting? – There are always new animals to try, new seeds to try – she’s been doing seed saving. The cool thing about farming is you always learn something new. Currently she’s experimenting with using cloth enclosures to extend her farming season.

Doe she own the lot now? No – it was bought, but the lady who bought it says she can keep farming it until the condos get built.

What advice do you have for raising chickens without getting into trouble? – The main rule is NEIGHBOR RELATIONS. See the Movie MAD CITY CHICKENS (about raising chickens in Madison WI)

She’s on twitter – will do ‘pop-up’ farm stands – had a police officer stop by and get upset that she was farming in non-agriculturally zoned land. The she showed him around, and he though what she was doing was cool.

She recently did a rabbit-killing class in Brooklyn, but it may have been too soon in the Brooklyn Urban Farming scene – too intense for first time farmers – should have started with chickens instead. She got a lot of hate mail from that experience. She also says that the NYTimes article didn’t help because of the headline and because they got a lot of it wrong.

If you enjoyed reading and watching this, come see Novella in person tonight!


Join us Wednesday, April 28 at the Shirlington Branch Library for a screening of the documentary “How to Cook Your Life,” at 6:30 p.m.

This film looks at how Espe Brown, a San Francisco Zen priest and cookbook author, uses Zen Buddhism and cooking to relate to everyday existence.

Join us for a conversation with author Wendell Berry, Tuesday, May 4, 7 p.m. at Central Library Auditorium.

In a rare public appearance, literary legend, essayist, poet and Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry will visit Arlington Public Library to discuss his life’s work, and his vision of people honoring and reconnecting with the soil. It was Berry who declared “eating is an agricultural act,”thereby inspiring today’s movement toward safer, healthier, locally produced meals and sustainable living. Berry’s classic novel “The Memory of Old Jack” is this year’s Arlington Reads featured title. Read Book reviews and author interviews.

And on Thursday, April 29, 7 p.m., Novella Carpenter joins us to discuss her book “Farm City: The Education of An Urban Farmer Thursday, April 29, 7 p.m. at Central Library Auditorium.

Novella Carpenter has restaged the American agrarian dream in an abandoned Oakland, California lot, raising fruits, vegetables, bees and even pigs and goats in a neighborhood known as “GhostTown.” Her critically acclaimed “Farm City”—featured on “best book lists” from Oprah to the New York Times—spreads the gospel of home-grown food and the empowerment it brings. Read Book reviews and author interviews.

All Arlington Reads 2010 events are free to the public. No reservations are required. We encourage arriving early as seats may fill quickly.Both the Novella Carpenter and Wendell Berry events will be videotaped for future broadcast and web-streaming.

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Join us at the Central Library Auditorium on Saturday, April 17 for a work-in-progress screening of Cintia Cabib‘s documentary “A Community of Gardeners.”

The documentary explores the vital role of seven community gardens in Washington, D.C., not only as sources of fresh, nutritious food, but as outdoor classrooms, places of healing, centers of social interaction, and oases of beauty and calm in inner-city neighborhoods.  The screening will be followed by a Q-and-A with Cabib.

Join us at the Shirlington Branch Library for a screening of “Fast Food Nation” on Wednesday, April 14, 6:30 p.m.

Based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Eric Schlosser, the film is a dramatic ensemble piece that looks at the health risks and environmental and social consequences of fast food.

All Arlington Reads 2010 events are free to the public. No reservations are required.

Find the full list of Arlington Reads films.

Join us Sunday, April 11, 3 p.m. at the Shirlington Branch Library for a discussion on Eating Local.

A panel of area farmers and naturalists will look at simple ways to eats foods that are safer, healthier and geared to the bounty of each season. It’s all part of the sustainable, consumer-supported agriculture movement that has built a following in groceries and restaurants around Arlington.

Moderator: Samuel Fromartz, author of “Organic Inc.


All Arlington Reads 2010 events are free to the public. No reservations are required. We encourage arriving early as seats may fill quickly. The Novella Carpenter and Wendell Berry events will be videotaped for future broadcast and web-streaming.

Preschool-age children and their caregivers are invited to a special storytime in conjunction with Arlington Reads on Friday, April 9 10:00 a.m., in Arlington Central Library’s Auditorium.

Listen to garden stories and songs, then decorate a container and plant a seed to start your own garden.

Call 703-228-5946 for more information.

Join us for a screening of the 2008 film “Food, Inc.”at the Shirlington Branch Library on Wednesday, April 7, at 6:30 p.m.

This Oscar-nominated documentary looks at the corporate-controlled global food industry and its effect on both the producers and consumers.

Elementary school students and their families are invited to an entertaining, informative program about bees and beekeeping on Saturday, April, 3 11:00 a.m., in Arlington Central Library’s Auditorium.

Bee Hives

Bee hives at the South Four Mile Run Community Gardens

Join beekeeper Paul Diehl as he explains how bees make honey and how you can become a beekeeper (you might recognize Mr. Diehl as the friendly bus driver who takes Arlington School children on field trips to the Outdoor Lab!). And bee-fore leaving you can make a bee-autiful craft to take home!

For more information about this program call 703-228-5946.

The Arlington Public Library's Arlington Reads 2010 program is made possible by the generosity of the Friends of the Library.


Wendell Berry

Author Talk with Wendell Berry, Tuesday, May 4, 7 p.m.

Community Book Discussion, Monday, April 19, 7 p.m.

Novella Carpenter, Author of "Farm City," Thursday, April 29, 7 p.m.

"Food, Inc." Screening, Wednesday, April 7 6:30 p.m.

"Fast Food Nation" Screening, Wednesday, April 14, 6:30 p.m.

"A Community of Gardeners" Screening, Saturday, April 17, 2 p.m.

"How to Cook Your Life" Screening, Wednesday, April 28, 6:30 p.m.

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