Monday, October 4, 2010
Urban Farming, Part 2
Any romantic notions I've been harboring about starting my own little urban farm have been severely curtailed after reading Manny Howard's memoir, My Empire of Dirt: How One Man Turned His Big-City Backyard into a Farm. Novella Carpenter's experience with her Oakland urban farm is uplifting and positive. Although she experiences some difficulties, her farm does fairly well and she has a way of making it seem like anyone could do it. Manny, on the other hand, makes me think "how on earth did I ever think I could do something like this?" Manny undertakes constructing an urban farm in his Brooklyn backyard and is, frankly, terrible at it. While I can chuckle over failed attempts at growing vegetables, I cannot abide the stories of numerous animals dying because he is unprepared and ill-equipped to raise them. But as I read, I realized, this is probably a more realistic example of urban farming than Carpenter's book. Farming, even on a small scale, is not easy and should not be undertaken lightly. Carpenter genuinely seemed to enjoy farming and raising her own food seemed to be a source of pride for her. Her parents did some of their own farming when she was a child, so it wasn't an entirely new concept for her. Whereas Manny took on the task solely because he was paid to do it and write about it. He seems to see this strictly as another "project" rather than having any romantic notions about knowing where his food comes from. Although I liked Carpenter's book better, Manny's story taught me something important: I am not ready for chickens.