After Novella Carpenter’s critically acclaimed memoir Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer came out, she and friend Willow Rosenthal, the founder of West Oakland gardening nonprofit City Slicker Farms, started talking about compiling a manual on urban gardening. “We always got these random emails like, ‘My chickens aren’t laying anymore!’” says Carpenter. So she and Rosenthal joked that they should write a book so they could reply: “Buy the book!”

Three years later, they can. Their new book, The Essential Urban Farmer, is a 500-page nuts-and-bolts guide to farming in the city–complete with sample garden designs, detailed illustrations, and photos of rabbit genitalia. Rosenthal, who is also a Waldorf School teacher and runs a small CSA in Berkeley, wrote the first two sections of the book: “Designing Your Urban Farm” and “Raising City Vegetables and Fruits.” Carpenter wrote the section called “Raising City Animals.” With advice on how to fix a chicken’s prolapsed “vent,” and a detailed how-to on eviscerating a chicken, it’s not for the squeamish. But then, neither is raising livestock.

I talked to Carpenter and Rosenthal recently about the guide, and got some tips about  how to create a thriving urban farm. Read more

As the founder of City Slicker Farms, a non-profit urban agriculture organization in West Oakland, my mission in life has been to bring “slow food” to the least served. Ten years ago as an aspiring farmer it didn’t seem exciting to me to grow more beautiful specialty vegetables for rich people. I didn’t think it was fair that good food was limited to those who could pay farmer’s market prices. At City Slicker Farms we have developed ways to subsidize the price of the organic foods we grow so that we can offer sliding-scale prices and free organic backyard gardens to those who lack funds. Read more