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Novella Carpenter, Urban Cowgirl Novella Carpenter, Urban Cowgirl

Novella Carpenter, Urban Cowgirl

by Peter Alsop
January 12, 2010

My parents were back-to-the-land hippies; they were of that generation in the late 1960s that decided to reject cities and move to the country. I hated rural life. The first chance I got, I moved to Seattle and started loving cities. But I realized that something was missing: There wasn't a connection to nature, to land. So I started vegetable farming. I got some chickens. I started beekeeping. Pretty soon, I was full-on gardening and raising animals.When I moved to Oakland, California, in early 2003, I started doing the same thing, but in an apartment with a squatted piece of land next door. I had come to this neighborhood, where everyone was from somewhere else. I was always struggling with my identity. When I realized that I was a farmer, it suddenly made sense. It was why I was living in this poor neighborhood. The way I deal with living here is by offering something to the community. That's why the garden is open and people can come pick stuff and harvest freely. I like people picking their own stuff; it's empowering; it's educational.This is the ultimate slow food: planting it yourself, harvesting it yourself, cooking it yourself. That's why I'm into urban farming. All of a sudden you see things differently. You see the carton of milk at the grocery store, and you question where it came from. That's why it's so wonderful to be a producer. You become aware of the cycles. I can notice that if Beebe, my goat, is in a good mood, her milk might taste a little different. Or I'll notice that the chickens' eggs look a little different or taste a little different because they were eating a certain green. Food tastes better when you have a story connected to it. So part of the appeal of the local food experience is the story. The story is part of the satisfaction. It's the same thing with the meat. It takes 18 months to make prosciutto. It's only when you know that, when you've done the work, that you can see why it's so celebrated.Photo by Susanna Howe

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