Novella Carpenter Harassed by City of Oakland

Urban farmer and author Novella Carpenter is getting harassed by city of Oakland employees. From her blog Ghost Town Farm:

Here’s the deal: After getting off the plane from Salt Lake City and making my way home to a cup of tea, I sit down at my kitchen table and I see this guy in a City of Oakland car taking photos of my garden. I go down and he said I’m out of compliance for “agricultural activities”. I’m supposed to get a Conditional Use Permit for growing chard. The annual fee: $2500.

My two cents. Get involved in local politics to change outdated planning codes. We did it in LA with the Food and Flowers Freedom Act. In the meantime let’s lend Novella our support and best wishes.

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  1. That’s absurd, but unfortunately familiar. A man here is suburban Atlanta was fined last year for doing what we all should be doing. He tore out his lawn and grew fruits and veggies. The nerve of him! It was all over the news for a bit. Can Novella get the local (or, hell, national?)press to report on this? Personally I think our city, county, and state officials have better things to do than hassle people for doing the right thing. I wrote a strongly worded e-mail to the CEO of DeKalb County, GA about it, and received a meaningless, generic, form reply. This is just wrong, people.

  2. I have done the same thing with my ‘yard’~ neighbors on either side are stressed. People who drive by say “Thank You” as it was a mess when I bought it! I donate whatever produce I don’t use or sell~ goes to my favorite homeless shelter.
    She should send her story, along with photos, to as many news mediums as possible ASAP!
    God Bless and good luck!

  3. Since you have been through this with the Food & Flowers Freedom Act, do you have advice for how people can support her from across the country?

  4. that’s terrible, we’re trying to get that sort of thing stopped here in the Australia before it starts – we’ve had success through the Transition Town movement and Energy Descent Action Plans.

  5. I just went to hear her speak in Salt Lake City, she was great (and signed my book, and patted my baby). I’m sad she’s being harassed. That’s insane.

  6. Is this the lady that was on NPR in the last few months talking about having goats in Oakland? I’ve been singing the praises of Oakland compared to my little backwards city of Shreveport. Egad! I can’t believe this is happening to her.

  7. That’s crazy! We have something similar in our rural neighborhood – we can have up to three horses, but we’re not allowed to have a couple of laying hens! Seriously?!?

  8. Oh come on, people, you have to beware the menacing chard. As Sharon Astyk might say, it’s the gateway drug for turnips. Let someone have a chard plant and next thing they’ll have turnips and squash and edible flowers – right next to their property line! In full view of the neighbours! And their children! They might even save some money and take fewer trips to the grocery store. We can’t have people saving money. They need to be spending money. Really, this chard business, it’s a disease that must be stopped.

  9. So why are lawns OK and gardens aren’t? It’s all a matter of perception of what a pretty neighborhood is. Not only can vegetable gardens be pretty, but it feeds people and educates. Hopefully we can change that perception.

  10. You could in the meantime try growing some edible flowers or landscaping plants. I did a blog post a year ago on this (click on the name “Penny Pincher”, I put a link to that particular post). My personal favorite is evening primrose, because it is aggressive but not too invasive and every part of the plant is edible. Nasturtiums are edible also.

    To that list I would add edible weeds: purslane, lambs quarter, dandelions, violets, wood sorrel and chives.(see this post too on the edible weeds:

    You might be able to hide onions and garlic in with your lilies. They look more like daffodils but planting them instead with the lilies makes it easy for YOU to tell which is which. There are also ornamental kinds of allium. – (onions with big flowers). I don’t know how edible those are.

    Potatoes and sweet potatoes are sort of a stealth crop. Potatoes don’t look like much from above ground. Sweet potatoes can be grown as ground cover. They will take over if you let them.

    Or you could fight the law by taking it to its illogical extreme and complaining about the edible weeds in the mayor’s lawn, the crabapple trees on the street, the ginkgo and linden trees in the park, etc.

    Good luck!

  11. If you can buy sod from a sod farm, does that make everyone with a lawn out of compliance for agricultural activities?

  12. Ahh Anonymous, gate way chard! I do guess then if we take the logical conclusion straight to the White House that Michell O is a pusher?
    Perhaps we really do need to get this perverse comical view into the mainstream. Maybe only sarcasm can be understood!
    Because you can talk until you are blue bells but until it affects everyone no one cares!
    Gate way chard… I wonder what spinach is….

    I would go to my city council and accuse them of treason (in a manner of speaking) because Michelle O told us to do it……….

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