Someone emailed me a few days ago to tell me my book was mentioned in the New Yorker. I went to my unread stack of reading materials (it’s busy, prime farm time) and found the latest issue, and frantically found the following mention from Elizabeth Kolbert:
The basic setup of “No Impact Man” is, by this point, familiar. During the past few years, one book after another has organized itself around some nouveau-Thoreauvian conceit. This might consist of spending a month eating only food grown in an urban back yard, as in “Farm City” (2009), or a year eating food produced on a gentleman’s farm, as in “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” (2007). It might involve driving across the country on used cooking oil, as in “Greasy Rider” (2008), or giving up fossil fuels for goats, as in “Farewell, My Subaru” (2008).
Of course anyone who has read Farm City knows that it is more than a stunt. I’ve been farming in the city for over ten years! When I met with my editors, I was clear: I will not write this as if it all happened over one stunt year (it *is* their favorite literary device). Why? Because farming takes time. You learn things over years, not weeks or months. So I was really disappointed to be locked into the stunt year category. It’s true that there are a few chapters in Farm City devoted to telling the story of eating out of my farmlet exclusively for one month. I decided to include that stunt because almost everyone’s first question is: do you live off the products of your farm? Do you ever go to the grocery store? The idea of self-reliance is particularly American, and I think that is why so many people want to read books about survival stunts. By the end of my stunt month I discovered that the idea of self-sufficiency is a ruse. Like Kolbert points out at the end of her article, real environmental change won’t happen until we come together and work for change as a community.
As for my book, I hope Kolbert will take the time to read Farm City and see that urban farming is not just a stunt, it is a true life: and it is taking the country by storm.