Oakland shuts down successful urban farmer


"Now that I own this property, I'm going to plant fruit trees," said Novella Carpenter.

Carpenter says she'll plant trees soon, but on Thursday night the city issued her a notice to abate -- to stop farming.

"This garden is illegal, it's illegal to grow vegetables on this property and so I have to stop doing that," said Carpenter.

She has 30 days to comply. Carpenter is a best-selling author on urban agriculture. She lives and farms on 28th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, across from an abandoned building and a few blocks from Downtown. After eight years of farming, last month she got a visit from city officials because of a complaint.

"This is from a phone call that they received from someone who was upset I sold rabbit pot pies at a fundraiser," said Carpenter.

She thinks it was animal activists. In addition to growing vegetables, she also has ducks, chickens, goats and, of course, rabbits. She's agreed to buy a $2,500 conditional use permit she hopes will allow her to keep the animals.

City officials told her she also needs a $40 business license to sell the surplus food she often gave neighbors for a donation. Carpenter was told neighbors complained to the city that she slaughtered animals on her property. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said that's the major problem.

"I think we're sort of caught in the situation that her neighbors that don't like the fact that she raises animals and kills them in her yard," said Quan.

"If you go around and ask any of these neighbors, none of them have a problem with what I'm doing," said Carpenter.

"It brings the community together. It's a good use of the land instead of shipping stuff in," said neighbor Scott Tarrison.

"She gets other people inspired to grow their own gardens and do things in their backyards, and you know, use the land in the way it should be used," said next door neighbor Buzz Kolodziejczak.

Beginning April 14, city laws will allow urban gardening and all of this will be legal, but Carpenter is not sure the costly conditional use permit will let her keep animals.

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