Goats are Better than Diamonds…


This is Novella Carpenter.

Among many many other things, Novella is a writer and an urban farmer, and for the past ten years she has been farming in Oakland, California and writing about her adventures raising farm animals in the two story Victorian house that she rents, and gardening in the vacant lot next to her house.

Novella has compiled her urban farming lessons into a book, Farm City and the Education of an Urban Farmer, which comes out this year, and she needed a photograph of herself for the book jacket, so she called me.


“I don’t want it to look too Martha-Stewart-like,” she said, as I climbed over her bio-diesel mechanic tools on the steps, and up through her kitchen filled with the morning’s leftovers sitting on dishes waiting to be washed, and out to her back porch where I was greeted by her Dwarf Nigerian goats on a paint peeling porch.


Novella’s urban farming world is a visual wonderland that is real, honest, and unapologetic. It may be messy, but it is messy with life and creativity. Novella spends her time on important things like: writing, milking, growing food, educating her urban neighbors, and making bio-diesel fuel. She is not concerned with superficial appearances or pretending to be something she is not… it is refreshing and wonderful. I reassured her that appearing Martha-Stewart-esque would not be a problem.


My favorite quote of the morning came as she was sitting on the stairs clipping Orla’s toenails and she said, “I don’t know why people would want diamonds when they can have goats?”

I couldn’t agree more.

Check Novella’s blog to learn more about urban farming and to see about upcoming events at Ghost Town Farm.

About the author paige green

Paige Green is a documentary and portrait photographer, whose storytelling approach to photography frequently addresses issues involving agriculture, land use, and food. Her work is featured in nine books and has been published in Glamour, National Geographic Traveler, New York Times Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, GQ, Country Living, House Beautiful, and Culture. Paige lives in Petaluma, CA with a house full of boys.

All posts by paige green →


  1. thanks paige! you are awesome.


  2. The one on the stairs is my favorite. It reminds me of a happier version of that song, ‘I know an old woman who swallowed a fly’


  3. I love the one on the stairs, too! The kitchen shot is so authentic –often when i am at Novella’s she cooks up some amazing (ghosttown farm)rabbit pozole or something–but there is an upapologetic amount of homesteading projects, dumpster dived bread loaves, and more, on the counter and in the sink, she won’t let me do my dish!


  4. the stairs! the stairs! too awesome.


  5. I’ve been reading a bit about Novella (I’m searching for a good link to send to some family in the Bay Area), and this site has the loveliest photos by far!


  6. […] it reminds me of the amazing stories Novella Carpenter tells, in her awesome book that you should read if you haven’t yet, about her crazy […]


  7. Oh my… I have just begun weeping after reading the quote “I don’t know why people would want diamonds when they can have goats?” by Novella. I raise LaMancha goats in the Palouse region of Idaho. I get it. Totally. Still weeping. -Laurie Macrae


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