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Author Novella Carpenter shared her story of urban farming and encouraged ASU students to challenge boundaries during the university's convocation ceremony Thursday.

Originally published: 2012-09-07 12:01:09
Last modified: 2012-09-07 12:01:09

Urban farmer urges ASU students to find their own way

by Anna Oakes

Hundreds of Appalachian State University students, faculty and staff members gathered for the annual convocation ceremony at Holmes Convocation Center on Thursday, which commemorates the beginning of the fall semester and the university’s 113th year.

There, they heard from the author of “Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer,” which was ASU’s summer reading selection for freshmen and which Watauga High School students and community members also read.

The bestseller chronicles journalist and author Novella Carpenter’s experience “farming” in downtown Oakland, Calif. Carpenter’s urban farm on a vacant city lot began with honeybees and later grew to include chickens, turkeys, fruit trees, vegetables, hogs and goats.

She has shared her harvests with friends and neighbors, and her message of “back to the land” sustainability has inspired many.

“Maybe you’re not going to find yourself in a pig pen, but you are going to find yourself up all night writing two papers for your English class and you’re going to wonder what you were thinking,” she said to students. “I’m here to talk about boundaries and the way you might figure out how you are going to live in this world.”

She told the story of being confronted by a restaurant chef while she was diving for food to feed her pigs in his dumpster. He later befriended her and taught her how to butcher hogs.

“You are going to meet amazing people who will help you and share their knowledge,” she said.

She urged students to seize their opportunities and to do the things they want to do.

“What does it all mean? Why am I here?” she said. “To show you that you can be a little wacky. Feel free to experience things in a deep way.”

Carpenter was also scheduled to participate in a panel discussion in the Plemmons Student Union and open the Visiting Writers Series with a lecture and book signing Thursday.

On Friday at 10:30 a.m., Carpenter participates in a reading and book signing at Watauga Public Library, sponsored by Watauga Reads!.

ASU handed out a number of awards at the ceremony.

Joseph Gonzalez, an interdisciplinary studies professor at ASU, received the Harvey Durham Freshmen Advocate Award. The student curator for the Looking Glass Gallery, Dianna Loughlin, received the Student Employee of the Year Award.

The W.H. Plemmons Leadership Medallion went to Giovanni Modica, Sam Williams, David M. Lee, Martha Wilson, Pat Geiger and Scott Hunsinger.