Tag Archives: Urban farming

Fleet Farming builds bike-powered urban farms

Fred Lake and Justin Vandenbroeck of Fleet Farming. Photo: Kate Williams
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It’s a sunny day in West Oakland. I pull up to the corner of 10th and Campbell streets and look for produce. The lettuce and vegetable sprouts are at first a little hard to find, but eventually I spot three long rows of dark, healthy soil tucked in the back of a church’s yard.

This is a “farmlette” — a mini urban farm — run by Fleet Farming. … Continue reading »

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Phat Beets launches youth-run pickle company

Toveo Hill, Phat Beets Produce's farmers market manager, displaying some of the pickle jars that are distributed to members who pick up their shares at the Tuesday farmers market outside Children's Hospital Oakland. Photo courtesy: Phat Beets
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By now most East Bay residents are familiar with CSAs, or community-supported agriculture — consumers subscribe to a farm and receive in return boxes of organic, seasonal produce.

Oakland-based nonprofit Phat Beets Produce has been running one such CSA for six years, but they’re now taking the concept one step further. Phat Beets is now offering The Cultured Case through what they call a CSY, or community-supported youth program. Subscribers receive jars of preserved and pickled vegetables, all made by Oakland youth taking part in Phat Beets’ Fresh Fellows program.

Founded in 2007, Phat Beets Produce connects small-scale farmers of color to urban communities through the creation of clinic-based farmers markets, school farm stands, youth market gardens and community kitchens.

Fresh Fellows was started two years later, along with help from a doctor at UCSF Benioff Oakland Children’s Hospital. It teaches youth from the hospital’s Healthy Hearts Clinic who are at risk for diet-related illnesses about healthy eating, cooking and gardening. … Continue reading »

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WOW Farm teaches business, pleasure of farming

WOW Farm, Oakland, Nov. 2015 Photo: Kelly Sullivan
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Enera and Yessica are kneeling in the dirt in their Carhartt overalls, harvesting fresh arugula, when they give me a crash course in small-business economics.

“It’s all about supply and demand, and you have to keep that in equilibrium,” Yessica says.

She expertly scissors through gathered handfuls of the spicy-smelling greens, then clips their ends and arranges them into neat bundles in a shallow wooden box.

“A lot of it is just calculation, and figuring out how much you can sell something for. And you have to calculate the labor costs, cost of seed,” explains Enera.

These young women are nearly finished with their six-month internship at West Oakland Woods (WOW) Farm, a small nonprofit in West Oakland that aims to develop youths’ business and management skills while imparting a comprehensive education in sustainable, organic urban farming. … Continue reading »

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Urban Adamah to break ground on new farm

Urban Adamah is set to break ground today, Sept. 11, on its new West Berkeley farm. Image: Urban Adamah
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A sustainable agriculture organization with plans for an ambitious urban farm, and a training program for the next generation of farmers, is slated to break ground over the next few days on a project set to cover more than 2 acres of vacant land in West Berkeley.

Urban Adamah, which means “city and earth,” received new permits from Berkeley’s zoning board Thursday night to expand the scope of the project by adding permanent cabins for school groups and other visitors, worker housing and a café to the project site at 1151 Sixth St. The farm is set to be open to the public weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A café and general store selling farm produce will be open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

See the staff report and applicant statement for the project.

The organization, which is open to all but inspired by Jewish beliefs, has been operating at 1050 Parker St. since 2011. The group knew its lease there would end in 2015, and began looking in fall 2012 for property to purchase to continue and expand its work.

In July 2013, Urban Adamah discovered the Sixth Street property, at Harrison Street on the Berkeley-Albany border, and felt it had found its home. … Continue reading »

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UC Gill Tract Farm blooms amidst controversy

Melanie Charles, Mark Jones and Julia Raskin pick weeds at the Gill Tract farm on a recent Tuesday night. Photo: Kathleen Costanza.
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On a Sunday in early August, about 20 volunteers milled around the UC Gill Tract Community Farm, plucking weeds, harvesting tomatoes and weighing buckets brimming with leafy kale.

“What are we supposed to do with aphids again?” said Vivek Nath, a first-time volunteer, as he bent over to pick broccolini.

“They’re the little green bugs, you take off the pieces with a lot of them,” replied fellow volunteer Allen Barth. “Chickens like to eat ‘em.”

A collaborative project between UC Berkeley and the public, the UC Gill Tract Community Farm is a year-and-a-half old urban farm that has sprouted up on land embroiled in years-long controversy. Open six days a week, people can harvest organic produce in exchange for help weeding, watering or planting. On Sundays, volunteers set up a farm stand where all the food is free or offered for a donation. … Continue reading »

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High lead levels an issue for backyard chickens, soil

Chicken by Will Merydith
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Last month a local veterinarian had a Berkeley client bring in a very sick chicken.

“It was almost dead,” said Dr. Lee Prutton, of the Abbey Pet Hospital in El Cerrito. Prutton said he put the chicken to sleep and, wondering if it had a contagious disease, sent the body to the state lab for testing. The results: heavy metal poisoning, mainly lead.

The vet is now concerned that people are raising chickens in lead-contaminated urban soils, unaware that the lead can enter the chickens’ eggs that we eat.

Lead poisoning can cause brain damage, miscarriage, high blood pressure and learning and behavior problems, and is especially problematic for growing children, according to the Alameda County Healthy Homes Department.

Last October, the New York Times reported that “…a New York State Health Department study show(ed) that more than half the eggs tested from chickens kept in community gardens in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens had detectable levels of lead, unlike store-bought counterparts.” … Continue reading »

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Vacant Berkeley lot is transformed into vertical farm

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Green Skies Vertical Farm (GSV Farm) on Channing and Fifth Street is even more hyperlocal than a farmer’s market. The food is grown, harvested and sold from 739 Channing Way, a once-vacant lot that now is home to stacked planters full of strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes and dozens of other edible plants.

David Ceaser started GSV Farm on April 15 this year and said “it’s still really an experiment.” He goes by the lot that he leased several days a week, spending “two hours here, three hours there.” He has several other jobs, Ceaser said, but this is his passion.

Ceaser was formerly the business manager of an organic farm in the Central Valley, but soon realized the “inefficiencies” of the business model. Transporting bushels of food from the valley out to various farmers’ markets came to appear to him to be incredibly wasteful, he said, and, once the farmer gets there, he or she may not sell even half the produce in the stall. The stall across the way might also have the same products, but for half the price. … Continue reading »

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Community farm buys 2+ acres in West Berkeley

Adam Berman, the founder of Urban Adamah, stands on the boundary of the property the group has purchased on Sixth Street. Cordonices Creek is behind him. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Urban Adamah, the community farm that has been operating out of rented quarters on Parker Street for two and a half years, is in contract to purchase a 2.2-acre lot next to a restored section of Codornices Creek in West Berkeley.

The organization, which integrates Jewish traditions, environmental education, mindfulness and social action, purchased the land at Sixth and Harrison streets from the U.S. Post Office for $2.1 million and has until Aug. 4 to come up with the funds, according to Adam Berman, the founder of Urban Adamah.  The land, at 1151 Sixth, is undeveloped and sits next door to the post office’s main processing facility.  … Continue reading »

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Farm growth means more leafy greens for Oakland

City Slickers
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City Slicker Farms, an urban farming group in West Oakland, has bought its own land, and expects to dramatically increase its output of leafy greens, vegetables and fresh eggs for local residents.

With its five existing gardens, the organization sold a total 9,000 pounds of food in West Oakland in 2012. Since its founding in 2001, the yield has been 72,000 pounds of food.

But, with the new expansion, City Slicker expects to double the amount of food it grows, according to Barbara Finnin, the organization’s executive director.

About 120 supporters – and a half-dozen geese — gathered at the groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday Jan. 31 in what’s currently an empty, grassy lot at the corner of Peralta and 28th St., not far from the MacArthur Maze. … Continue reading »

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Cal razes latest Occupy the Farm greens at Gill Tract

Urban farming activists have continued to plant at Albany's Gill Tract, a University of California-owned research field, since trying to take over the land earlier this year. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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The latest development in the battle over the future of a hotly contested research field in Albany took place Friday when the UC Berkeley dean who oversees the land released a new open letter about his goals for the stewardship of the space.

Urban farming activists recently broke into the fenced-off Gill Tract field to plant about 2,000 winter greens. They announced plans to continue working part of the field in the coming months, in conjunction with hosting several community forums and vegetable distributions. In October, they held a pumpkin carving event, and last week they organized a forum in North Oakland to “discuss how we can work together to strengthen local struggles for land, food, and power — at the Gill Tract Farm and beyond.”

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said, as of Friday evening via email, that “The occupy crops are no longer there.” … Continue reading »

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Three Berkeley edible gardens feature on urban farm tour

Tiny Berkeley Garden attracts bees, butterflys, and appreciative passersby. Photo: Kristin Stromberg
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True to its new name, Tiny Berkeley Garden, is a small edible landscape located in the heart of Central Berkeley. But don’t be deceived by its diminutive size. The lot may only amount to 3,500 square feet (with just 1,750 feet for farming) but it’s chock full of trees, plants, and herbs that supply Kristin Stromberg with much of her produce for her home kitchen — with plenty to share and swap with neighbors and a nearby school.

A year ago, with the help of East Bay-based  Planting Justice, Stromberg turned her concrete and weed-filled yard into a haven for apple, apricot, pear, plum, pluot, fig, lemon, and lime trees, raspberry and blackberry bushes, along with chard, kale, tree collards, tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, zucchini, asparagus, and other edibles.

Then, with assistance from family and friends, she built a chicken coop (known as Chez Panisse), which houses Panisse, Coco, Cuckoo, Tikka Masala, and Kung Pao, who provide several eggs a day, and a few rabbits, whose poo, she discovered, makes excellent compost. A beehive is in the works. … Continue reading »

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Three Squares benefit to help free cooking class program

Three Squares volunteers with Kitchen on Fire chef Olivier Said. Photo: Sarah Nelson
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For the past three years Sarah Nelson has run free cooking classes for low-income families under three different names. While working as a special projects coordinator for the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market she brought the program then known as Operation Frontline to the Bay Area.

That effort, a national initiative sponsored by the nonprofit Share our Strength, changed its name to the more apt Cooking Matters in October 2010. Last August, when Nelson left the farmers’ market, she took the cooking class concept with her and now heads up the non-profit organization Three Squares, which is holding a fundraising brunch at UC Berkeley’s Pauley Ballroom this Sunday.

Name changes aside, the core concept of this program remains the same: six weeks of cooking instruction that focuses on kitchen skills, fresh foods, and meal planning for those in need. Three Squares is a lean operation: in addition to Nelson, 31, the staff includes three AmeriCorps members and relies on 400 volunteers to teach about 15 classes a week in the Bay Area, typically two each week in Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Urban farm Urban Adamah celebrates the harvest

Jewish harvest celebration at Urban Adamah. Photos: Wendy Kenin
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Urban Adamah, a community organic farm and Jewish environmental education center on Parker and San Pablo, celebrated the holiday of Sukkot on Sunday. There was music, yoga in the sun, a food festival, and good eats. People were asked to bring a can of food to donate to local food banks. Sukkot is a celebration of the harvest.

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