Tag Archives: Urban farming

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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Places

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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News

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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Faith-based urban farm opens in Berkeley

Families enjoying the festivities at the Urban Adamah Grand Opening and Farm Festival yesterday./Photos: Sarah Henry
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Sunday marked the grand opening of Urban Adamah, the first faith-based, modern urban farm in West Berkeley, at 1050 Parker Street near San Pablo Avenue, opposite Fantasy Studios. The one-acre farm with Jewish roots offers a residential fellowship program for young adults, summer camps for kids and teens, and plans to help feed the needy in the community.

On an uncharacteristically warm June day, several hundred people, including many families with young children, turned out to tour the farm, meet chickens, bake pizzas, pickle cucumbers, make ice cream, and whip up bicycle smoothies — as well as learn a little about the philosophy behind the farm, currently boasting greens, squashes, tomatoes, and other summer crops.

Local urban farming icon Novella Carpenter welcomed the newbies to the neighborhood, along with Assemblymember Nancy Skinner and Councilmember Darryl Moore.  Fellow West Berkeley urban farmer Jim Montgomery, who walked his goats over to say hello, was a big hit with the younger set. … Continue reading »

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Urban homesteader challenges city on sale of edibles

Sophie Hahn, founder of Berkeley Edible Garden Initiative
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Should city dwellers be allowed to sell their backyard bounty?

Sophie Hahn thinks so. The North Berkeley resident wants to share the abundance from her residential produce plot and offset some costs she incurs maintaining her edible garden.

But Hahn ran into hiccups with the city last year trying to get her idea off the ground. “I had no idea it would be so complicated,” she says. “It’s actually easier in Berkeley to have a pot collective than to have a vegetable collective,” a frustrated Hahn told  a New York Times reporter in August.

Or pretty much any other home-based business. That’s because Berkeley’s zoning codes prohibit selling or otherwise conducting commerce outside a house in a residential neighborhood. Never mind that many residents (this writer included) toil from inside their homes. City codes allow for small, low-to-moderate impact home businesses, such as piano teachers, explains Dan Marks, director of planning and development for the city. … Continue reading »

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Urban farmer Willow Rosenthal plants seeds in Berkeley

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The aptly named Willow Rosenthal grew up around trees in Sonoma County in a community that farmed its own food. Raised by hippies who didn’t have a lot of money, she nonetheless ate well. She also learned how to grow her own food by working on an organic farm and for a local nursery.

She came to the Bay Area in 1997 knowing she wanted to do social-justice work; an internship with Food First and volunteering with the Organic Consumers Association followed.

When she moved to West Oakland, Rosenthal was immediately struck by the absence of greenery, how much vacant, unused land there was, and the lack of grocery stores. She had landed in a community bounded by three major freeways that is also home to a busy port and extensive industrial pollution. People in this predominantly low-income, African American and Latino neighborhood had nowhere close by to buy healthy, affordable food. The area had plenty of corner liquor stores and fast-food joints, but not a single full-service supermarket. … Continue reading »

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Food and farming: Double header this Thursday

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Berkeleysiders interested in food and farming may find themselves torn between two edible events being held downtown — or bouncing between both this Thursday.

The Earth Island Institute and VegNews Magazine host a hot-topic debate: “Can You Be a ‘Good Environmentalist’ and Still Eat Meat?” In one corner, Nicolette Hahn Niman, a Marin rancher and author of Righteous Porkchop, who believes there is an ecologically sustainable way to eat animals. Niman’s … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Bites: Novella Carpenter

Guerrilla gardener Novella Carpenter./Photo: Sarah Henry.
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Each Friday in this space food writer Sarah Henry asks a well-known, up-and-coming, or under-the-radar food aficionado about their favorite tastes in town, preferred food purveyors and other local culinary gems worth sharing.

Novella Carpenter grows greens and raises rabbits, goats, chickens, and bees on a dead-end street in the ghetto. The dumpster diver and salty-mouthed author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer (paperback due out May 25) has cultivated land for the … Continue reading »

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