As we get closer to the start of construction on the new West Oakland Urban Farm and Park (hyperlink), the staff is abuzz with design plans and dreams of the future.
At the West Oakland Grown Harvest Festival this past weekend, we celebrated harvest time and the Rebuild of the Community Market Farm at Union Plaza Park with a community art workshop led by Attitudinal Healing Connection, an West Oakland-based organization that is breaking cycles of violence by providing platforms for creative expression and communication for children, youth, adults and families.
The goal of the workshop was to create art with our friends and neighbors that will have a permanent place at the farm at Union. We chose concepts for the art panels that represent the values of City Slicker Farms and what we strive to embody at our farms: Growth, Community and Sharing.
After the August vandalism incident at Union, many asked me if we should install additional security or cameras at our farm site. I think it is natural to respond to a crisis like this with fear and trepidation that it might happen again – I know I did.
But as that fear subsided, and our resolve increased, we knew that our response must be to build community, not take punitive action. So we asked Attitudinal Healing Connection to help us in a first step of creating permanent art for the space that communicates what the Community Market Farm is all about.
Thanks to the voices of Oakland gardeners like you, our city is one step away from approving changes to our urban agriculture policy that would make it easier for everyone to grow and sell food.
Last week, Oakland City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee approved amendments to the City’s Zoning Policies that will make it easier and cheaper to have urban farms and gardens in Oakland. The items are moving on to to the full City Council’s Consent Calendar on November 5. Will you join us on Wednesday, November 5 at 5:30 p.m. to show City Council that Oakland residents believe growing food is a right? You can also contact your council person to voice your support for the policy changes.
Last month, the City of Oakland passed the first hurdle to becoming a more urban farmer-friendly city when the Oakland Planning Commission passed an update to the City’s Agricultural Regulations that recognizes planting and raising food and livestock as a right, not a conditional privilege requiring a permit. Now, the proposal is moving onto the Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee.
The update would empower our city to grow and raise our own food in a few major ways. It makes it easier for anyone to start growing food by changing the definition of a community garden from land cultivated by “more than one” to “one or more” persons.
In addition, the changes remove the lengthy and expensive permitting process that used to be required for raising and selling food on a lot by designating certain agricultural activities as “permitted outright.” These activities include growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs; keeping up to three beehives; and, in some areas, selling those food products on- or off-site. This means any community garden less than one acre in size no longer has to apply for a Conditional Use Permit, a process that could cost thousands of dollars and take several months.
Earlier this year, we shared the news that our Barbara Finnin, City Slicker Farms’ Executive Director of six years, would be transitioning out of her leadership role in June. At the time, we launched our Executive Transition Committee and opened a national search to find the right candidate. As Barb’s last day with City Slicker Farms approaches, the Board of Directors has made the strategic management decision to bring on an Interim Executive Director to implement on short-term management and strategic planning work, while focusing our search for a long-term full-time Executive Director.
Thanksgiving is coming up! But with this annual ritual often comes a swell of food waste in our community. Every day residents of Alameda County generate tons of food scraps and food-soiled paper, and the holidays can contribute a disproportionate amount of this. In fact, food scraps and food-soiled paper represent 35% of the stuff that’s going to our landfills.
In early 2008, I was recruited to be City Slicker Farms’ Interim Executive Director while our founder, Willow Rosenthal Summer, was on sabbatical. During those three months, I gained a deep respect for the organization’s well-designed programs and philosophical approach, and the community we work with. At that point, we were a team of one full time (me) and two part time employees, three apprentices, and a wonderful group of volunteers all working on a shoestring budget.
To Our Community,
As some of you may know, towards the end of 2013 we finished building an outdoor classroom at Fitzgerald Park. Its construction marked part of the long-awaited completion of a community planning process that began in 2007, to improve the infrastructure at Fitzgerald Park for the community to share. The intention of the outdoor classroom was to create an inclusive gathering space for our farm stand, workshops, tours, and other community events, gatherings, and learning opportunities for our participants and the larger West Oakland community.
Dear City Slicker Farms family,