Latest stories, research,  and happenings for the Growing Roots community!
Black Earth Farmers coordinating their CSA during COVID
K. Simpson, D. Jimenez  & W. Smith, of Black Earth Farms, packing produce during COVID-19 at the Gill Tract Community Farm. Photo credit: C. Rainey
In this issue:
  • Stories of inspiration & change from local farms during COVID-19
  • Seeds in the time of coronavirus
  • Launch of new cooperative project on bio-intensive, no-till ag
  • Update on new East Bay Urban Farmer Network
  • Virtual learning & support resources for urban farmers
  • Community events and job announcements
Got news?  If you're receiving this, you're doing work we'd like to share with our 800+ person network.  Please send your news, events and job opening s to [email protected]

Share your story!  Partner Profiles (re-)introduce you and your farm to the East Bay community. Please let us know if you'd like us to feature your work in an upcoming issue. 
Email Marit Doshi (Growing Roots Project Manager) at [email protected] and let's talk!

Inspiration from East Bay farms during COVID-19
The danger posed by COVID-19 spread and the massive changes wrought by shelter-in-place are reverberating throughout East Bay urban farms and food systems. People are responding with determination and care, for themselves and others. We highlight stories of two East Bay urban farms that are living out that spirit. They are not alone, and the Growing Roots team urges you to find other such stories, gathering in food, medicine, and community. Reach out to us through Marit Doshi at [email protected] to share!
Hoover elementary students bringing home food from school garden
Hoover kids bringing home food from school garden before shelter-in-place. Credit. S. Thomas

Resiliency in Action: On March 13th, students at Hoover Elementary in West Oakland
were told to learn at home for the foreseeable future. But before they went, they had a job to do. Executive Director of Common Vision, Wanda Stewart (known to students as 'Miss Wanda') said there was a "sea of collard greens" out in the vibrant school garden that she and the students, plus slews of volunteers, have stewarded over the years. That Friday, students brought home big bags of greens, parsley, oregano, cilantro and more. Those bags held herbs relevant for respiratory disease and healthy cultural foods for their African-American, Middle Eastern, Latinx, and South Asian families. Recalling the exuberant victory on the kids' faces, Wanda declares that this is the "generation who knows how to sustain themselves from the earth." This community-powered (and kid-powered) ability to respond well in pandemic times is "beautiful and real."

Adapting Fast and Well: At the Gill Tract Community Farm in West Berkeley, running just along the Albany border, a new mutual aid program has sprouted. Immediately after shelter-in-place, the Gill Tract's Stewardship Council came together with partners from Black Earth Farms, Sogorea Te Land Trust, and local herbal medicine makers. All of them were individually getting more and more asks for food and medicine. They decided to meet those asks and then some. Their burgeoning mutual aid program is meant to expand their distribution networks collectively and ensure food safety, food access, and medicine processing capacity. Through a crowdfunding campaign to raise $60,000, they're expanding out their CSA, infrastructure for herbal medicine-making and distribution, and food production. Gill Tract is hoping to rapidly expand its capacity to serve as a food hub for regional farmers, both urban and rural. Their campaign and more details will be up any day now! Please check back in at the Gill Tract Community Farm website:
Gill Tract volunteers at washing station
Putting in place COVID-19 food & personnel safety protocols at Gill Tract. Credit: C. Rainey
Seeds in the time of coronavirus
From Growing Roots teammate Laney Siegner: Like many others across the nation, I walked into my local plant nursery two weeks
Plants in planter box
Siegner's personal planter box, starting strong! Credit: A. Siegner
ago and stared. Shelves were empty, lines were long, and everyone hovered over seeds and starts. The New York Times and Civil Eats put this phenomenon into context with articles about seed panic buying and food sovereignty. As a local food system researcher and champion, I celebrate this interest in home gardening. Then a question immediately popped up: When economic and social life resumes, how do we maintain, or even increase, interest and support for seeds and local food supply chains? I feel optimistic that newsletters and social media posts can document the joys and benefits to be found in gardening and food production, as a hobby and as a livelihood (here is a Alameda County go-to for growing your own food). I have cheered on the formation of a diverse coalition of thousands of current and aspiring gardeners through the nationwide "Cooperative Garden Commission." We have an opportunity for virtual grassroots food system activism right now to push for big and bold food system change. We can start in our raised beds and online conferencing platforms and by saving our seeds! Review online seed saving resources (e.g. at Seed Savers Exchange) or teach others what you know (host a virtual seed saving workshop!) to move us all further down the path of resilience, food security, and food sovereignty.

What does this heightened seed demand mean for urban farmers? Converse with fellow urban farmers on the "East Bay Urban Farmer Network" Google Group (see below for more)

Launch of new cooperative project on bio-intensive, no-till ag
We are so pleased to announce a new three-year project stemming from our Sustainable East Bay Urban Farming project. With funding from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, our project will build a cooperative network of California growers (both urban and rural) practicing bio-intensive no-till management. Our farmer partners have already organized around a set of core principles and a soil conservation ethos that includes minimizing soil disturbance, maximizing cropping densities, and maximizing farm biodiversity. The project has three core goals:  1) promote soil and natural resource stewardship; 2) improve the capacity of farmers to adopt, adapt, and critically assess the impact of biointensive no-till farming; and 3) create a network of knowledge exchange between producers and their communities.  These goals will be accomplished through rigorous research experimentation, on-farm trials, and direct monitoring of soil health. Monitoring will be supported by a community science program that engages regional academic institutions and establishes student internships. 
Reach out to Cole Rainey at [email protected] if you are a farmer interested in implementing no-till practices, or excited about joining our community science network!

Invitation to join new East Bay Urban Farm Network
On March 17th, the just-seeded East Bay Urban Farm Network convened, but this second gathering felt rather different. Instead of swapping seeds, picking up flyers, and nibbling on freshly-picked snacks, attendees entered a virtual Zoom space, testing mute buttons and
Food washing sign
Printable food safety sign from Sowerwine's presentation
adjusting their cameras. A mode that now feels commonplace! The virtual gathering was coordinated by Debbie Harris of Urban Adamah, Susan Silber of the NorCal Resilience Network, and several members of the Growing Roots team (Jennifer Sowerwine, Laney Siegner, Rob Bennaton, and Charisma Acey). The group focused on the burning issue of food safety on the farm during COVID-19 with a presentation led by Sowerwine. Then, attention shifted to mutual aid requests and offers and community response to food needs during the ongoing pandemic. You can watch the recording here

After first connecting in October 2019, this still-forming group came together with the idea of building a network of East Bay urban farmers. Members are there to support one another, share resources, exchange ideas, and enhance the vitality and strength of urban farming in the Bay Area. The Network now has an open-access Google Drive; to add resources, contact Charisma Acey ( [email protected]) or Jennifer Sowerwine ( [email protected]). Future meetings are in the offing with potential themes around strategies for staying in operation, supporting unhoused, food-insecure communities, and partnerships with food access organizations. 
Until the next gathering, stay connected through the Google Group! If you want to join, email Debbie Harris at [email protected]

Community Learning & Support Resources
  • UC Ag & Natural Resources provides guidance and resources on how urban farms and community gardens can contribute to food system resilience during the COVID-19 crisis
  • New website guides Bay Area residents on supporting local food production and economy. It focuses on lifting up opportunities to support BIPOC, low-income, and other vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Updated weekly)
  • Interested in starting your home worm bin during shelter-in-place? Check out this worm composting how-to video from Growing Roots teammate Laney Siegner
  • During shelter-in-place, you can re-visit the past UCANR Bay Area Workshop series and learn or refresh on production issues, legal basics, food safety, and marketing & business management for your Bay Area urban farm. 
  • We also recommend you check out the 2pg. article from Growing Roots teammate, Rob Bennaton, about Berkeley's revised Urban Ag Zoning Ordinance, just released through California Association of Food Policy Council's 2019 report.
To share more relevant East Bay urban food community resources, email [email protected]. The next newsletter will come out two months from now.
Events & Happenings
Free Carbon Farming and Polyculture Webinar for Urban Food Growers, April 19th (RSVP requested!) 
Led by Jessica Bates, this webinar teaches basic principles and applications for Carbon Farming in an Urban Farm setting. We will get into the core basics of no-till growing & carbon farming for food production. We will also touch on polycultures for perennial and annual food production as well. This is also an opportunity to learn about funding opportunities for your carbon farming endeavors.
When: April 19, 2020 10am-1pm
Where: WEBINAR Viewing from the comfort of your own home!
RSVP here

Backyard Permaculture: Regenerative Design for food and herbal medicine production 
Hosted by Alameda Backyard Growers. Once you register, you'll be emailed the Zoom link and instructions. Limited to 100 participants
When: April 21, 7 to 8:30 pm 
Where Via Zoom. 
Learn more and register here

Upcoming April "Farming During COVID" webinars
Join us for a free webinar series designed to help California family farmers and ranchers adapt, stay informed and keep our local food system going strong. Learn from fellow producers and from experts about the challenges facing our farms as well as strategies to stay in business, keep our crews safe and employed, and to continue growing healthy food for our communities, come what may. Week Four (April 22) will focus on Farm Labor. 
Register here for final webinars. 
See here for the past webinars on: (1) On-Farm Food Safety; (2) Marketing; and (3) Relief for California Farmers (take action to urge Congress to get money to farmers here)

To share more relevant East Bay urban food community events, trainings, workshops, and other happenings, email  [email protected]. The next newsletter will come out two months from now.
Jobs &  Opportunities
4 positions at Berkeley Food Institute
Part-time, paid positions (all applications due April 27th)
2 summer positions at Provenance Capital Group
Full-time, paid, summer-long positions (applications open until filled)
Looking for young environmental leaders!
Do you know an amazing young environmental leader (ages 13-22)? Are YOU one? 2020 Brower Youth Award for Environmental Leadership applications are open until May 1st, awarding a cash prize and coaching, visioning, leadership activities, speaking and media engagements.

To share job postings with the Growing Roots network (800+ subscribers!), email
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This newsletter is a project of Growing Roots and the Berkeley Food Institute.