On February 20, 2016, the Spring cohort of the BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) headed across the Bay to meet with cooperative workers, entrepreneurs, farmers, and activists to learn more about what community members are doing to bring healthy food to others.
Six years ago the Food Cooperative, which is owned and run together by its members, was born out of a desire to provide healthy, local and natural products to West Oakland, an area with few grocery stores and a lot of corner convenience and liquor stores. The Food Co-op is a project of the Mandela Marketplace, a a non-profit organization that works in partnership with local residents, family farmers, and community-based businesses to improve health, create wealth, and build assets through cooperative food enterprises in low income communities.The BEETS learned from the co-owner/workers, about how they buy produce and products from local farms and businesses. They also talked about the difference between organic and pesticide free produce (Some smaller farmers may not be able to afford to be certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture, even if they use organic farming practices. So those who don’t use pesticides but haven’t been officially certified organic will be labeled “pesticide free”)
After the market, the BEETS headed to Bottoms Up Community Garden located on the corner of Peralta and 8th St. On most morning, the Garden also serves as a pop-up breakfast spot, serving food from an outdoor kitchen just steps from the chicken coop. After a hearty breakfast of super-local eggs homemade pancakes, and breakfast sandwiches with greens from the garden, James and Sarah split up the BEETS between three different gardens they steward in the neighborhood. Fellowship Farmlette was in a lot next to a church and the BEETS moved dirt to create a raised bed. At Piggyback Farm, which was also home to a pig and two goats, the BEETS weeded and harvested greens. In the Bottoms Up Garden, they planted flowers.
The BEETS dug a huge raised bed and were very proud of their work.
After this hard work, they returned to Bottom’s Up Garden where Matt McCue from Shooting Star CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) taught a workshop on soil testing.
The BEETs learned how to gather soil for testing, mix it with the correct chemicals in order to evaluate the overall nutrient health of the soil. They learned how elements like nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and pH can effect everything from the strength of stalk to how much a plant will flower. The BEETS will be using the valuable information they learned by conducting soil tests in many of the CommuntyGrows gardens this Spring. Here is a photo of two of our CommunityGrows staff, Crystal Jones and Cha’Shay Woldridge at the Oakland gardens.