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Urban Tilth’s MLK Day of Service Showcases Richmond’s Green Thumb

Urban Tilth’s MLK Day of Service Showcases Richmond’s Green Thumb
by ADMIN on JANUARY 21, 2013

News Feature, Edgardo Cervano-Soto

Teams of volunteers in white MLK t-shirts pushed wheelbarrows of compost and struck the ground with shovels for Urban Tilth’s 6th Annual MLK Day of National Service at the Richmond Greenway. Stretching from 6th Avenue to Harbour Way, the Richmond Greenway was host to multiple green projects and activities. By 9am, work was already underway on the many plant beds, and by the afternoon families and children strolled the greenway to the performing stages.

Along the trail, bilingual posters featuring quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. speeches were posted for the people to read. In addition to the projects, which included planting trees, mural painting and building sitting areas, numerous city organizations were on hand in their booths.

Alvino Rodriguez, 60, a grandfather, walked the Greenway with his family. He’s on a visit from Mexico, and said he was surprised by the activity on the Greenway. “It’s great to walk around, and see the progress of the city,” said Rodriguez. “The city is getting better, little by little.”

Near Harbour Way, Carmen Lee, 40, welcomed visitors to the Pogo Park booth and shared information on the non-profit organization that is leading the reimagining and building of parks in Richmond’s most underserved neighborhoods. Dr. Amahra Hicks presented a model of “Unity Park,” a community collaborative project to create a new park, and effort led by Pogo Park.

According to Dr. Hicks, “Unity Park” will feature amenities and play structures designed entirely by the community, an effort that has lasted three years. Today, Dr. Hicks was collecting signatures for future participation. “We want the community to be involved in this process. This is a very underserved community and Unity Park will put (in place) a lot of programs for the community to benefit,” he said.

Residents from Richmond were not the only ones volunteering. The event drew people from the nearby cities of Albany, Berkeley, Oakland and even Antioch. Marisol, 15, a student from Albany, found herself planting a tree on the Greenway for RichmondTrees, a grassroots organization promoting the growth of Richmond’s “urban forest.” The task of planting a tree was a new one for Marisol, but she was glad to participate and honor MLK through service. “It feels good to do something to honor Dr. King. There is not a whole lot of celebration where we live,” said Marisol, “and this brings everyone together.”

Chris Treadway: Richmond groups benefit from grants

Chris Treadway: Richmond groups benefit from grants
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 08/16/2011 12:14:16 PM PDT
Updated: 08/16/2011 05:50:15 PM PDT

The efforts of several local organizations are being bolstered by recently announced grants and donations.

A transitional employment program focused on downtown Richmond is the recipient of a $40,000 contribution from financial institution Citi.

The money was awarded to Rubicon Programs (www.rubiconprograms.org) for its Neighborhood Ambassador Transitional Employment initiative that is operated in collaboration with the Richmond Main Street Initiative as a way to better the district while providing employment to residents and improving the commercial area.

Ambassadors are employed to provide a positive presence around the Macdonald corridor from Eighth to 19th streets, reporting issues they observe, removing graffiti and other blight, helping direct visitors and keeping authorities aware of issues in the area.

Also directed to downtown Richmond is a $150,000 grant from the inaugural round of “Our Town” funding that the National Endowment for the Arts is awarding to the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, the major cultural facility in downtown Richmond.

The grant will “support the commissioning of an interactive art installation by new media artist Scott Snibbe” that will use video to reflect the community’s diversity and the variety of dance, rhythm and performance programs taught and performed at the center.

Richmond was one of 51 communities
in 34 states to receive a grant from the NEA program.

STEWARDSHIP COUNCIL AWARDS: Two Richmond organizations benefitted from this year’s grants made by the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council.

Urban Tilth (www.urbantilth.org) was awarded $35,000 toward its Homegrown Experts initiative that provides 30 low-income, urban teenagers with a six-week summer apprenticeship and 100 hours of paid experience with agriculture education, vocational training, community service, and employment.

Participants also spend camp and work for two weekends on local organic farms owned by farmers of color.

Richmond-based Youth Enrichment Strategies (www.yesfamilies.org) was presented a $20,000 Stewardship Council grant for its Camp-to-Community program that puts young people in touch with nature and emphasizes developing leadership skills through work with local green agencies and at YES overnight summer camps, family camps and day outings.


Episode 110: Annie’s Annuals and Urban Tilth


Annie's Annuals & Perennials

This week finds Joe, Patti and Nathan in Richmond, CA for a behind the scenes visit with Annie Hayes of world-renowned Annie’s Annuals and Perennials. From humble beginnings in her own back yard to two and a half acres of prime San Francisco real estate and a tremendous following, Annie now offers some 3,000 varieties of hard to find and rare heirloom annual and perennial plants preserving them for generations to come.

Just what is an heirloom? Although definitions vary somewhat, generally it is a plant 30-50 years old that has been handed down from generation to generation and comes true each year from seed. Searching for these seeds is an interesting challenge for Annie and her team and the stories behind the plants fascinating.

Each and every plant in her repertoire is grown organically from seed exposed to the elements, not protected in a greenhouse environment. Her philosophy, and she has the successful plants to prove it, is that plants perform better in the garden if they are not forced into blooming early as with the typical nursery trade. Because her focus is on developing a strong root system rather than flowers or fruit, her plants are therefore healthier and establish more quickly.

One of the more unusual aspects of her business is that they only sell plants in 4” pots. So, Joe wants to know what happens to them when they’ve outgrown that space. Annie donates the plants to local community organizations, local schools and Urban Tilth.

Urban Tilth is an organization dedicated to teaching children the skills they can use to grow their own food. They have agriculture programs for youth from kindergarten to twelfth grade and offer free workshops to the community on gardening and sustainability. Located along a bike path nearby these gardens are tended by the children but the harvest is open to anyone in the community.

This part of their Mission Statement says it all “Urban Tilth has a deep commitment to West Contra Costa County. We believe that environmental restoration is inextricably connected to economic and social restoration. As a result we are committed to training and employing local people, working collaboratively within community, establishing cross sector coalitions, engaging in local policy decisions and growing our food (and ourselves), locally and organically using the principles of permaculture to take into consideration waste reduction as well as water and soil conservation, preservation and restoration”.

Also in this episode Patti shows us that having a bountiful harvest doesn’t have to take up tons of space. It can be accomplished with a self-contained, self-watering kit that is easy to set up and a cinch to maintain. And Nathan whips up a delicious summertime treat using one of his favorites…tomatoes. Enjoy the show!

For more information

Urban Tilth

Annie’s Annuals and Perennials

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Seed Savers Exchange

Planting seeds of change

Two-year-old Frida Cortez checks out the plant selection at the first annual Cesar Chavez Community Garden Day in Richmond on April 2, 2011.
By: Christina Lopez | April 4, 2011 – 9:20 am

On a day with a cool breeze and warm weather, gardening enthusiasts from the Coronado, Iron Triangle, and Santa Fe neighborhoods gathered for a day of planting trees and vegetables seeds on what would have been labor organizer César Chávez’ 84th birthday.

“Today, we are all farm laborers,” Tana Monteiro shouted. “We’re literally that today.”

Monteiro, along with a team of volunteers, worked for the past two months to organize the free event held in the schoolyard at Richmond College Prep Charter School. The day of gardening marked the city’s first annual César Chávez Community Garden Day in an effort to spark community outreach, encourage healthy eating habits, and recognize César Chávez as the leader of the United Farmer Workers Union and civil rights for farm laborers everywhere.

Peppina Chang, CEO of Richmond College Prep Charter School, addresses the crowd about labor activist Cesar Chavez and the significance behind his movement.

“The goal of today’s event is to build community, build gardens, plant food—pretty much what César Chávez stood for as far as building community, working together, uniting farm workers,” said Monteiro.

At least a dozen local organizations participated in Saturday’s event, which was organized by the school, the Richmond Community Foundation – an  organization that promotes community engagement, and Urban Tilth – a small non-profit committed to urban agriculture and healthy, natural food resources for those in Richmond. Supplies and materials, including plants, were donated from Annie’s Annuals in North Richmond. Richmond Public Library’s Seed Lending Library program contributed packaged planting seeds. Seeds for produce and fresh vegetables were provided by Urban Tilth, and fruit trees were provided by the City of Richmond.

Volunteers from from the Providence Baptist Church, and Coronado neighborhood council members helped staff the event, and school parents delivered refreshments including bottled water and Mexican hot chocolate, which paired nicely with the assortment of fresh Mexican pastries in honor of Chávez’ birthday.

“It’s all about greening the neighborhood and bringing people together from different backgrounds and experiences,” said April Suwalsky , director of Community Engagement for the Richmond Community Foundation. “César Chávez day is important because it’s really about representing growth and working together. We felt that it was a good way to honor that history and legacy.”

Suwalsky said that scheduling the event on Chávez’ birthday was a good way to show solidarity with the Hispanic community in the area. “It’s also important culturally to a lot of the people who attend the schools here and live in the neighborhoods,” she said.

On a high-rise platform, Richmond College Prep CEO Peppina Chang spoke passionately about Chávez’ journey through the educational system, attending 35 schools as a young adult.  She told students about his history in the U.S. Navy and ended by comparing his leadership qualities to those of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “He was a great American hero. As well as Dr. King was a leader for all of us, not only for African Americans, same thing for César Chávez,” Chang said. “He is a leader for everybody, not only for the Latinos.”

Afterward, Chang passed out a children’s biography about Chávez and his accomplishments.

A United Farm Workers banner serves as a symbol for families, students, and community leaders as they plant produce and trees in the background.

The afternoon event brought nearly 100 people from Richmond and beyond, including families from San Pablo, North Richmond, and Berkeley. A brigade of shovel lugging, wheelbarrow-toting children filled the garden area inside the gates of Richmond College Prep.

National Park Rangers along with members from the Rosie the Riveters organization helped unload flats of plants and usher in garden necessities as more community members gathered around the budding garden. Within a few minutes, the barren boxes of soil began to magically sprout colors of spring.

LaKisha Hill, an Iron Triangle resident, brought her four kids—all Richmond College Prep students. “Community service is really something that needs to happen more often in our lives. I really wanted them to come out and participate in making their school look nice.”

Hill’s daughter, 8-year-old Amani, couldn’t tear herself away from the garden for a quick lunch break, packing down mounds of dark brown soil as her tiny hands struggled to keep the adult-size gardening gloves on and filling her bucket to the top with water. She looped around the medium-sized garden pouring generous amounts of water over planted seedlings.

“She didn’t want to stop, she was so involved. I told her, ‘Let’s get some tamales,’ and she loves tamales, and she still didn’t want to stop,” said her mother.

“The best part about today was the planting,” TaeSuan Jones, 8, said. “Helping can be fun. If you help people, you can have fun at the same time.”

The third grader had a smile spread across his face and dirt smeared on his orange and blue shirt as if to signify a hard day’s work in the garden. “I liked planting strawberries.”

“It was important to bring my son out today to help in the clean up and build community relationships with other people other than ourselves,” agreed his father, Jeffrey Jones. Since 2007, Jones has worked as an instructional aid assisting teachers in the 2nd grade class. He sees the benefit to community gardens. “If you have kids, it’s feasible to learn to plant and grow your own vegetables and save some money.”

Fruit tress, like this lemon tree, were donated by the City of Richmond for the first annual Cesar Chavez Community Garden Day in Richmond on April 2, 2011. 

Urban Tilth volunteer and Cal alum Adam Boisvert, who was busy mowing lawns and planting trees at the school, said the nonprofit group is dedicated to promoting and proliferating urban agriculture and providing local food resources in Richmond. “It’s a food desert here in Richmond. You have a much easier time finding fast food or a taco shop than a fresh apple.”

75-year-old south Richmond resident Beatrice Walker agreed as she thumbed through the selection of seedlings at the event. “Plants can be a food, they can act as a medicine,” she said as she combed through the seedlings in her hand. “People eat too much junk food and too much artificial foods and that’s what makes them sick. If they eat more green food, green plants, they will be much better off with their health.”

Walker, who moved to Richmond in 1963, came to the event dressed in a red and white patterned jacket topped off with a ruby red scarf wrapped around her head. “I think this is wonderful for the community,” Walker said. “It’s a wonderful day for people to get together and everybody is so peaceful and participating, like it should be.”

The event was designed to help improve the greenery not only at the school campus, but in the surrounding neighborhood as well. Teams of community volunteers switched off between gardening and walking door-to-door, beautifying nearby front yards along 11th and 12th street. “Being able to knock on doors and say, ‘I want to help you out, mow your lawn, and take out your trash.’ It’s just a nice way of creating community,” Boisvert said. “You’ve got to knock on doors and break down borders to get into people’s mind and hearts.”

Amani Hill, 8, loops around the community garden inside the gated schoolyard at Richmond College Prep Charter School in Richmond. 

Boisvert said that breaking down barriers was at the heart of Chávez’ own mission. Many attending Saturday’s event didn’t spend the leader’s birthday indoors but decided to get out and get their hands dirty for a good cause. “César was an amazing character. He really stood up for what is true and he didn’t stop and didn’t take no for an answer. He organized people and created a whole movement,” Boisvert said. “His birthday is a great opportunity to exhibit his principles—creating community and creating food for people.”

As the event wound down, many of the volunteers retreated to the canopy tent in the center of the Florida street in the Coronado neighborhood. Walker worked on filling small manila envelopes with seeds that would one day yield gardens of fresh greens. Opening a mustard seed packet, she grabbed a handful and fingered through the small kernels, as she recalled Matthew 17:20, a Bible verse that promises, “If you have the faith of a single mustard seed, you can move mountains.”

“I heard one guy say that he came out to this event by faith,” she said. “I’m sure he had the faith like a mustard seed.”



Richmond’s gardens, deeply-rooted, sow new seeds

By Julia Landau

Amani Hill, 8, prepared soil beds on the schoolyards of Richmond College Prep School, where she attends elementary school.

Amani Hill, 8, prepared soil beds on the schoolyards of Richmond College Prep School, where she attends elementary school.

Richmond, California, is a city of contradictions. Chevron operates its second largest oil refinery on the city’s western border. The city is emerging as a leader in “urban greening” – city planning that upgrades public spaces with walkable and bikable routes and natural vegetation. It’s as if ex-spouses are living next door to each other. The mayor, a member of the Green Party, has consistently cited Chevron as a major contributor to the health problems of Richmond’s citizens.

Inner city Richmond’s active network of grassroots groups has won the city recognition over the past few years, even with the impressive refinery perched in the backdrop. The trailblazing community garden nonprofit Urban Tilth won county grants last year, while the city itself won an urban planning award—almost a quarter of a million dollars—to steer its landscaping and greening efforts. The vanguard of Richmond’s progressive also includes the city’s job-training agency Solar Richmond. Green Party mayor Gayle McLaughlin sturdily backs both organizations.

Richmond’s first annual Cesar Chavez Community Garden Day, held on April 2, was just one example of the city’s proclaimed long-term commitment to redefine Richmond’s identity as a city that nurtures its own. Neighborhood groups hosted the event to plant trees and gardens around the schools of Nystrom Village, which sits at the center of some of the city’s toughest blocks.

Community Garden Day honors the Mexican-American labor icon who founded the United Farm Workers, with Dolores Huerta, leading to better wages and working conditions. But Chavez’s life served more as a background emblem for efforts toward collective organization and beautifying inner city blocks.

In the foreground, said Urban Tilth Director Doria Robinson, were present-day efforts to build up Richmond’s open spaces. Urban Tilth was at the core of the gardening event and accounts for much of the city’s burgeoning green image.

Beatrice Walker, 75, fills envelopes with vegetable seeds donated by the seed lending library.  She moved to Richmond's South Side from Arkansas in 1963. 

The organization’s small full-time staff directs paid apprentices who can make their way up the ladder to assistants, project coordinators, and managers of the outfit’s dozen-odd projects throughout the city.

Organizers of the event aimed to get the ball rolling on a long term effort of residential beautification, replacing dry crab grass with new trees in mulch, and giving out free plants, vegetable starts, and seeds to residents.

“You need festivals of identity like today,” said Matt Holmes, an educator with the Parks Service here. “This is a historic segregated village,” said Holmes, referring to the Iron Triangle’s separation from the rest of the city by railroad tracks and a freeway. “It’s a nexus of violence on the west coast.”

Robinson, 37, is no stranger to her neighborhood’s reputation. A lifelong South Side resident, she’s heard the lamentations of Richmond as a “food desert,” lacking adequate grocery stores and therefore dooming residents to ill health.

Robinson thinks characterization this misses the mark. “What’s really a desert is opportunity,” she said. The food is less the focus than is having a place to go—in the neighborhood and in life. Urban Tilth, said Robinson, is about “people building resiliency to create what they need.”

A virtual absence of an economy within the city’s boundaries lends little enticement for youth to abstain from drugs and violence. “We’re actually trying to create a place where you can train and get paid for what you do,” said Robinson.

Urban gardening, Robinson said, puts jobless young hands to use, constructively and with visible outcomes. “There are tons of people and tons of open space,” she said, “but there’s not enough opportunity for people to do something positive with that space.”

Residents, several of whom brought their small children to help prepare soil beds and water seedlings, said that making the neighborhood look better will help curb gun violence.

“If all you see if ugly all you do is ugly,” said Alicia Jackson, a South Side resident who remembers leaving doors unlocked in Nystrom Village as a small child in the 1970s, and coming home from school to her family’s ducks and chickens. Much has changed since then.

Richmond’s crime prevalence, poor health statistics, and proximity to the largest oil refinery on the west coast has made it something of a laboratory for nearby Berkeley environmental, health, and urban planning researchers. The data pours in, painting a clear picture of Richmond as a poor city plagued by intractable social ills, but little is said of the city’s efforts to combat those ills.

Fifth grader Eddie Navarro says he learned how to plant flowers from his father, who keeps a garden.Many believe that there is enough of a movement in Richmond to support homegrown workers trained in landscaping and gardening; Robinson has seen young people evolve within Urban Tilth into manager and educator positions. The apprenticeships combine gardening skills with positive social interactions. New interests form. 

Like Cesar Chavez, Tania Pulido is a child of working class migrants, but her story echoes the irony of urban farming, evoking a hobby removed from working classes. Tania became convinced that tilling the dirt, while once dignified with Cesar Chavez, once again has to prove itself as a payable, legitimate profession.

Barely graduating Richmond High School and feeling depressed about her prospects, Tania said she stumbled on Urban Tilth at an after-school class on urban agriculture. Her family was caught in a new poverty tide sweeping the inner city in 2007; her father was laid off, her home was going into foreclosure. Her parents did not see tending gardens and hauling dirt as the gateway to a respectable profession.

“I started learning about composting, water conservation, things like that,” said Tania. “My mom wanted to send me to a psychologist.”

Her parents, a construction worker and a housecleaner, came to Richmond as undocumented migrants, hoping for their daughter to advance in a traditional career. They were “confused and worried” at Tania’s turn toward physical labor and eco-activism. “For them it’s like, ‘We came to the U.S. and now you’re farming and gardening?’” said Tania. “[They] came here to get away from that. For them it was like a step backward.”

She started watching political documentaries like Crude, about Chevron’s involvement in Ecuador. She cut her hair short. “I actually had an epiphany,” said Tania. “I really wanted to help out in my community.”

Despite her parents’ unhappiness about elements of her chosen career, Tania actually sees community garden work as the very definition of social mobility.

After volunteering for Urban Tilth for two months, she was hired as an apprentice. She’s moved up two pay scales since then, to project coordinator of Berryfarm, a plot of berry bushes on the Richmond Greenway.

The mood on Saturday was not unfamiliar in Richmond: talk of “ceasing the violence” and “bettering the neighborhood” flew as resident activists mingled and handed out flyers. The young men of Richmond were conspicuously absent—perhaps because other entry-level, green jobs are taking applicants.

Mayor McLaughlin talks frequently about steering the changing job market away from dependence on Chevron and stimulating the internal economy by drawing residents out and beautifying public spaces. Critics of the mayor—and she has vocal critics—say she emphasizes green jobs to the detriment of an unskilled labor force in need of accessible entry-level paychecks.

At the helm of the city’s efforts to train and employ its own is RichmondBUILD, a resident vocational program geared to a growing market of solar panel installation, energy efficient construction, and carpentry. Many graduates of BUILD are young, low-income men of color, and Mayor McLaughlin boasts that Solar Richmond—a company that connects BUILD’s newly trained workers with employers—effectively pairs environmental tech firms and inner city populations, closing what’s been coined as “the green gap.”

RichmondBUILD/Solar Richmond has received national attention as a cutting edge training program for locals, in a city with an unemployment rate almost twice the national average.

Despite its reputation as a danger zone, Richmond residents talk incessantly of “community.” A consensus of sorts formed at the event: a community garden is a microcosm of why they want the city as a whole to get prettier. The new public space could give young people a place to gather, and maybe start something even better.


From Vacant City Lots to Food On the Table How to grow food where we need it.


Leadership and Environmental Action Forum (LEAF): Day 2

Day 2 of the Leadership and Environmental Action Forum (LEAF) featured skills workshops hosted by a variety of schools and environmental organizations. In hands on workshops, students learned how to make worm bins, produce recycled paper, create mosaics from reuse materials, design environmentally themed comic books, and communicate about climate change.

Day 2 ended with meetings in school groups to reflect on LEAF and begin planning for next year.

* “Reuse Mosaics” – presented by Roberta Miller, StopWaste.Org
* “Communicating Climate Change, Creating Change in Your Community” – presented by Mark Spencer, StopWaste.Org
* “A Funny Thing About Comics” – presented by Lana Husser and EarthTeam’s Green Screen
* “Worms: The Secret Kings of the Garden” presented by Jessie Aberto, Efosa Oglebro, Sherman Dean, Qentin Dean and Vincent Dean, Urban Tilth
* “Paper Making” – presented by American High School’s Recycling Club

LEAF was made possible by funding from StopWaste.Org, coordination from EarthTeam, and the enthusiastic participation of teacher and student leaders from participating schools.

For more information about this program and to see more pictures from the weekend click here

2 Farms in 2 Days: WE DID IT!

2 Farms in 2 Days: WE DID IT!


On February 27th and 28th, 2010 at Richmond and Kennedy High Schools, the Richmond community painted a beautiful image of what a mutually concerned, co-operative, and cohesive community is really capable of.

Students, teachers, community members, local organizations, and even a few elected officials took time from their weekends and love from their hearts to help raise TWO beautiful farms at Richmond and Kennedy High Schools!

Thanks to an all day effort, rain and shine, on Day 1, Kennedy High School is now equipped with 13 rows of crop producing power! Each individual crop row is 2 ft in width, 100 ft in length and 4 inches deep. Each row brings the promise of bountiful yields for many seasons to come! Look to the spring for the popping up of seasonal snow peas, swiss chard, and spinach! Three native plant beds were also planted on site. Two ornamental native plant gardens were raised in front of the crop rows near the scoreboard, and between crop rows 10 an 11 a native flower garden was raised so as to attract beneficial insects, and bring pollinators.

On Day 2, Richmond High School was equally blessed with the construction of 6 wooden planter beds, the planting of six fruit trees, and the raising of a native plant garden. Builders from the community used nails, power drills, metal mesh, and a bit of elbow grease to help construct six wooden beds. Each wooden bed spans 32 feet in length, 4 feet across, and nearly 2 feet deep! After a lot of wheelbarrowing and soil moving these beds are prepped to produce delicious vegetables such as carrots, kale, chives, and iceberg lettuce as spring approaches. Richmond High School is also now the proud owner of six fruit trees, and a beautiful native plant garden that will serve to attract beneficial insects, and pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies!

The farms raised at these two schools will serve to grow fresh, healthy, organic produce for over 80 local Richmond families. The 2 Farms in 2 Days project is a true testament to the capabilities and potential of a motivated, and mutually concerned community. Without the help from volunteers, donors, Richmond/Kennedy High Schools, and the community, none of this would have been possible, thank you all so very much!

Below this message, we have listed the names of those individuals, and local businesses who donated funds and materials from their own pockets to help make the 2 Farms in 2 Days project a reality. It is donations from individuals like these that enable the financing and facilitation of agricultural projects such as 2 Farms in 2 Days event. We thank these people for the care and support they have given, and reiterate that this event would not have been possible without the help of these generous individuals!

To The West Contra Costa Unified School District…

Thank you so much to all the staff, teachers, administration, school board, and students for volunteering your time and effort toward this project. We would like to especially Principle Brown-Garcia who stayed with us all Saturday day rain and shine and Vice Principle of Richmond High who worked without stopping from the start to well past the end of the day setting the most positive example possible for their students and staff!

Thank you to Park Guthrie and Jesse Kurtz-Nichol whose vision and endless hours of behind the scenes work for the past 2 years made this a reality. You are the individuals who put in the essential hours of planning and labor to help make the 2 Farms in 2 Days event a success!


Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, Councilman Jim Rogers, Councilman Jeff Ritterman, Jesse Kurtz-Nichol, Park Guthrie, Corinna Lefkowitz, Bob Gade and the ever so fabulous student MCs of Kennedy High School

Business and Foundation Donors

Catahoula Coffee
The Tree Company
Placzek Family Foundation
Richmond Children’s Foundation
San Francisco Professional Food Society
Seed Foundation
Stewardship Council

Individual Donors

Marilyn Langlois, Laura Guthrie, Charlene Son, Lance McDaniel, David Wittrock, Carol Kurtz, Chris Jennions, Todd Jersey.Laura Guthrie, Rodger Pichardo.Craig Deslaurier. Angela Lutz.Charlie Quaid.Derek Reimer.Sylvia falcon.Nancy Klein.Josie McGann. Sandy Vaughn, Jean K Hyams, Michael Guthrie, John McCulloch, Richard Waugh, Lucy Palma, Michael Williams, Beverly Durham, Park Guthrie, Phaedra Schroeder, JC Kneale, Kennedy, Jesse Kurtz-Nicholl, Rich Walkling, Richard P Guthrie and Cynthia B. Guthrie, John Lee, John McCulloch, Michael Guthrie, Jean K Hyams, Sandy Josie McGann, Nancy Klein, Sylvia Falcon, Michael Meagher, Marisa Varalli, Jeremy Flanigan, Carol E Kurtz Ttee and Jack Nicholl Ttee Kurtz, Thomas P. Gage, Angela Lutz, Charlie Quaid, Derek Reimer, Trudy Foote, Tara Mora, Liz Bittner, Jil Geller.Patricia Heidersbach, Marjut Rauhala, Ramon Richardson, Molly Ong, River Schmidt, Cate Burkhart, Michael Beer, Alison Mckee, David Wittrock, Rodger Pichardo, Linda Peach, Jonathan Savarino, Benjamin Stamets, Steven Schultz, Peter Summerville, Linda Hunter, Susan Goltsman, Anne Mollo, Toody Maher.

Thank you so much to everyone who took time and energy to help with this amazing project. WE DID IT!

EPILOGUE: The Work Continues!

Although the vast majority of the work needed for the development of these agricultural farms has been performed, there is still the matter of on going farm maintenance, irrigation system upkeep, crop rotation, and of course harvesting and replanting!

It is our hope that the 2 Farms in 2 Days event does not represent a one time, solitary effort toward the development of permanent healthy food production systems in Richmond. Instead, we hope that this event sets a precedence for more developments and projects of its’ kind.

During this time we ask for sponsors and donations of any amount to help us finance the materials and supplies needed to maintain these beautiful farms. Once again, any donation amount helps, and every cent counts!

These farms will grow food that directly changes the food landscape of the families in the schools of Richmond. And best of all, the farms will be built by the students, teachers, parents and community members surrounding the schools. These “farms” will accompany Urban Agriculture Institutes at both schools where students will learn not only how to manage the farms, but earn graduation credit, learn better nutrition and build and beautify the school community. Please continue to help us raise the funds necessary for the material and labor costs to sustain these “farms”. Richmond and Kennedy High are the first High Schools in California to run a food production program that is student centered, service oriented, and entirely focused on producing healthy food that feeds the community from which it came. Support that premise and begin to bring change to our public schools.

Feel free to visit our website www.urbantilth.org , or visit our Facebook page to learn how you can support our cause.

We have many ways in which to support this endeavor. Please choose a product-level that you are comfortable with and will help us continue this vital endeavor. Thank you.

Urban Tilth will continue to work and sponsor more events, programs and projects that enable and empower the Richmond community to grow fresher, healthier, and more sustainable food right in our own backyard! Thank you very much for your time, and remember…



Doria Robinson

Urban Tilth Executive Director
401 1st Street
Richmond CA 94801

Jesse Kurtz-Nicholl’s Interview with Urban Ag High School Student, Ana Araujo


In October 2009, Jesse Kurtz-Nicholl sat down with Ana Araujo to discuss the Urban Agriculture and Food Systems class she participated in at Richmond High School in 2008/2009.  The class was a pilot program, which gave the students graduation credit and was centered around the creation of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and direct sale of produce from a middle school farm and the school garden at Richmond High.  10 families received a bi-weekly box of produce for $5, which was planted, tended and grown completely by Richmond High students.  In addition to the garden, the students learned about the American food system, their local food shed and global issues surrounding food.  The students joined working groups in their chosen area of focus to delve deeper into the project.  Students presented their work to the City Council of Richmond as their final project.

What do you think were the best parts of the Urban Ag Class in general?

In general, well, I really like the harvest day when we collected the food and we put it in boxes and weighed it.  And I really like planting and like taking care of the garden in general. I’ve always liked that kind of stuff

Q:  Why.  Why do you like that stuff?

It seems fun, putting plants, seeing them grow.  You did that.  You planted that.  You saw it grow, you gave it water. You watched it grow.  You did something for the community.  And like it felt good.

Q:  If we were going to run this program again, what do you think needs to be improved.  Was there anything you didn’t like or needs to be changed?

If we had more land.  Land to grow and plant, that’d be great.  Because we were really limited in the boxes we made, only 10 every two weeks.  So that was really limited.  If we had more, we could expand on that.

Q:  If you could have anything you wanted, what would you ask for?
I’d ask for more. A piece of land, seeds and tools.

Q: Would you want to give a box to every family in the school?
Yeah, if we can, if it’s possible with the food we have.

Q:  Would they eat it?
I hope.  I mean, if they pay for it, they would eat it.  We should keep the process of having them pay at least 5$ for their food.  Because if they pay for it, they would value the food more.  Otherwise, they’re being given it.

Q:  Do you think, you’ve been personally affected by the program?  Has it changed you in any way?
It’s changed me in a way.  But I hope I change more, if I keep being in the program.  Because now I just eat what’s at home.  I used to be like, I don’t want to eat that and I would just go and eat at McDonalds or something.  But now after you told us about how our food is processed, and I’m like, that’s kind of gross.  I don’t want my food going through a bunch of stuff.  I’ve encouraged my mom to buy more fresh meat, more organic meat, but sometimes its not possbile, because its expensive.  But she tries to do it when she can.  So, I’m like, my cow that I’m eating is being fed hormones.  That’s kind of gross.

Q:  You eat more at home now?
Yeah, I really do.  I drink less soda, I more like water.  I make my mom make agua frescas.  It’s more better.

Q:  Has your family changed anything about the way they eat?  After being in the program has anything changed about your family?
Yeah, it has.  Because I’ve told my dad and my brother and my mom, look, let’s do this, let’s eat at home.  It’s cheaper, its easier, we could always eat the leftovers and my dad agrees to it.  My mom also agrees to it, and my brother is just like okay whatever, food is food.  In a way it has.

Q: If you had to say that you learned 3 things in the program, what would they be?
Hmmm, I learned how to eat better.  I learned how to plant  fruits and vegetables and stuff, and that’s like a really good skill.  And also, I opened my eyes to how the food system works, now, its like they’re feeding us garbage in a way.

Q:  Since being in the program, have you ever taken any of the information and used it directly in some way?
Well, I’ve told my mom we should have a little garden.  We planted tomatoes in our backyard and they grew and we used them.  And my aunt she planted squashes and little red cherry tomatoes and chilis in her backyard and we used those.

Q:  Did she do that before?
Kind of,  but I told her, look this is good and she started doing more of it, planting more plants.

Q:  How do you feel about your ability to change your community and your family?  Your power?
I feel like I could, if I had the support from them, from people.  Then I could be able to educate people on the way that food is made and they way we should eat better.  Because diabetes and obesity is a big thing now.

Q:  How do you know about that?  Does anyone in your family have it?
My great grandpa died because of diabetes, my grandma has diabetes on my mom’s side.  And my grandpa, just recently died on my dad’s side had diabetes.  So, it’s on both sides, so I’m really worried about that.  I got myself checked over the summer.  I don’t have diabetes, but I’m watching out, what I eat and stuff, because it could happen to me.

Q:  Do you think teenagers in Richmond are healthy?
There are some.  But there are others.  There’s not that many good choices, both parents work a lot.  And then like, fast food is good, it’s kind of addicting in a way.  So I would say no.  But, generalizing, I would say any teenager is not healthy in any way.  Because one, its very easy for them to go buy fast food.  And two, they don’t care.   They haven’t been told about this stuff.  Grownups, they read it in the newspaper, they educate themselves, but the younger generation, they don’t really pay attention.  Like me, I didn’t really pay attention, until I got into this class.

Our Great Food Problem and Several Small Solutions: A Call to Sow

(More housekeeping. This was originally written in July, 2007 and included in a 5% Local e-newsletter. )

Great problems call for many small solutions

—Wendell Berry, American farmer, writer, and philosopher

Our Great Food Problem and Several Small Solutions: A Call to Sow

Our current food system is a great problem. Like nearly all Americans, we, in West Contra Costa County, subsist on products from a highly-industrialized food system. As a community, we currently do not have even a small capacity to sustain ourselves without the food from this industrialized system. Below are examples of specific problems with this food system, followed by a few ways we can work locally to develop small solutions to begin solving our great food problem.
Study after study documents the negative environmental, public health, and social effects of our current food system.
Environmental Effects: Pesticides in our water—A US Geological Survey study of more than 1,000 streams in 51 different watersheds across the country detected agricultural pesticides more than 90% of the time in urban, rural, and mixed-use areas. Sampling of more than 5,000 wells detected pesticides more than 50% of the time in rural, urban, and mixed-use areas[1]. Based on these nationwide samples, it is reasonable to assume there are pesticides in many of our streams and wells here in West Contra Costa County. Our current food system pollutes our water.
Public Health Effects: Obesity epidemic— Here in West Contra Costa County, 42% of 5th graders tested in 2002 were overweight or obese. A study by the Bloomberg School of Public Health found that if the rate of obesity and overweight continues to climb at its current pace, by 2015, 75 percent of American adults will be overweight or obese.[2] A California Department of Health Services study estimated that overweight and obesity among adults cost Californians more than $8 billion dollars annually due to medical costs, lost productivity, and worker’s compensation claims[3]. Our current food system contributes significantly to one of the greatest threats to our public health—the obesity epidemic.
Social Effects: Shaping impressionable minds A key component of our industrialized food system is a strong marketing campaign by food companies. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that in 2000 food companies spent a total of $26 billion dollars in advertising, a 65% increase in just 10 years[4]. According to the Institute of Medicine, in 2002 food companies spent between $10 and $12 billion dollars on advertising aimed specifically at children[5]. What has been the result of all this investment? American children ages 8-12 on average see more than 50 hours a year of food advertisements (or 7,600 individual ads), nearly half of it for snacks, sweets, and fast food and virtually none of it for healthy produce[6]. In other words, American 8-12 year olds now spend, on average, more than 0.25% of their lives being programmed to consume unhealthy foods. Our current food system turns agricultural products into consumer products; food marketers then train our children to become voracious consumers of unhealthy products.
As these three examples illustrate, the American food system is indeed a “great problem” in need of reform. But what are we, in West Contra Costa County, to do about this situation? Recent Congressional developments suggest exactly what NOT to do—we should not look for big solutions to our great problem.
Do NOT Expect the Federal Government to Initiate Food System Reform: The federal government has been one of the primary architects of the current food system, shaping it with billions of dollars of federal spending. Over the past 10 years, for example, the USDA has encouraged farmers to produce enormous amounts of commodities like corn, wheat, rice, and cotton by paying out more than $100 billion in subsidies. These payments indirectly subsidize the agricultural chemical industry and unhealthy processed foods products like Coca-Cola, Doritos, and Big Macs. This year, Congress is outlining USDA priorities and spending through 2012 in the Farm Bill. At this point, it appears likely that the federal government will continue to invest tens of billions of dollars into a food and agriculture system that makes our children sick, degrades our environment, and erodes our self-reliance while pushing us towards thoughtless over-consumption. We have no reason to expect “great solutions” to our food system problem here, nor anywhere else in the country.
There are a great many small solutions for West Contra Costa County food system. The 5% Local Coalition has already started building a sustainable, healthy, and just food system by developing local food production. We need your help to turn our backyards, parks, schools, and other public open spaces into a local foodshed producing healthy fruits and vegetables.
Edible Landscaping Everywhere:
If we, as a community, value healthy, fresh, affordable, chemical-free produce for our children and all members of our community, there is something simple and radical we can do. We can grow it ourselves. We can surround ourselves with tantalizing fruits, berries, and nuts.
We already spend millions of dollars every year in West Contra Costa County building or rebuilding schools, parks, churches, community centers, libraries, and government offices. Each of these projects includes significant up-front expenditures for installing ornamental landscaping, as well as ongoing landscaping maintenance costs. For little or no additional cost, we could choose beautiful plants which also produce delicious, healthy foods—blueberries, raspberries, citrus, plum, and passionfruits could be planted instead of lindens, arbutus, and multiflora roses. A single mature fruit tree could provide hundreds of pounds of fruit a year to an office, school, or hospital. Once established, olive trees require little irrigation and are nearly indestructible, producing food for hundreds of years. Raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry bushes planted anywhere a child regularly passes by will be picked clean, providing children with valuable phytonutrients. Edible landscaping would bring healthy food choices closer to us and reconnect our communities and culture to the cycle of the seasons.
You can help embed the value of fresh produce in our community and physical environment by planting food-bearing trees, bushes, and vines at your home and at your workplace. You can also join the 5% Local Coalition on Saturday, August 11th at our second Berryland workday on the Richmond Greenway as we install more planters and fill them with raspberry bushes for youngsters to enjoy next summer. Edible landscaping is one of the many small solutions to our great food system problem.
A Farmer for Every School:
Twice in our nation’s history, during each of the World Wars, American schoolchildren have contributed significantly to the American food supply by tending food gardens at schools. This strategy is even more appropriate today. As a community, we can explore ways to establish a funding stream to support a farmer at every school. School farmers could engage students in growing food to improve our local food system. Not only would a school farmer program increase the amount of healthy, organic produce available in our community, but would most likely increase the amount of healthy produce our children actually eat. In 2000, a survey of California teens by the California Department of Health and Human Services revealed that teens who had grown food in a garden ate, on average, more than 20% more produce than those who had not[7]. The 5% Local Coalition is already developing two models by which school farmers can help children improve their own food supply:
•Student Farmers: A school farmer can mentor small groups of student farmers developing and tending their own garden beds. Working just three hours a week under the mentorship of a school farmer, student farmers could easily tend 150 square feet of garden bed space. In our climate, gardens easily yield between 1 and 2 pounds per square foot of bed space annually. This means each student farmer could realistically grow and take home 150 to 300 pounds of fresh, organic produce each year. This amount of produce represents between 46% and 93% of the total produce intake recommended by the World Health Organization. On average, California kids currently consume just 186 pounds of fruits and vegetables a year so many students could grow the equivalent of their entire intake of fruits and vegetables a year.
A pilot version of this program, the Lincoln Farm Project will start this fall with 20 Lincoln Elementary afterschool students who will build and tend approximately 50 garden beds along the Lincoln Greenway. Check future 5% Local Coalition newsletters for periodic updates on this pilot project and to look for ways you can contribute to it.
•School Produce Stand: Tending individual garden plots may not be the most effective strategy to engage students in food production in all situations. For some schools, it makes more sense to have communal garden space in which large numbers of students can work with a school farmer, teachers, and volunteers to produce healthy, nutritious food. These communal school mini-farms can improve the local food system by hosting regular produce sales after school at the school site.
In April of this year, the Verde Partnership Garden at Verde Elementary School in North Richmond began just such a program, launching the biweekly Verde Market. The Verde Market sells almost entirely produce grown onsite and is one of the only sources for fresh produce in North Richmond. In the past four months, the Verde Market has contributed hundreds of pounds of organic produce to the North Richmond food system. As the garden staff and students fine-tune their production methods and improve their soil, the Verde Market will eventually provide thousands of pounds of produce to North Richmond annually.
A recent study by the Associated Press revealed that of the 57 federal nutrition education programs (costing well over $1 billion dollars), only 4 successfully improved student nutrition. Exhorting schoolchildren to improve their nutrition, without addressing the underlying systemic factors for poor nutrition has proven largely ineffective. By filling our communal spaces with edible landscaping, we can take direct action to surround ourselves with healthy, delicious food. By establishing school mini-farms under the direction of school farmers, we could stop talking to our children about nutrition and instead empower our students to produce their own healthy food. As a community, we, in West Contra Costa County, do not have to wait for the federal government to improve the food system. Heeding the advice of Wendell Berry, we can work locally to find the many small solutions to our great food problem. Please join the 5% Local Coalition by registering online at http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/5percentlocal/. Or just go out and sow something healthy and delicious to eat.

[1] From Pesticides in the Nation’s Streams and Groundwater, 1992-2001. USGS Circular 1291, March 2006 at http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/2005/1291/pdf/circ1291_chapter1.pdf
[2] From Obesity Rates Continue To Climb In The United States in Medical News Today, July 11, 2006 at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/76484.php
[3] From The Economic Costs of Physical Inactivity, Overweight, and Obesity in California Adult:Health Care, Workers’ Compensation, and Lost Productivity. At http://www.dhs.ca.gov/cdic/cpns/press/downloads/CostofObesityToplineReport.pdf
[4] From Food Marketing Costs at a Glance by Howard Elltzak at
[5] Advertising, Marketing, and the Media Institute of Medicine Fact Sheet, September 2004 at http://www.iom.edu/Object.File/Master/22/609/fact%20sheet%20-%20marketing%20finaBitticks.pdf
[6] Food for Thought: Television Food Advertising to Children in the United States by the Kaiser Family Foundation, March, 2007 at http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/7618ES.pdf