How 1-Acre Anti-Capitalist Rooftop Drugs Farm Fights Gentrification from Entire Meals’ Roof in Oakland’s Temescal Neighborhood

The view from the roof of the Logan, a mixed-use house constructing on the nook of Telegraph Avenue and 51st Road within the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland, affords a panorama: Oakland Hills to the east, and the San Francisco skyline straight west. However it’s controversial the panorama of the roof supplies a view that is equally gorgeous: a 1-acre farm the place rows upon rows of lettuces, greens, herbs, and flowers flourish. The rows are neatly structured, some sections naked and prepared for seed, others lined with tall sunflowers. Vegetation are nestled into each nook of the 25,000-square-foot house — about double the scale of an Olympic swimming pool — together with mustard greens and a lemon verbena plant, each thriving 5 tales above the road.

“Earlier than the daybreak of capitalism, meals was medication,” says Rupa Marya, a doctor and founding father of Deep Drugs Circle, a Bay Space-based nonprofit group that works to, as its website explains, heal “the injuries of colonialism” by means of meals, medication, story, and studying. That work encompasses operationalizing city farms — together with one in San Gregorio and the one situated on high of the Logan, which Marya calls the Rooftop Drugs Farm — which suggests constructing relationships with Native stewards of the land, bringing in farmers, and connecting with outdoors organizations to distribute what’s grown.

Rooftop Drugs Farm’s ecological website director Benjamin Driver and farm director Kevin Jefferson planted the primary rows of seeds on the Logan’s roof in spring 2021. By the top of the 12 months, a brand new neighbor had moved in: a 31,011-square-foot location of Entire Meals, the grocery retailer chain owned by the world’s second-richest man. For probably the most half, Marya and the Deep Drugs Circle group aren’t involved with the goings-on beneath. However the picture of an anti-capitalist farm sharing a constructing with a company powerhouse speaks to a form of rigidity that permeates the Temescal neighborhood, which has struggled with Rising dwelling costs threatening to displace long-term residents for years. Past offering tomatoes and arugula to neighborhood and not-for-profit organizations, Rooftop Drugs Farm’s work seeks to coach new and longtime locals on the methods wherein historical past and racism proceed to affect the neighborhood at the moment.

A view of rows of plants on a rooftop farm.

At Rooftop Drugs Farm, Bay Space-based non-profit Deep Drugs Circle grows meals to distribute for gratis to East Bay residents.
Ray Levy Uyeda

Deep Drugs Circle is part of a bigger motion led by Black and Indigenous girls to construct a extra simply American meals system. As part of that work, the entire meals grown on the farm is obtainable without spending a dime to BIPOC Oaklanders and neighborhood organizations together with POOR Journal, Mother’s 4 Housing, American Indian Cultural District, Tenderloin Neighborhood Growth Company, and UCSF Youngsters’s Clinic Meals Farmacy. The organizations then redistribute the recent produce in disinvested neighborhoods of East Oakland. It is a technique Marya says Deep Drugs Circle is reimagining how communities can foster wholesome and sustainable relationships with the land and one another.

Pulling colonial beliefs and methods of inequity out by the roots is the Rooftop Drugs Farm’s objective, Marya says. “The affect of stress, power social defeat from racism, racist police violence — all of this stuff create toxicity across the physique, and stress like debt, scholar debt, and your mortgage,” she says. Our our bodies acquire reminiscences and maintain traumas, Marya explains, however can heal by means of meals — if we’re in a position to present it.

To that finish, the farm conducts surveys with organizations and neighborhood teams that obtain meals grown on the rooftop plot. “We’re determining what folks need to eat seasonally, what they’re drawn to, and what they want,” says Alayna Reid, lead farmer at Rooftop Drugs Farm. Conventional Ecological Data — a time period referring to Indigenous data, religious practices, and relationship with the land — guides what and the way they farm, and Reid is studying about generational foodways from her father, who’s from Jamaica, and grandmother, who’s Choctaw Cherokee . Deep Drugs Circle additionally based the Ramaytush Ohlone Indigenous land belief to remit land to its rightful stewards; the group additionally has plans to assist restore the San Gregorio Creek watersheds, the place salmon as soon asalthough not, ran.

DMC is not aiming to dismantle Entire Meals as a enterprise, however to infiltrate locations the place these temples to so-called clear consuming chafe in opposition to areas the place folks aren’t in a position to purchase their option to good well being. The group additionally needs to reply questions on land: who can lay declare to it and what occurs when folks with assets transfer into neighborhoods disadvantaged of them. “These condos are popping up throughout,” Reid says of the neighborhood round Rooftop Drugs Farm. “So here is the mannequin. Perhaps by doing this, there will not be any extra excuses as to why meals deserts exist.”

Temescal Alley where Marisa Mason Jewelry is located on left side of the street on Monday, July 24, 2017, in Oakland, Calif.

Temescal Alley in Oakland, which homes a set of boutiques and meals and beverage companies.
Picture By Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle by way of Getty Photographs

Rooftop Drugs Farm is situated in Temescal, which suggests Sweat lodge in Nahuatl and references a religious apply by which the land’s indigenous peoples heal and join with ancestors. Again within the 1830s, the governor of California gifted Temescal to a Spanish settler-colonizer named Don Luis Maria Peralta, who later turned the land over to his son, Vicente. A sequence of federal and state insurance policies rewarded those that enslaved, killed, and colonized Native peoples; these laws allowed Vicente to promote the land within the 1850s, and, by the top of the century, residents voted to change into a proper a part of Oakland. Beginning within the early 1900s, Italian immigrants constructed up the neighborhood, and for practically half a century the realm was often known as Oakland’s Little Italy with Italian delicatessens, grocery shops, and social golf equipment lining Telegraph Avenue.

However within the late Sixties, the California Freeway Fee completed development on Freeway 24, chopping by means of Little Italy and decimating the neighborhood. Companies left, together with 90 % of the area’s households. The exodus initiated 30 years of financial decline, decreasing dwelling and rental costs and permitting artists and Black, Chinese language, and Japanese residents who have been beforehand segregated out of the realm to maneuver in. By 1998, the nook of 51st and Telegraph was an empty lot . Then, within the Nineties, metropolis officers began to analyze how one can revitalize the realm, favoring financial tasks that supplied house items and retail companies in the identical buildings. Now, the neighborhood is usually white, and houses can hardly get off the market for lower than $1 million.

Pendarvis Harshaw grew up in Oakland and hosts KQED arts and tradition present Rightnowish, which paperwork the individuals who create and maintain Oakland’s wealthy tradition. He remembers extra white folks shifting into the City within the early 2000s. After graduating from Howard College, he returned to show one of many first pilot lessons for African American male achievement within the Oakland Unified College District. By that time, the adjustments in Oakland’s demographics and rising housing costs had began to indelibly alter the neighborhood, Harshaw says. He is since moved to Sacramento to be nearer to his daughter however returns usually to Oakland for work. “After I return, dwelling is not essentially dwelling anymore, as a result of a lot has modified,” Harshaw says, referring to Oakland. “It is not good. It is unhappy, it is lonely, it is uninspiring.”

Pendarvis Harshaw.

Pendarvis Harshaw, host of KQED’s Rightnowish.

These adjustments do not finish with the demographic make-up of the neighborhood. Gentrification, which occurs when wealthier folks transfer right into a disinvested a part of the town — typically the place Black and brown folks have traditionally been pressured to stay — basically adjustments the panorama of meals entry, too. Companies that provide recent produce and good-tasting meals usually transfer in to fulfill the calls for of recent clientele, however are sometimes out of economic attain for the neighborhood’s unique residents. In Temescal, the signifier of gentrification is visible and express: the 4-foot “Entire Meals” lettering outdoors the underside ground of the brand new house constructing, the place folks can now purchase $10 eggs, $5 lettuce, and $8 goat cheese.

Within the Nineteen Thirties, the Dwelling House owners’ Mortgage Company (HOLC), a federal company that shaded neighborhood maps in crimson, yellow, blue, and inexperienced to indicate “hazardous,” “declining,” “fascinating,” and “finest” neighborhoods, respectively, marked the realm at 51st and Telegraph as “declining” — not within the crimson, not blue both. The apply often known as redlining is not authorized, although its ghost stays; in 2022, meals insecurity is straight linked with a neighborhood’s HOLC ranking, with between 25 to 35 % Temescal residents experiencing meals insecurity in keeping with a 2019 survey. Against this, 10 % of the residents in Contra Costa County struggled to get sufficient meals.

“Can we bear in mind what now we have all forgotten during the last 600 years?” Marya says, referring to a time earlier than industrial agriculture, food-for-profit fashions, and capitalist competitors. “[Capitalism] was an intentional social program to separate us all, and the issues that give us energy: our land, {our relationships} to one another, and our meals.”

Two people working on the Rooftop Medicine Farm.

Along with offering meals to neighborhood and not-for-profit organizations, Rooftop Drugs Farm educates folks concerning the methods historical past and racism proceed to affect the Oaklanders at the moment.
Deep Drugs Circle

Meals sovereignty means liberating stolen Homeland, says Crystal Wahpepah, a Kickapoo chef. Along with being the proprietor and chef at Wahpepah’s Kitchen in Fruitvale, she’s a board member of Deep Drugs Circle. Wahpepah grew up in Oakland; her dad and mom and grandparents moved to the Bay Space throughout the interval of federal relocation — an try and destabilize tribal sovereignty, shrink reservation land, and forcibly assimilate Native peoples.

Wahpepah gravitated towards cooking Native meals at a younger age, making meals with candy dried corn and utilizing wild onions like her grandmother did. A few of what’s grown at Rooftop Drugs Farm is now included into dishes served at her restaurant: the whole lot from herbs like cilantro and say to completely different forms of squash. “What we eat is who we’re,” Wahpepah says. “I need them to see how lovely our meals is.”

The Rooftop Drugs Farm meals you eat at Wahpepah’s Kitchen — or supply as a pediatric affected person at UCSF Youngsters’s Clinic or take dwelling from POOR Journal’s redistribution community — is grown from soil plentiful with microbiotics. Rooftop Drugs Farm’s companion organizations are free to distribute it how they see match, since they’ve the most effective data of what their communities want. On some days, engaged on the farm means tilling the soil and getting ready it for brand new seeds, whereas on others, Reid and the farm employees harvest crops and prepared them for his or her last locations throughout the East Bay. Not but a 12 months previous, the farm’s attain continues to develop and additional develop its practices; Reid says the farm plans to apply natural medication in addition to seed saving, an indigenous apply of retaining some seeds from a season’s harvest to make use of and present later.

“We’re doing our greatest to get to know this neighborhood round us, to seek out out who has these seeds, as a result of that is the Rooftop Drugs Farm — so we intend to be planting the seeds that our ancestors have saved,” Reid says.

From its rooftop perch, the farm grows relationships between neighborhood and mutual support teams by means of organizing, and reconnects folks to the historical past of the land on which they stay. Sure, it sits atop the Logan, and the Logan sits atop a Entire Meals, however the farm’s stewards are wanting past these superficial layers — to the land and its historical past, what’s grown on it, and the arms that carry that meals forth. “We’re truly attempting to rework and convey medication onto one plate,” Wahpepah says. “It is all about therapeutic.”

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