Posted by: acbuildingblocks | May 1, 2012

Very Local Produce: Urban Agriculture in Ashland-Cherryland

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-Written by Nora Downs, Food to Families (F2F) Intern

Locally-grown food has always been a big deal in the San Francisco Bay Area, at least in my years here. We don’t just see local-ish food from Watsonville or the Capay Valley anymore, even though those lush fields are only a couple of hours away. Food from around the corner and down the street is making its way out into restaurants and markets. Sam, a self-proclaimed “universal remote or MacGyver” at Dig Deep Farms and Produce calls it an Urban Agriculture Movement. He says, “I didn’t realize this many people were into urban agriculture; like Phat Beets, People’s Grocery, City Slicker Farms, the Ecology Center in Berkeley—I think it’s a movement that hasn’t taken off full force yet, but it’s starting to.” He couldn’t be more right. Dig Deep Farms and Produce is an example of a farm down the street. They have four sites in the unincorporated area of Alameda County, two of which are within blocks of their Ashland office—Pacific Apparel and the Firehouse, both aptly named after a neighboring building. I was lucky enough to visit both!

My first stop was Reggie’s urban garden, Pacific Apparel. It is the smallest farm that Dig Deep has, but it is becoming very productive. Reggie and the farm manger, Jesse, tell me how hard it was to get this garden started. Underneath the beds there is hard gravel, and the soil is mostly compost. I ask, “Isn’t compost good for the plants?” Well, apparently it does not like to absorb water: “Compost can be really hydrophobic,” Jesse says. Reggie and the crew not only have to water daily, but also turn the soil at least two times a week so that the water will get down to the plants’ roots!

Reggie’s hard work is paying off. The farm is looking great! There are mustard greens aplenty, and lots of Red Russian Kale, carrots, and collards growing. Reggie tells me that it’s a process, and he always wants to do his best, to keep improving. Even though Reggie has worked with plants before, doing landscape maintenance, he is still learning what works best for each plant. He tries out different styles of planting, and he’s definitely figured it out with the red mustard. It is packed tightly enough so that the leaves create a canopy. This way the mustard gets the best of both worlds, the leaves get sun and the water stays in the soil. While we were talking, Reggie walked over to the red mustard and stood by his favorite plants proudly.

Reggie and the crew wrap up watering and head over to a local church for an innovation workshop. They are meeting with people in the community to explore the best ways to do outreach and marketing. Like finding the best ways to grow plants, the DDF&P team is also always looking for ways to improve and expand business to make it sustainable.

As they leave, I go explore the firehouse site a couple of blocks away with Jesse. It is Dig Deep’s biggest community site. Most of the greens that grow there go to a restaurant inJack London Squarecalled Ms. Pearl’s Jam House. Right now, they’re DDF&P’s biggest patron, buying 100 pounds of greens a week! In fact, after eating at Ms. Pearl’s Jam House in Jack London Square Jessica Luginbuhl of ACPHD exclaimed “the greens from Dig Deep were the best thing we ordered!” Hopefully Dig Deep Farms & Produce will be able to supply Ms. Pearl’s Jam House with delicious greens for many years to come.

Get more information on Dig Deep Farms & Produce here: http://www.digdeepcsa.com/

Also, Check out La’Shay’s post on DDF&P from December!

https://buildingblocksalamedacounty.wordpress.com/2011/12/16/digging-deep-in-ashland-cherryland-and-west-oakland/

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