Oakland’s Rooftop Medication Farm needs to alter the world



Farm Director Alayna Reid surveys Rooftop Medication Farm. Credit score: Rooftop Medication Farm

This report is a part of East Bay Nosh’s native produce week, a sequence of tales about city farming, rising your personal meals and eating off the land. You may see all of the tales from this package deal on the Native Produce Week web page.

What’s rising on the nook of 51st Avenue and Telegraph Avenue? About 34,000 sq. toes of luscious lettuce, deep inexperienced arugula, rainbow chard, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, radishes, turnips, beets, carrots, cilantro, parsley, fenugreek and 27 totally different sorts of garlic.

No, we’re not speaking about that new Complete Meals, which opened final December on that constructing’s floor ground. Rooftop Medication Farm is seven flooring above that, on the roof of the newish modular residence constructing, referred to as The Logan, which opened final 12 months on what was as soon as Ohlone land. And not one of the greens grown at this regenerative, virtually one acre farm will likely be offered at Complete Meals, or anyplace else, as they’re meant to be given away to individuals in want, as a part of the bigger plan of its dad or mum group, Deep Medication Circle (DMC).

This isn’t solely an excellent cool farm smack dab in stylish Temescal, however the prototype of a plan to decolonize the land, pay farmers their due as well being care staff, and supply nutritious meals for individuals who have been marginalized. 

On this photograph taken on Might 16, 2022 lettuce thrives at Rooftop Medication Farm. Credit score: Anna Mindess

Rupa Marya is DMC’s Founder and Govt Director. She can be a doctor, a professor, a author, a researcher, a composer, a mom and an activist. She just lately co-authored  a ebook, Infected: Deep Medication and the Anatomy of Injustice with political economist, professor, activist and creator Raj Patel to, (as acknowledged on its jacket) illuminate “the hidden relationships between our organic techniques and the profound injustices of our political and financial techniques.” DMC and the Rooftop Medication Farm have been established to implement some options to these longstanding injustices.

However in response to Benjamin Fahrer, the ecological website director for the farm (and Marya’s husband) Rooftop Huichin Farm virtually by no means occurred, because the final eight years have been a curler coaster of yesses and nos. 

The Logan makes use of Rooftop Medication Farm in its signage and advertising supplies. Credit score: Anna Mindess

Fahrer’s farming and constructing expertise spans greater than three many years, throughout which he has designed, constructed, and managed ecologically primarily based farming initiatives each in rural and concrete landscapes. Together with his firm, Prime Leaf Farms, he designed Berkeley’s Backyard Village rooftop backyard for Randy Miller of RAD City, an modern architectural and building agency, atop a pupil housing constructing on Dwight Method in Berkeley that opened in 2016. 

That led to his being in on the bottom ground, so to talk, when the venture at 51st and Telegraph was additionally envisioned by RAD City.

“Initially they have been going to do like a Market Corridor on the bottom ground, with 10 very native totally different leases” Fahrer mentioned. Then in 2015, when Complete Meals confirmed curiosity, that appeared a a lot easier resolution. “On the finish of 2015, they went to Oakland for the entitlement to construct and knew it will take about two years to get the permits, so RAD City requested me if I’d be eager about farming the bottom stage whereas we’re ready.”

Fahrer noticed that as a option to create good relations with individuals within the neighborhood who have been very immune to this “monstrosity of a constructing.” And since that plot had been a vacant lot for 10 years, not solely did planting a backyard on the bottom with sunflowers and greens allure the neighbors, it additionally created a nursery for future plantings in a proposed rooftop farm on the construction. In 2017, when building began, they needed to transfer the entire nursery to the acre Fahrer and Marya have elsewhere in Oakland.

In 2019, a brand new firm, Westbrook, took over the venture and determined to axe the rooftop farm as a result of the venture was already $5 million over finances. Ultimately, a brand new venture supervisor got here on, noticed what had been minimize out and needed to place the farm again. Once more, the house owners simply checked out backside line, and mentioned no. 

Rupa Marya seems over Rooftop Medication Farm in late 2021. Credit score: Rupa Marya/Instagram

Ultimately the farm on the roof was returned to the design by town of Oakland, because it serves different features: as storm water administration and as open area for the location. “By way of the entire allowing course of, Oakland mentioned ‘we love this,’” Fahrer mentioned. “They thought the rooftop farm was the perfect function.”

In the meantime, Fahrer mentioned, “we bought approached by our Indigenous pals for this RFP with Peninsula Open Area Belief for a farm down the coast. We fashioned a non-profit, DMC to function that farm.” Ultimately, the DMC would broaden to function Rooftop Medication Farm, as properly.

The place meals and drugs meet

Marya mentioned that DMC’S final aim is “to heal the injuries of colonization,” partly by illustrating that meals and drugs share the identical roots. “Then they have been separated,” Marya mentioned. “Meals was put over right here, drugs was over there and residing in that separation has led to an excessive amount of struggling … We’re making an attempt to create a mannequin that reveals what occurs if you happen to simply do all of it one other means.” 

“Most individuals snigger off our concepts, even me, generally,” Fahrer mentioned. “The size of implementation, the size of the meals system we try to shift is so large, it’s arduous to assume you would change it. Colonization and capitalism have been constructed on agriculture. Agriculture is essentially the most damaging factor we’re doing on the planet. We’d like it to outlive, however we have to flip the script.” 

Marya, who grew up in Mountain View, France and India talking a number of languages, has toured 29 international locations along with her band, Rupa and the April Fishes. She mentioned that her experiences with totally different Indigenous teams all through her travels has knowledgeable how she approaches the DMC and the Rooftop Medication Farm, and prompted her to surprise “What occurs if you happen to begin by giving land again? What occurs if you happen to farm underneath Indigenous sovereignty?”

These flowers are fairly, but in addition have a function: they’re grown at Rooftop Medication Farm to draw and retain pollinators. Credit score: Anna Mindess

When requested what she meant by Indigenous sovereignty, Marya defined that each transfer made at Rooftop Medication Farm and the DMC’s different farm was made in session with Indigenous leaders. “We comply with their management, inhale and combine their values on reside on these territories in ways in which uplift everybody,” she mentioned. 

“It’s the way in which you’d be if you happen to have been in a tradition visiting and understanding that you’re a visitor. How do I be a great visitor? I study the customs … oh, I thank the land, and the water and I acknowledge the residing entities round me.” In the end, it “means permitting your self to be open to a special cultural understanding than the one we have been raised with as settlers right here.” 

Alayna Reid, the farm director of the rooftop farm, used ancestral data handed down from her Indigenous Cherokee and Choctaw grandmother and her nation farming Jamaican grandmother in her present position. Reid attended nursing faculty, then switched to naturopathic drugs, however neither supplied her the “tradition of care” she was after. 

“I spotted that meals was on the root of it,” Reid mentioned, “so I had to return to high school to review agriculture if I needed to make any form of an impression “

As she studied, she realized that the solutions she was searching for might be discovered by studying “to develop the meals and notice the facility the meals has. It’s within the herbs, it’s within the veggies.”

Feeding the individuals

Members of the UCSF Benioff Youngsters’s Hospital Oakland pediatrics clinic crew choose up recent produce from Rooftop Medication Farm. Credit score: Rupa Marya/Instagram

“If we will get that meals to the hospital and get them to distribute THAT meals to the precise sufferers, it should achieve this a lot for them,” Reid mentioned. “Individuals are hungry. Wouldn’t it’s nice if each hospital constructing had one in every of these on high to develop meals for the sufferers?”

Fahrer mentioned that the DMC is searching for to “mixture and distribute that meals with out commodifying it, with out capitalizing it, however giving this meals as a well being service.” To start out, Marya mentioned, UCSF’s pediatric clinic, UCSF Benioff Youngsters’s Hospital Oakland will obtain the meals grown at Rooftop Medication Farm.

Additionally they “plan to provide meals to Crystal Wahpepah’s restaurant,” Marya mentioned, referring to Fruitvale’s Native-owned Wahpepah’s Kitchen. “We give her greens in order that she will be able to present an elders’ plate for anybody who walks in free of charge. This may offset her prices and present that the meals system might be non-profit but in addition assist meals entrepreneurs who’re doing the proper factor,” Marya mentioned. Different teams that may distribute the farm’s produce embrace Mothers for Housing and Poor Journal.

Marya mentioned that they’re “hoping to feed 1000 households every week” from the one-acre farm. “That’s insane,” she mentioned, “but when we will provide part of their weight loss plan that gives the wholesome, microbial publicity by meals, that will likely be a win.”

Farm director Alayna Reid reveals chef Crystal Wahpepah round RMF. Credit score: Deep Medication Circle/Instagram

These well being targets have guided what’s planted at Rooftop Medication Farm “We are going to attempt to desire meals to construct the intestine microbiota, like garlic, artichokes, berries, mustard greens,” Marya mentioned, as she believes these do the perfect to “struggle inflammatory illness.”

In future seasons, Marya mentioned that they hope to construct a greenhouse to permit them to plant with higher variety. That’s how we preserve the development,” she mentioned. “Transplanting, harvesting, beginning…like just a little engine.” 

Along with the precise planting, Marya mentioned that DMC needs to ensure the farm feels accessible to all. “I would like it to really feel secure for individuals of shade as a result of there are so few farming areas in the course of gentrified areas, that really feel secure,” Marya mentioned.  “So, we prioritize bringing in youth of shade, college students of shade and girls of shade, to allow them to study, take part and profit.”

Fahrer echoes Marya’s dedication to fairness and inclusion. “I’ve an enormous quantity of privilege, as a person and a white individual,” he mentioned. “It’s utilizing that privilege to shift the notice, promote concepts.” However ultimately, “we want ladies of shade main this, as a result of it’s their time.”

These concepts of fairness unfold to how staff on the farm are compensated. “We’re paying our farmers $80,000 a 12 months,” Fahrer mentioned. “Everybody within the group will get paid the identical, from the chief director to the farmers to part-time staff…I’ve 25 years’ expertise and make $30/hour similar to a brand new rent does.”

Fascinated with the DMC, Marya mentioned that she’s been “incubating these concepts for in all probability 20 years,” and that after a sure level, “I believed ‘I can’t return to only working within the hospital.’”

As an alternative, she launched into this venture, in hopes that it might be a mannequin for the world. “This farm exemplifies the way in which by which we will groom the well being again into the cities,” she mentioned. “Our area is deliberately creating biodiversity, enhancing soil microbial biodiversity, with bugs, birds, habitat, we’re creating an ecosystem up right here that brings the ecological engine again to life within the metropolis. That may carry a vitality to the meals grown right here, that’s totally different in comparison with natural meals grown 100 miles away.”

“This meals is ultra-fresh,” Marya mentioned. “Once we ship it subsequent door, it’s alive and residing. How can we assist our neighborhood fall in love with meals that may nourish them and assist them keep wholesome? It’s anti-inflammatory drugs. That’s why I referred to as it Rooftop Medication Farm.”

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