Move Over, Country Mouse: City Slicker Does It Right


In West Oakland, California, within earshot of the whoooossh of the elevated train and blocks from several glass-strewn vacant lots and a number of liquor stores, rests an oasis of greenery, complete with clucking chickens and a humming beehive.

Through intensive gardening techniques, City Slicker Farms, a network of four tiny farms comprising less than an acre between them, provides 20,000 pounds of organic produce per year to local residents on a sliding scale.

As in many neglected urban neighborhoods, there isn’t a grocery store for miles. Poor nutrition, plus a toxic industrial environment cause many health problems for residents: diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and lead poisoning.

The network began in 2000 with the purchase of a single vacant lot. A small army of volunteers, including school kids, and a few core staff members harvest the produce and transport it by bike trailer to the main farm for each biweekly farm stand.

In addition to vegetable sales from the farm stand, the organization provides a valuable ticket to food self-sufficiency. City Slicker Farms helps residents build and maintain their own backyard gardens: 2 raised beds filled with healthy soil, the plants and seeds to fill them, and 2 fruit trees. The program is run on a sliding scale with very low-income residents receiving their gardens for free.

The food these gardens provide heals bodies and keeps children healthy, and the gardens themselves heals the landscape and strengthens the social fabric of the community.

Image: ellievanhoutte

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.