13-year old Madison Akins is wearing a smile and a red Mickey Mouse tee-shirt as she mists the greens at the new Freedom Farm Stand at San Pablo and Market Street. She says she likes the string peas the best, the way her dad makes them, steamed with lots of butter.

The farm stand, which is open every  Wednesday from 11- 5:30, was blessed by a Yoùrbá priest on its inaugural day  a week ago, and the blessings keep coming.  Today there are crates of beets, red russian kale, bok choi, broccoli and swiss chard from the African-American run Tarlesson Family Farm in Guinda,  on offer under three shady tents.  The market is volunteer run and is, as organizer Dr. Gail Meyers put it, “a labor of love.”    Ken Shandy sits behind two bookshelf speakers and provides the soundtrack for the 80-degree afternoon while Madison and volunteer Yolanda Johnson, a local grower, weigh produce and make sales.

The farm stand is a project of http://www.farmstogrow.com an organization with a mission to advocate for socially disadvantaged farmers and to bring food from small local farms to neighborhoods in Oakland that have few markets for fresh produce.

The neighborhood at this crossroads is a food desert but for the oasis of Burmese and soul food at Brother’s Kitchen, which hosts the farm stand in its parking lot, across the street from a furniture outlet.  Brother’s Kitchen owner Kenneth Shandy wanted to be part of changing the way the neighborhood eats, starting with his family and his café.

Meyers,  who wrote her dissertation at Ohio State on black farmers,  outlined the obstacles that many small farms face, trying to bring their produce to market. Farms to Grow provides phone consults, field visits and needs assessments that help farmers navigate the process and map a plan for success.

Meyers and others, like volunteer Michelle Lee, who describes herself as a”working ally” began meeting at nearby Greasebox cafe, the site of a community garden, a year ago to plan. The result is a true community effort, with neighbors and local businesses and churches lending vacant spaces, volunteer hours and donations. Meyer’s brother, Tyrone Weems, a sixth grade teacher,  is bringing boxes of children’s  books to give away at the weekly market.

In the coming weeks Meyers says that the farm stand will host boxes from other African American farmers, including Ron Kelly of Sacramento and other farms of the Central Valley.

If you go:

Greasebox

Stanford Market

Stanford at 60th

M-F 8-2

Sat-Sun 10-3

 

 

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