Tag Archives: kijiji grows

West Oakland Roots…

Wandering around my home stretch of West Oakland, I am always amazed how, after more than 10 years, I can still find things I’ve never seen before.  Just this past weekend I came across a new cafe, new art installation, new community garden plot, and more. All within a couple blocks of the BART station I’ve been to hundreds of times.  This is what I love about Oakland. And West Oakland in particular, with its vast assortment of abandoned manufacturing sites and empty lots, seems ripe for this kind of discovery.

I have to be honest and tell you I was on a bit of a mission when I came across these things, so it wasn’t completely by chance.

I went to the Oakland Indie Awards Nominee Mixer last week.  Do you guys know about the Indie Awards? An annual event hosted by the California One Foundation in partnership with the East Bay Express, to promote and highlight local artists and businesses doing amazing things in Oakland.  You have to be nominated by a community member, but after that, it’s strictly a juried process and finalists in a number of categories are chosen by a panel of judges after a series of interviews.  The awards party is on Friday, May 14th and should prove to be a huge event with local food & drink vendors, live music, DJs, and more. (tickets here)

But back to the mixer… last week was an opportunity to rub elbows with other nominees and even meet the judges and pitch your business or art a bit. I talked with a bunch of talented & creative peeps, one of whom was Keba Konte – artist, business owner, and self-proclaimed “waffle curator.” The owner of Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley as well as one of the founders of Kijiji Grows (featured in Oakland Youth Center post), he recently worked in conjunction with Mo’ Better Food and numerous other organizations in the establishment of Mo Better Food’s East Bay Farm/Garden one block from the West Oakland Bart Station. The garden workday took place on January 18th in honor of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, and Keba organized a community installed art piece entitled “The Beautification Art Project,” directing volunteers to tie thousands of colorful ribbons onto a chain-link fence to create a portrait of the great civil rights leader. Fantastic.

keba konte, Martin Luther King art installation, community art west oakland BART

martin luther king art installation, beautification art project by keba konte

Apparently Kijiji Grows set up an aquaculture garden on site, but I didn’t see that during my visit…

keba konte, west oakland bart community garden, mo' better food garden

East Bay Urban Gardeners (EBUG) assisted volunteers in constructing numerous raised planter beds. Here are a couple…

mo' better food, west oakland garden, kijiji grows

lady bug, west oakland community garden, garden west oakland BART

Folks from Urban Releaf (formerly Oakland Releaf) planted numerous trees on the site, and it looks like this formerly abandoned lot is well on its way to becoming a beautiful green zone for food production and recreation. Way to go Mo’ Better Food!

Dig Cooperative at the Oakland Youth Center

Well… you wouldn’t know it by the late hour of this Monday post, but I worked ALL weekend.  Yes indeed…  I’ve been a busy little bee and I’m excited about a lot of the upcoming posts.  So please stay tuned…

As I mentioned last week, folks are gearing up over at the Oakland Green Youth Media & Arts Center for their big grand opening this week… Thursday, January 14th.  It’s been a whirlwind of activity over there, and even though I’m late jumping on the bandwagon (they’ve been working for literally years to achieve the realization of this center), I won’t be shy about singing their praises.

Thursday of last week was a big day.  Not only did the mural project I’m documenting get underway (Spoiler Alert:  I’m making my first movie!), but a large crew of volunteers, headed up by Tondre of Oakland organization DIG Cooperative, worked furiously to install a community garden behind the Center.

urban garden, oakland youth center garden

The focus of DIG Cooperative is all about water… water-smart homes and water-smart gardens. While speaking to a completely engrossed audience of Oakland youth, Tondre discussed the need for water-wise behavior moving into the future, given that we live in a region whose population is expected to double before then end of the next century.

“The number of people are going to double. But the amount of water is going to stay the same.”

He discussed the healing benefits of green space… the need for a place of peace and quiet, a respite from the onslaught of sensory noise we are subjected to every day in our urban environment. The garden will also contain a sacred altar space to commemorate all of the fallen youth of Oakland, victims of violence.

urban garden, oakland youth center garden

What’s amazing about this garden is how much they are accomplishing in an exceedingly small space. In fact, the entire garden is installed on top of concrete/asphalt in what was once, presumably, a small parking area. I love this. I had to resort to the same sort of creativity in creating a sidewalk garden in my concrete surrounded home in West Oakland… I used recycled wood crates and boxes from Urban Ore as large planters on top of the sidewalk. The Youth Center has set things up similarly with raised beds built out of wood, and even simpler “instant” pop-up planter beds made out of re-purposed plastic bamboo root barrier systems. Genius.

Additionally the garden makes use of aquaponic gardening (a union of aquaculture and hydroponics) through the assistance of Kijiji Grows, a collaborative group of farmers, artists, engineers, builders and educators working to change Bay Area lives through urban sustainable growing systems in schools, homes and businesses. Aquaponics is especially effective in areas with little space or access to healthy soil… the plants are grown without soil, utilizing the organic fertilizer produced by the fish (fish poop!), with minimal water usage, and absolutely no pesticides.  Kijiji’s aquaponic kits make great classroom laboratories, useful for demonstrating principles of math, science, technology, and critical thinking.  They believe their greatest impact can be made in teaching the next generation to be good stewards of the Earth.

The garden installed last week is considered Phase I, and there are extensive plans for Phase II to be accomplished throughout 2010. These include rain catchment and gray water recycling systems, removing the asphalt/concrete and establishing plants in the ground that will repair the health of the soil.