By Oswaldo Salcedo
In August 2013, I traveled to Oakland to participate in the In Good Company® service trip. I worked together with Clif Bar, other consumer products companies, and City Slicker Farms in West Oakland where we built a workbench, a mobile wood shop, and an outdoor classroom using the Timber Frame method. These projects support City Slicker Farms’ work to provide organic vegetables at no cost or affordable prices to a community in a food desert.
I had not heard of a food desert in the Bay Area of California. I knew that West Oakland was a community that struggled with violence and poverty, but I did not know there were limited options for grocery shopping even when a person has money available for groceries. Coming from Central Oregon, a High Desert where many options exist, I could not imagine that people just a few hundred miles away from the San Joaquin Valley considered by some as “the food basket of the world” would have trouble with availability to groceries.
While in West Oakland I learned that City Slicker Farms was addressing this issue by growing fresh vegetables on an urban farm in West Oakland and by teaching the people in the community how to build and grow their own gardens on whatever amount of soil is available to them. Thanks to their efforts the West Oakland community produced 25,000 pounds of their own food in 2012 (according to City Slicker Farms).
Perhaps our affiliation with City Slicker Farms is why we got a free pass for a week to do our work in a neighborhood that is considered dangerous. Except for moments when I got daring swinging from rafter to rafter I did not feel danger. The people in the neighborhood were welcoming and curious to learn more about what we were doing. When they heard that the outdoor classroom would be available for their use, a look of excitement came over their faces. In fact some of the neighbors were shocked to see a outdoor classroom in that area. “Why here?” they asked. They and the In Good Company project contacted a design/build teamwho then designed the structure, built out of a donated backyard redwood. I feel fortunate to work for a company that supports volunteer service projects with long lasting impact.