Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 8, 2013

Doug Biggs: Green Acres here I come!

Filed under: Alameda, Guest blogging — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

I am not a farmer. The closest I came was when I was a peace corps volunteer in Nepal, responsible for teaching farmers how to raise fish (it was carp – they practically raised themselves). I lived in a thatch hut in the back of the fish farm, and tried to grow some crops. I was so close to the jungle that wild boars and monkeys kept coming out and eating whatever we planted.

A few years later I was doing a tree planting project with my village. I had 4 workers I had trained to plant trees, and I left them we a few hundred saplings and went off to check on another project. I came back to find all of the trees planted upside down, because one of the workers decided they looked nicer that way. Therein I learned my most important lesson about farming – Green Side Up!

Fast forward to today, where I am the proud caretaker of one of the larger urban farms in the bay area. The farm at Alameda Point was started as a youth led effort to provide fresh, healthy produce to formerly homeless families. After operating in that configuration for a few years, we realized that 1) it is hard for people to change their eating habits and 2) teenagers aren’t the most productive workers. Last year we transitioned the farm to a production farm that raised produce for sale to the public, and focused on using the farm as a job training opportunity for adult residents. This latest iteration has been very successful, but not without some challenges.

The farm now sells a weekly share of produce that varies by the season. If you are interested in signing up, go to http://apcollaborative.org/shopapc/

We also sell honey from hives we keep on site. Did you know it is almost harder to (legally) sell honey than it is to sell cigarettes? There are all sorts of regulations around labeling, and multiple agencies that try to control the process and often provide confusing information. After successfully navigating that maze of bureaucracy, our honey is now available for purchase at Dan’s Produce.

Like so much of what we have built at Alameda Point, the Farm is a tool that we use to help families overcome the trauma of homelessness. Trainees at the farm are not learning to be farmers per se, but are learning basic job and life skills and once again gaining confidence and hope. There is a saying posted in our conference room that says “for someone who has experienced multiple traumas, even having hope is a risk”.

Doug Biggs is the Executive Director of the Alameda Point Collaborative and a member of the Social Services Human Relations Board (SSHRB).   Most importantly, he is a West End resident.

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5 Comments

  1. Very informative. Thanks

    Comment by frank — August 8, 2013 @ 6:46 am

  2. My lime tree I purchased from Ploughshares is thriving, as are the many other plants I have purchased there. The workers are always helpful and courteous. Whatever you are doing to help with self sufficiency and production of useful stuff is working Doug! I have a sister in Petaluma who is a bee keeper, and is active with the Sonoma County and international bee keeper’s groups. If you need any advice or connections for your honey business, I am sure she would be happy to be helpful. She is a retired teacher and has a glass fronted demonstration hive at her small farm she uses to teach the kids that visit all about bees.

    Comment by Kate Quick,. — August 8, 2013 @ 7:49 am

  3. Probably the only place in town with enough space to raise pigs. Run with it!

    Comment by dave — August 8, 2013 @ 9:29 am

  4. Complete waste of taxpayer dollars

    Comment by not_a_developer — August 9, 2013 @ 8:09 pm

  5. not a developer, Its all a matter of opinion, I think what Doug Biggs does is very important and I support it as a “taxpayer”

    Comment by John P. (L) — August 10, 2013 @ 8:59 am


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