The agri-food system is a giant part of our economy. It is so interwoven in our daily lives that you might just meet a seed supplier, farmer, rancher, grocer, baker (or even the trucker that moves the goods from place to place) that helped put a meal on your table and didn’t even know it! One of the main things OHH Farmgirl wishes to achieve is to inspire more women to work in agriculture and start their own agribusiness. We couldn’t think of any other organization out there that does a better job (at helping women of color, the youth and their entire community) than Phat Beets Produce in the Bay Area, California.
To an outsider, Phat Beets Produce looks like your typical CSA. But they are so much more. They call themselves a ‘food justice collective’ that started in 2007 in the North Oakland area. Without any authorization, they began a produce stand in the park and it grew from there with the help of like-minded neighbors/volunteers. They now support two certified markets: they have a youth/school farm stand in a community hub, and a youth market garden for a local hospital obesity prevention program. And yes, they do run a CSA providing buyers with a “Beet Box” full of organic food from Bay Area farmers, some with just a plot of land.
There is a real emphasis on supporting youth leadership, small-scale farmers, and farmers of color. Phat Beets aims to close the gap between urban communities and free access to healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate food. They organize community workshops on healthy food and food justice. And they’ve been able to get local businesses involved through their partner program. In fact, there is so much that Phat Beets is involved in that we cannot list all of it here!
We talked to Trishia, a volunteer and spokesperson for Phat Beets Produce, about who they are and what they’ve been up to…
What is Phat Beets Produce?
Phat beets is a collective that is working on food justice at the intersection of racial economics and transformitive justice.
Where exactly are you located in North Oakland?
We have a lot of different sites that we work from. Our office is based in the Omni, which is a building that a lot of community groups are using. And we have edible parks and gardens, we (work out of) Driver Plaza where Auntie Frances serves (free) meals, Phat Beets and The North Oakland Restorative Justice Council are partnering to reclaim land and plant fruit trees, we have a plot at Castlemont High School (around 1 acre shared with other groups) and we have youth working there (and the food from there) gets included in our CSA boxes.
What is your latest achievement?
The thing we really want get the word out to people about is that we are (now) offering free home delivery for our EBT CSA members, anywhere in Berkely and Oakland. All of our CSA produce is grown by farmers of color specifically local to the Bay Area. We really want to focus on what sets us apart from other CSA’s that may not even source from the Bay Area, all of the proceeds from our CSA are reinvested into types of community building and the work that we do. (They also want to stress the need for different neighborhoods becoming involved to make fresh organic and local produce more accessibility.)
How important is a woman’s role in your organization?
We definitely want to have women in leadership roles. There are a number of women that run the different programs. We have a program called the Kitchen Incubator and that’s specifically to empower women of color to start their own catering business. So they’re able to use kitchen space…we help sort paperwork, and we also link them up with catering gigs. There are a lot of different women involved in Phat Beets and a lot of different roles they play.
Learn more about Phat Beets Produce and how to contact: