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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:
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A New Plan For Your Spring Garden: Smart Ways To Make Money

You’ve probably had a lot of practice growing plants for your own personal use. And now that you’re in the midst of planning for your spring garden you might want to consider all the ways you can make a little extra money from it. You can still keep it small and earn just enough to cover your gardening expenses, or turn your garden into a full-time business with a full-time income. The possibilities are endless!

Grow and Sell Plants and Seedlings

Selling plants is an excellent way to make some money from your homestead garden because many folks don’t have the patience, time, or knowledge to grow their own plants from seed. If you’re growing your own seedlings for your garden every spring, why not grow some extras to sell at the farmers’ market or on Craigslist? We have great success with selling herbs (culinary or medicinal), heirloom tomatoes, and peppers in our area, but you can experiment to see what people want in your town.

In fact, you don’t have to limit yourself to just vegetable transplants, either. What about tree seedlings, shrubs, lilies, house plants, or started bulbs in the spring. If you want to get creative, you could make gorgeous porch planters, fairy gardens, succulent gardens, or even windowsill herb gardens. Just be aware of the laws in your state before you get started; there may be some degree of licensing required.

Sell Seeds

If you’re already saving seeds from your garden to use next year you can make some extra money without a whole lot of extra effort. Simply package up your seeds in small quantities and create some cute labels with some basic growing information. Seeds could be sold at the farmers’ market, on Craigslist, and even through websites online.

Sell Fresh Cut or Dried Herbs

Selling fresh cut or dried herbs at the farmers’ market can be a great source of income for your homestead. We sell fresh basil, thyme, rosemary, mint, lemon balm, and parsley at our local market every summer. You could also dry your homegrown herbs to sell for culinary use or making teas when the growing season is over. Try packaging them in plastic or paper bags, small glass jars, or get creative and use something like a corked test tube to really stand out. Cute labels will go a long way toward attracting attention, as well.

Grow and Sell Medicinal Herbs and Tea Blends

You could experiment with medicinal herbs to see if they sell in your area, too. Try selling them as seedlings, fresh cut, or dried at the market. Take it to the next level by turning them into salves, teas, tinctures, or even bath salts. Many people love tea blends of all types.

Grow Mushrooms

Mushrooms can be a great cash crop for the small homestead. They don’t take up a lot of space to grow, and most of them don’t even require sunlight. They can be sold fresh, dried, or even pickled. You could also get creative and sell mushroom growing kits, too.

Sell Your Freshly Harvested Produce

If you grow a large garden each year, there’s bound to be some extra produce to sell. Consider setting up a roadside stand or selling at local farmers’ markets. You might even consider starting a CSA program in your area. Locally grown produce is a hot commodity, so don’t be afraid to approach restaurants and even small grocery stores, too. Consider growing something exotic or unusual in your area to take advantage of an untapped market.

Grow and Sell Cut Flowers

I love selling cut flowers alongside our plants and produce at the market because they really draw in attention from people who might just walk by otherwise. There’s nothing like a gorgeous bouquet of seasonal, fresh cut flowers to attract attention! Restaurants and florists may be interested in purchasing floral bouquets as well.

Grow and Sell Gourmet Garlic

This is another fantastic cash crop for the small homestead. Garlic is easy to grow and doesn’t require vast amounts of space. It stores well, too, which can be a huge plus for taking advantage of the market all year long.

Sell Bulbs or Tubers

Plants like hostas, lilies, daffodils, tulips, and crocuses need to be divided regularly for the best growth, so why not set some aside to sell after you split them in the spring or fall. Early spring bulbs like hyacinth or narcissus could be planted into clear glass vases or jars and forced into early bloom to sell around Easter time.

Make Candles, Wreaths, Soaps, and Jewelry with Your Dried Flowers and Herbs

When the growing season ends, you can still make money from your garden by crafting with your dried herbs and flowers. Sell your crafts online and at winter craft shows to make money during the colder months.

Make Extra Money Through Photography

Everyone loves gorgeous garden photos. Practice taking pictures of your growing flowers and plants. You can sell stock photos and prints online or at the market with your other goods. If you are an especially skilled photographer, consider selling photography sessions in your garden for families, babies, or even engagement photos.

Grow Pumpkins and Gourds to Sell in the Fall

I think every homestead should grow pumpkins because they are so versatile! For personal use, they can be stored to make delicious soups and pies. Because they store well, they are also a great crop to grow for profits during the offseason. Some folks will buy pie pumpkins around the holidays, but decorative pumpkins and gourds will sell for top dollar as seasonal decorations. You’ll need to get your gourds and pumpkins growing early though because they take several months to grow.

Some Other Ideas

There are so many things you can do to make money from your garden all year long. How about making garlands and wreaths out of decorative branches, vines, and pinecones? Maybe you could have classes for people who want to learn how to garden in your area. U-pick farms, pumpkin patches, and corn mazes are also very popular if you have the space for it. The list goes on and on. Get creative and have fun with it!

Find local resources to help get you started.

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