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May 15, 2005 03:00 AM

Mandela Farmers' Market – Organic farms in West Oakland? YES !!!

  • k

This is a beautiful market.

Its beauty is not only in the lovely flowers, stellar produce and tasty food. It is a deeper beauty that seeks to transfom neighborhoods and lives.

At this pleasant, mellow and worthy little farmers market, a DJ played R&B, chess tables were set out for games and you could get a massage. There was Caribbean chicken and sweet potato pie.

The sign at the entrance says “Fresh, affordable food grown on ethnic farms”.

The best vendor with stunning flowers and top rate vegetables was OBUGS which had “Produce grown organically by kids in West Oakland”.

It is part of a movement that sets up farm stands on urban streets, delivers fresh produce to homes, works with local groceries to stock fruit and vegetables instead of liquor, and seeks to ease the tension between African American and Hispanic neighbors through pot lucks.

"We just think that kids and food are the way to change the world," says a founder of the Oakland Butterfly and Urban Gardens (OBUGs)

I have wanted to go to this market since I read the SF Chronicle article in the link below. It is original, unique and my favorite pocket farmers market to date. The small market with about a dozen vendors does big things.

The idea of the market came from David Roach who founded "Mo' Better Food” and says “We planted a seed with the farmers' market, and people came out and supported it. We have youth creating our flyers, putting out posters on the streets, and helping the farmers sell their produce. The market really became a community food project."

One vendor was selling organic beans, flour, grains and honey. There was another vendor had a nice selection of produce that included peanuts and sweet potatoes.

There were only two vendors I saw at other farmers markets, Rodriguez Farms (camarosa strawberries, LOVELY fava beans, assorted greens) and JGG farms (more camarosa strawberries and raspberries).

Pots to Jars was selling spiced pears, jellies (including a mean looking jalapeño), fruit butters, pickles and Cha-Cha (diced cabbage, bell peppers, onion, green tomato, celery seed, mustard seed). I bought the mild version of the Cha-Cha which had quite a kick from the mustard seed. The hot must set your mouth on fire.

This is not only a market that seeks to reach people who might not otherwise have access to quality produce, but then educates them about how to eat better.

The stand selling the Caribbean chicken also sold small boxes of Sun-maid diced apricots. It offers an alternative to greasy fast food snacks and the food was very tasty.

The nicely spiced chicken is cooked on a tiny BBQ grill. For $5 you have a choice of grilled vegetables (broccoli, bell peppers, and carrots) or fresh fruit salad (mango, orange slices, cantaloupe, and strawberries). A roll came with the lunch, but I passed. I wanted to save room for the sweet potato pie at the next stand.

It was a nice pie with a flakey crust and a not too sweet filling. There was also peach cobbler, brownies, and huge square cookies. Brownie and pie was $3.50.

The lady who made the chicken says that every week she cooks up something different (she will be absent Memorial Day Weekend).

There was also a vendor selling plants to encourage people to start gardens in their back yards.

FairTrade USA had a booth educating people about fair trade products (with samples) and where to buy them (Berkeley Bowl, for example). They also gave you a handful of business cards to give to places you shop urging owners to carry fair trade coffee, tea and chocolates. In addition it suggested that people request that their employers serve fair trade coffee and tea and whenever there are suggestion cards in stores, fill one out asking for fair trade products.

One of the non food vendors was selling ethnic pride children’s story books. Another sold scented oils. The craft vendor had a very cool statue of an African American Betty Boop.

I also saw something you don’t see often at some of the Farmers Markets, quite a few children. Little girls with pretty colored barrettes in their hair, played politely while the parents shopped.

Mandela Farmers' Market – Mo’ Better Fresh Organics 4U
At the end of Mandela between 5th and 7th

(There's easier ways, but you can get there by turning onto Mandela Parkway from West Grand in Oakland).

Saturdays – 10 to 4
Even the must vendors didn’t show up at 10 am. Go about noon.

Lots of parking on the streets and the West Oakland Bart parking lot.

The link below talks about the market and other food projects in the area. I know people don’t follow links. I rarely do. However, I’m going to post separately so that there is easy access to another link about OBUGS and Mo’ Better. The OBUGS article is fantastic article and I hope a few people will read it.

NOTE: The market and organizations are NOT charities or charitable organizations. They sponsor and organize these markets just as CUESA sponsors and organizes the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

I'll repeat this link in the next post, but I'm including it here because the quotes in this post came from this article.


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  1. The Oakland Butterfly & Urban Gardens OBUGS, helps support an in-school and after-school gardening education program for low-income students that provides hands-on experiential learning, personal skill development, community service learning, and adult mentoring, in West Oakland, CA. They are one of the vendors at the Mandela Farmers Market.

    This article goes into the other work that OBUGS does. It also discusses City Slicker farm.

    “City Slicker Farm is just a mile away from the OBUGs' Linden Street garden; you'd have a hard time missing it in this residential neighborhood dotted with old cars, abandoned lots, and faded storefonts. … "We've got tons of snap peas, pod peas, chard, kale, collards, beets, lettuce, and three beehives which a neighbor tends. The bees basically stay in the gardens — it's the only green space around — and they pollinate all the flowers,”

    “On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the farm sets up a produce stand onsite selling pesticide-free foods — black-eyed peas, collard greens, and other seasonal vegetables that the farmers feel are "culturally appropriate" to the neighborhood.”

    More in link below.


    1 Reply
    1. re: Krys

      Mo’ Better Food is committed to bring better food to the African American Community and supporting African -American Farmers. This organization started the Mandela Farmers Market.

      The web site highlights African American Farms such as Scott Farms and Good Foot Farms.

      In addition to the Mandela Farmer’s Market, this SELF-SUPPORTING group has established or plans to establish some of the following:

      - Produce boxes delivered to Oakland residences
      - Stocking fresh food from Black farmers in corner stores
      - Establishing The Soul Food Cooperative in West Oakland
      - Establishing certified kitchens so that, not only can more individuals learn how to cook healthier food through cooking demonstrations, but also sell the food they prepare.
      - Offer assistance to other groups interested in starting similar programs
      - Establishing urban gardens


    2. Great report, Krys!

      I meant to write about this Farmers' Market last weekend which I visited while on the way to SBC Park for a Giants' game.

      It's a great idea and a very smart place to set up the market - next to the West Oakland BART parking lot.