Sowing Sustainability: How Kids in California Are Learning How to Grow and Sell Organic Food

The Acta Non Verba Youth Urban Farm Project is investing in the health and future of their community. Educators use the farm as their classroom to engage the underserved parts of the Oakland, California, community with fresh produce and to provide low-income residents with the knowledge and skills to grow and sell their own organic food. Their programs provide the seeds to build healthy habits and sustainable lives starting at an early age.

Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Amani Ali, Office Manager at Acta Non Verba Youth Urban Farm Project.

Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?

Amani Ali (AA): At Acta Non Verba Youth Urban Farm Project, we provide life-changing access to fresh and healthy foods in the under-served community of East Oakland, CA. We introduce low-income youth and their families to farm-to-table concepts by teaching them to plan, plant, harvest, cook, and sell fresh organic produce. Our youth participants joyfully connect with the soil and increase their awareness of sustainable farming, healthy eating, and environmental stewardship.

Our programs provide the educational spark for future sustainable farmers, food industry professionals, and food justice advocates. We also hope that by sharing nourishing food and farming practices, we will inspire our community to reject profit-driven “convenience foods,” and drive healthier, more sustainable food choices.

FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of?

AA: Camp ANV, our year-round youth camp, makes our organization unique and is one of the things we’re most proud of. Every school break, we welcome low-income youth from our community to participate in organic gardening, harvesting, selling, and cooking, as well as music, martial arts, swimming, and outstanding field trips.

Not only do our participants benefit from days filled with enriching activities and loving care, but they also benefit from the money earned through our produce sales. From those dollars, 100 percent goes into savings accounts that we open for our campers. Since children with savings accounts are more likely to attend higher education, we see our camps as a holistic investment in our youth.

FT: What are your goals for 2015 and beyond?

AA: We want to be able to nourish more bodies and minds in our community. Our quarter-acre farm is not enough to feed our whole community. Currently, we are growing our CSA program by creating partnerships with other organizations. We've seen an increase in produce sales and want to be able to support that increase. Additionally, in 2014 we enrolled around 160 low-income youth in our camps. Our community is in great need and we would love to see that number double as we continue to increase our capacity.

FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?

AA: Eat locally whenever possible -- you’re empowering communities rather than large corporations.

FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?

AA: Volunteers and interns for Acta Non Verba Youth Urban Farm Project are instrumental to growing our programs throughout East Oakland and the world. Interested youth and individuals with experience in gardening, carpentry, education and childcare, marketing and communications, and nonprofit development are encouraged to contact us about current volunteer and internship opportunities. You must be dependable and able to pass a City of Oakland background check (to work with youth).


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