Date posted: September 18, 2014

Aaand Yes!

Kelly Carlisle

Oh who her? That’s just Kelly. When she’s not having dinner with President Obama, she’s in E. Oakland running Acta Non Verba and advocating for the basic right to grow food.

In a remarkable show of support, the Oakland Planning Commission voted “Yes!” to the basic right to grow food. The Commission went above and beyond a significant liberalizing of code by Planning Staff to enable to growing, harvesting and selling of food ‘by right.’ They further voted to remove restrictions in commercial and transit zones. The proposal moved forward to City Council will enable 1) the right to grow food for personal consumption in nearly all zones without permits (we are still working on parks in support of the Edible Parks Program) 2) enable “Limited Urban Agriculture” which includes sales without special permitting (you still need a business tax license…death and taxes, my friend, death and taxes) in most zones in Oakland. Click the following links to read the proposed changes:

However, the proposal moved forward now includes the Commercial Business District Zones and Transit Oriented Zones.

I cannot say enough about the individuals that have shown up to Planning Department meetings, Planning Commission meetings, City Council meetings, community meetings… they have stayed late into the evening to make sure their voices were heard. And you know what? They have been. None of this would happen without the continued effort of an engaged community. They demonstrate the power of self determination.

I have to say we also have some strong souls in elected positions that have been willing to step up and prioritize food on the legislative agenda, namely Councilmembers Kaplan, Kalb and McElhaney. THIS, this is an Oakland I want to live in.

I personally feel lucky, inspired and deeply motivated to be a part of this extraordinary community. It continues to be a blessing to work alongside these amazing people. Lets keep this ball rolling!

Date posted: September 17, 2014

Self Determination and Food

UAPostcard2 Front

I used to fear the policy process was like carrying a boulder up a mountain only to witness it slip hopelessly back down. Yet, when I hit upon the need for policy change to enable the right to grow food in Oakland, my outrage at there being any barriers outweighed my doubt. When I got involved with the amazing and engaged community of people in the East Bay who are working towards self determination, resiliency, and preserving their cultures through food, I was inspired. Back in 2011, when they showed up in force to a planning meeting rolling 300 deep, I was impressed and knew this is the time to make change. I am therefore particularly hopeful that the immense changes happening in Oakland will support a stronger, healthier and activated community of residents. Perhaps we can even stem the tide of displacement and safeguard our neighborhoods.

In a historic show of support, Oakland Planning Department will present proposed zoning regulations that will make significant changes in allowing Oaklanders to grow, harvest, and sell their own food, ‘by right.’ After years of grappling with prohibitive permits, residents would be able to create community gardens outright in all but a few select commercial and industrial zones of Oakland. The City will also seek to remove permitting requirements for the growing & selling of produce in other areas, including residential neighborhoods.

This is an exciting moment in Oakland for urban agriculture. If you live in Oakland and can show support, join us all at the Planning Commission meeting! I’ll be there organizing with my Oakland Food Policy Council hat on (bright stickers for people, talking points, etc).

What: Planning Commission to hear urban ag policy proposal Item #5 (but item #1 and 3 got pulled so we’ll be up sooner)
When: Wednesday, September 17th, 6PM
Where: Oakland City Hall, One Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Hearing Room No. 1 in Oakland, CA 94612

Read more about it from the Oakland Planning Department Bulletin:

Updates to Urban Agriculture Zoning

Updates to Urban Agriculture ZoningPlanning staff have been working on several new developments pertaining to Urban Agriculture.

First, Planning Staff has issued a Zoning Code Bulletin which clarifies the current regulations covering Community Gardens, Crop and Animal Raising activities, and Home Occupations, including the definition and scope of these terms, as well as where such activities are permitted, conditionally permitted, or prohibited in various zoning districts in the City of Oakland. This Bulletin will be in effect until the code changes below are adopted by City Council in the early fall. Click here to read the Zoning Code Bulletin.

If you have questions regarding the Bulletin, please contact Scott Miller at (510)238-2235 or at

Secondly, the Oakland Planning Commission will host a public hearing on a proposed citywide update to the City’s Agricultural Regulations (in combination with other miscellaneous Planning Code, Map, and Height Area changes) this Wednesday, September 17, at 6 pm. Click here to view the Planning Commission agendaClick here to view the staff report, including the proposed detailed code amendments.

Urban Agriculture-related changes include a modification to the definition of “Community Gardens” and the creation of the following two new Land Use Activity Types to replace the City’s existing “Crop and Animal Raising” Activity Type: “Limited Agriculture” and “Extensive Agriculture.”

By separating the current “Crop and Animal Raising” regulation into two different agricultural land use categories based on level of intensity and the potential for off-site impacts, and redefining Community Gardens as the activity of one or more persons, the proposed Planning Code amendments will vastly increase the public’s ability to practice small-scale agriculture throughout the City.

The proposal includes revisions to the Permitted Activity Charts throughout the Planning Code to specify when “Community Gardens,” “Limited Agriculture,” and “Extensive Agriculture” are a Permitted, Conditionally Permitted or Prohibited Activity. The links below provide summary charts that list the proposed level of allowed activity in each Zoning code designation.

If you have questions regarding the Code Amendments, please contact Ed Manasse or (510) 238-7733.

Date posted: July 21, 2014

Oakland Badass: Navina Khanna

Categories: Community | No Comments


I think I just hit “post” on congratulating Kelly, when I got the news that our very own Navina Khanna is a recipient of the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award for her tireless leadership in food and farm policy to create an equitable food system.

“I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” Sure!! Navina Khanna is one of five winners of the James Beard Leadership Awards, which recognize visionaries in the world of food politics and sustainable agriculture. The foundation president, Susan Ungaro, stated “We’re known for awarding the Oscars of the food world…I’m so proud that we’ve also been recognizing, for four years now, the leaders of the food movement, those individuals who are making Americans think more seriously about how we eat, what we eat and where our food is grown. They are helping to raise Americans’ awareness so that they not only care about how our food tastes but where it comes from.”

It’s not that I’m bragging (that’s a lie), its just, Los Angeles is where the movie stars are and Oakland is where the food stars choose to apply their deep talents. Yet, again I have the immense fortune of working directly with a ninja-badass-grand-dame-queen-beast of food through my work at Oakland Food Policy Council. What I find most striking about Navina is that her passion for transformative change doesn’t stop at the end of her work day. This woman lives her words. Her home is a social hub of organizing and food growing.

Navina will be joined this year by Karen Washington, Ben Burkett, Michael Pollan, and Mark Bittman. She will also join the ranks of past recipients such as Michelle Obama, Marion Nestle and Alice Waters.

Learn more about Navina’s work at Movement Strategy Center and Live Real.

I stand in humble solidarity and service with amazing human beings. Take over the world, Kelly & Navina, take over the world…

Date posted: July 15, 2014

Oakland Badass: Kelly Carlisle


While I’ve been on extended sabbatical from my blog, I have been neck deep in the Oakland food system world, never letting up on working to ensure we have the right to grow our own food in Oakland. My work has blessed me with the honor and privilege of being in close contact with the power houses of our community, one of which is Kelly Carlisle of Acta Non Verba. While I’ve mentioned her organization a couple of years ago, here and there, you don’t even understand. Kelly is taking things to the next level with her youth urban farm. In fact, her success has most recently been noted by none other than Mr. President Barack Obama. Ms. Carlisle was invited to attend an Iftan dinner in celebration of Ramadan. At the opening of this dinner, our President made a speech which included recognizing that the dinner was held in honor of a tradition of discipline and devotion. That they were there to share values of peace, charity, family and community, upholding justice, care for those with the least among us, and love for one another. He said we are all deserving of an equal opportunity to thrive and that all of us have the obligation to do our part to reverse the injustice of inequality.

He then said there were attendees present that epitomize this spirit with their actions and uplift our society. He is just going to mention a couple…Kelly Carlisle of Acta Non Verba, deeds not words…wait, wait, replay…whose name was that? (minute 2:12) KELLY CARLISLE!!! Oh, and note who sat next to her during dinner…

I could not be more proud of my friend and colleague. I am humbled to know her.


Date posted: February 28, 2014

The Deep

Categories: Random | 2 Comments

new seed

This is my voice coming back from deep in the underworld. I left off at Pluck & Feather November 2012. After the loss of the land where I kept my farm project; after travels within the cycle of life and death; and much transition, the last year has been a rite of passage. From that experience, among other things, what remains of Pluck & Feather shoots forth this spring. Seeds sown in secret…because some things can never truly be destroyed.

Date posted: November 12, 2012

Food Policy Scorecard

Categories: Community , Food | 1 Comment

Interestingly, Tom Colicchio of Top Chef has taken on the issue of food policy. He worked with a group of advocates to develop food policy action scorecard (can be found here) that ranks congress member votes on issues of hunger, food safety and farm subsidies. Definitely something to check out.

Date posted: November 9, 2012


Categories: Food | No Comments

Where has all the time gone? Pluck & Feather continues to crawl along into its new form. In the mean time, I stepped away from the norm and visited Cinque Terra, Italy. Crazy beautiful and I got lucky enough to meet a splendid family that showed me how to prepare the local sweet wine,  Sciacchetrà (pronounced shock-eh-trah). Delicious stuff.

A variety of grapes grown on the cliffside of the Vernazza were hung to dry some, not completely. Varieties included Bosco, Albarola, Vermentino and what I thought was said to be roja, but thats just “red.”

We plucked them and crushed them to macerate for a day. Then they were to be pressed and fermented.

While I was sad to not participate in the full process, I did get to enjoy a glass of the homemade concoction. So good.

Date posted: October 15, 2012

Antithesis of Urban Farming

Categories: Community , Food | 2 Comments

Hostess Twinkies (gah, I thought they were off the market?!) and Cupcakes already epitomize the kind of corporate control over food that leads to a compromise in food, culture and well being, so great that Twinkies were once used in defense of a murder charge. So what in god’s name inspired someone to batter and deep fry them, I will never know. I left before witnessing anyone eating them. I could not bear that truth.


Date posted: October 11, 2012

We’re Not Playing Out Here

A morning spent with Acta Non Verba director, Kelly, preparing for an international presentation we are giving on creative food system work happening in Oakland. Inspired. Then spotted an article in today’s New York Times about Acta Non Verba at Tassafaranga Park. There you have it. Go Kelly. Go to the pioneers that have set the way. Go Oakland.

Date posted: October 9, 2012

New Ground

Doesn’t look like much but its symbolic of a new beginning. The year has brought losses and gains. Its been hard to let go of those things that I have been attached to. Its been hard to witness the upheaval and destruction of a space I worked so hard to create. Yet, the actual space is not gone. It is just transformed and it will be better. I finally saw this after I dug drain trenches and inserted drain pines and river rocks; after a friend helped me build the frame for the new chicken run; after I considered how I can modify the existing coop to be better in its new home; and after I watched how the sun still tickles areas of the space enough to grow. Then I finally felt the truth in that idiom change is change, not good or bad. Its what we do with it that counts. So using what I have learned in observing plants through their seasons. Autumn is a time to let go. Winter is a time to go back to basics, gather energy and focus on the hardscape. Spring will be the true test of readiness to implement new ideas. Summer will demonstrate the results.