WE DID IT: We Bought the Farm!

On September 14th after an historic Contra Costa County Board of Supervisor vote, Urban Tilth made history by becoming the first permanent farm in Richmond, CA!

We began this part of our journey in 2012, when we first submitted a proposal to steward this 3 acre vacant County owned lot. Our dream then was to just secure a long term lease so we could enter into a much deeper long term relationship with land. Access to all of our other garden locations is tenuous. Between year to year access agreements, MOUs and Adopt-a-Spots none allowed us to build the kind of infrastructure necessary to truly impact the scale of food insecurity in our community.

These short term uncommitted relationships also made it difficult for us to imagine taking the time we needed to invest in growing soil and truly nurturing all of the life cycles in the land so the food we would eventually grow would be itself full of life. After working with the county to amend the general plan for North Richmond to allow for urban agriculture and negotiating a 10 year lease that would automatically renew 3 times in 2016 we signed this 30 year lease agreement for the property and the North Richmond Farm project was born giving us the rare opportunity to radically change our relationship to land. 

Navina Khanna, former Urban Tilth Board Chair and Doria Robinson, Urban Tilth’s Executive Director signing the lease for the North Richmond Richmond in 2016

“We often read or hear about moments in history that impact the trajectory of a place. This moment, this milestone is happening in real time in North Richmond. Taking stewardship of the land entirely brings a level of grounding and security to the vision for the farm that hasn’t been present until now. Local food sources are crucial to our communities as we continue to be impacted by the climate crisis. Whole, healthy, nutrient rich foods are accessible right now and will be even more so as the farm expands to the community hub envisioned and planned. The literal seeds of life and energetic seeds of hope that are generated on the farm are a part of the communal power that is transforming Richmond justly into a Rich City for all of us.“

– Katherine Ramos, Richmond Our Power Coalition Coordinator

During the 1st two years on the land we started a community process. We held meetings, community design sessions and convened a Community Advisory Committee and a Technically Advisory Committee to help us decide and design on the ultimate design for the farm. We heard loud and clear that although the community was excited to have a place to get fresh fruits and vegetables and connect with the land, they also wanted other things like a place to host cultural events, musical performances, spoken word, summer time movies. They wanted a space to gather and hold community meetings and events. They wanted us to make sure the farm was ADA accessible so seniors and those with disabilities could also enjoy all that the farm had to offer. We took these visions and used them as the guiding light of the now ultimate design for the North Richmond Farm which includes an Amphitheater, a Cafe, a Farm store and a Community Room with a patio that looks out onto the farm. This ultimate design is the North Richmond Farm Project, our flagship capital campaign project. But this vision for the ultimate farm is BIG and without owning the land few would be willing to invest the amount of money we need to build at this scale. The historic acquisition of 323 Brookside Drive on September 14th changed everything.

Our Vision for the Future North Richmond Farm

The new North Richmond Farm is so much more than an urban agriculture project. Our dream is to be a neighborhood anchor that seeds healing, connection, self-determination, and prosperity for our entire community by serving as the heart of resident-led organizing and opportunity in North Richmond. 

Developing 323 Brookside Drive will enable Urban Tilth to:

  • Create twice as many jobs for local residents
  • Set up our Watersheds Learning Center to give residents pathways to green jobs 
  • Open a new community room as a place for residents to organize, build power, and take collective action
  • Provide the community a vibrant cultural venue for events, class visits, and recreational activities
  • Offer neighbors a thriving, safe, green space they can access 24/7
  • Immerse residents in the rich history of this land and the people and cultures who have shaped it through the History Walk and Ohlone reflection garden
  • Launch a Cooperative Café with free wifi and community commercial kitchen to support local food entrepreneurs and teach youth to start and run small businesses

Our expansion will also make it possible to:

  • Become the first location in North Richmond where residents can access fresh produce 7 days a week
  • Give our immediate neighbors, who often don’t own cars, a safe way to visit the farm via an updated Fred Jackson Way that incorporates rain gardens and new walking and biking paths
  • Double our growing and food distribution capacity
  • Spark the local economy through our local hire and procurement commitments which prioritize residents and businesses rooted in our community for everything from the design of the farm and construction to permanent jobs and sourcing. 

“So many people in Richmond spend most, if not all , of their lives being renters, being moved from place to place, never having the opportunity to nurture a deep relationship with land. This purchase will make it possible for the farm to be a permanent place for local residents to truly lay down roots and together, grow the healthy future we need. After generations of systemic social, economic, environmental and food injustice it is past time for low income community members to have their own place where we can Seed Power and Grow Justice for generations to come.”

– Doria Robinson lifetime Richmond resident and Executive Director of Urban Tilth

The North Richmond Farm Capital Campaign

We now have launched a capital campaign to raise the funds needed to build this collective vision. We are fundraising and building the farm in five phases and are excited to announce that we’ve secured enough funding to build Phase I of the farm project and we are just about half way to securing the funds necessary to build Phase II! We anticipate starting construction in Spring 2022. 

Phases of Farm Construction

Join the Community Advisory Committee

As we move into becoming “landowners” or better, very long term land stewards, we feel we need to examine how we as an organization are governed and how we will govern the land so that it remains a public space for and by local residents. To this end, we are embarking on a journey to revise our organizational bylaws so that resident led governance is embedded in our legal structure. We are convening a new Community Advisory Committee to help inform this process and to act as an advisory body for the farm, guiding our programming and community engagement so that we continue to be accountable to local residents. We are asking those interested in helping us govern this land apply to join the Community Advisory Committee and join us on the  phenomenal journey.

If you are interested in applying to join the Community Advisory Committee please click here to apply.

Learn more about our plans to develop the North Richmond Farm Project.

Conceptual Designs for the North Richmond Farm Project