Growing Food in Oakland: A History

regrowing oakland

Can you farm in a city like Oakland? Some local urban farmers, community groups and university researchers think so. Working with the City of Oakland, they are re-envisioning the city’s food supply. Imagine an Oakland where residents grow vegetables, families have affordable fresh food, and shorter distances between fields and dinner tables decrease the city’s carbon footprint. In 2006, the City Council announced a new goal: to grow and buy one-third of the city’s food from local sources. Now local farmers, grocers, and policy makers are working to make that goal a reality.


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food access: changing the rules

The new Oakland Food Policy Council wants better access to nutritious food in Oakland.

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transforming a backyard

Planting Justice turns an empty lawn and into a thriving urban garden.

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frou frou food?

Why do some Oakland residents feel funny about healthy food?

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Timeline: From Industrial Garden to Food Desert

In October 2009, a group of East Bay researchers and nonprofits released a report pinpointing 495 sites in Oakland where affordable fresh food could be grown — a resource readily available 250 years ago, but now a local rarity. Click on the dates below to learn how the city’s population, landscape and diet have radically changed throughout Oakland’s history, ushering in new health concerns and ushering out valuable economic activity.


  1. […] Click here for the full multimedia package including video and an interactive timeline. […]

  2. Stacy on April 28, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    Wow, thank you so much for publishing this food-oriented history of Oakland/East Bay. As a relatively recent transplant to Oakland I appreciate now being able to attach some history to the names I see around town (Peralta and Merritt). As a gardener with a veggie plot at a community garden I am grateful for the info. and resources so I can get more involved in Oakland’s unique food justice issues. Thanks Oakland North!

  3. Kent on May 25, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks for the history. Especially enjoyed seeing the old historical pictures and learning about the various neighborhoods. I’m not sure about the (African American) population figures quoted in the 1940s section. What was the overall population of the city at that time?

  4. Kent on May 25, 2010 at 1:49 pm
  5. Anne on June 10, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    I was so excited to grow veggies in my backyard in North Oakland…until I did a free lead soils test through the Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program ( and it turns out my backyard has “severe contamination.” The soils exceeds both the CA and Federal thresholds for hazardous waste. Please be careful and test the soils for lead before you plant!! It is a free service, you just have to get your landlord to put in a request for a soils test kit, or if you’re a homeowner you can request it yourself. No backyard veggies for me.

  6. Margot Lederer Prado AICP on September 24, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Amazing- I have been envisioning something like this for several years, and here you did it. I will be showing it to my children as an educational tool, and to my colleagues at the Oakland Food Policy Council and the Community & Economic Development Agency, City of Oakalnd, as few know this history to this extent. Excellent work. This is a great educational augment to my Oakland Waterfront Food Trail.

  7. Mike on March 23, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    I LOVE resources like this – and I love to garden in raised planter beds and convenient planter boxes – it gives me the best of both worlds! Thanks much for featuring this.

  8. […] to find out more about the urban food movement in Oakland? Check out our Oakland North special […]

  9. Max Radcliffe on September 24, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    “Oakland’s African-American population jumped from 302,000 to 401,000”

    These numbers must be incorrect. The current total population of Oakland is 390,000. There is no way that 401,000 African-Americans lived in Oakland in the 1940’s, as is indicated in the timeline above.

    Time to fact check!

  10. […] Can you farm in a city like Oakland? We put together a special multimedia package on the history of growing and producing food in Oakland — check it out at Regrowing Oakland: The Future of Urban Food. […]

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