Hi and if you’re new to Forage Oakland, welcome. Forage Oakland has been on a bit of a hiatus since late January, but activities will resume in time for the stone fruit harvest in the late spring and early summer.
If you are new to the Forage Oakland community, this is a good place to start. I wrote this manifesto last year as a way to succinctly and openly explain the mission of Forage Oakland.
Forage Oakland is a project that- at its core- works to address how we eat everyday, and how everyone can benefit from viewing their neighborhood as a veritable edible map, considering what is cultivated in any given neighborhood and why, and what histories influence those choices. The gleaning of unharvested fruits; the meeting of new neighbors; the joy of the season’s first hachiya persimmon (straight from your neighbor’s backyard, no less); the gathering and redistribution of fruits that would otherwise be wasted- can be powerful and can work to create a new paradigm around how we presently think about food in our collective consciousness. Imagine gathering several friends for morning, midday, evening or weekend foraged city bicycle rides through your neighborhood. Rough maps are drawn, noting the forage-ables that can be found at each location and ‘cold calls’ are made to your neighbors asking if you can sample a fruit from their backyard tree. You have the courage to introduce yourself (despite the pervasiveness and acceptance of urban anomie) and they reward your neighborliness with a sample of Santa Rosa plums, for example. Later, when you find yourself with a surplus of Persian mulberries, you- in turn- deliver a small basket to said neighbor. With time and in this fashion, a community of people who care for and know one another is built, and rather than being the exception, this could be the norm. This is not idealistic, rather it is necessary, pragmatic, and creative– especially in times when much of the world is suffering from lack of access to healthful and satisfying fresh food. Forage Oakland is a project that works to construct a new model– and is one of many neighborhood projects that will eventually create a network of local resources that address the need and desire for neighborhoods to be more self-sustaining in meeting their food needs.
This project is about viewing food as a shared pleasure and a shared resource, redistributing it to those who will enjoy it. Invite your neighbors to exchange their surplus peaches for their neighbor’s surplus blackberries. Fruit baskets are left on doorsteps: apples by the pound, Santa Rosa plums, sour cherries, persimmons, pineapple guava, and apricots. New associations are formed, and new geographies are created. The street corner where Ashby Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Way meet is no longer marked by its corner store, rather it is defined by the prolific fig tree on the northeast corner. Encourage your neighbors to share their backyard bounty and barter what they don’t intend to use. Hop on your bicycle and redistribute the surplus to another neighbor, making a note of the location of the harvested bounty. An edible landscape can be formed that is interactive, a bit different every day as fruit ripens and falls and as the seasons change. The barter can translate to other areas of urban living, and can create a community of people who’d rather do it for themselves and play an active role in their consumerism. When there are plums in your neighbor’s backyard, enjoy them with your neighbor.
Facilitating the exchange of fruit between my North Oakland neighbors has certainly been a labor of love over the course of these past two years. I absolutely cannot envision how better to spend the encroaching dusk of summer evenings than biking down Shafter Avenue, looking out for a house number of a Forage Oakland member who has, for example, traded loquats for Santa Rosa plums. I cannot think of how better to cultivate an intimate and enduring relationship with my neighborhood than to know, so closely, what is cultivated and what is ripening in surplus on most Temescal streets. I love having this knowledge and I love sharing this knowledge.
Forage Oakland has always been a project that hopes to have the community at its center. I’ve always known that the project could best serve the needs of the community if it were a democratic project through and through– maintained by the participants once its foundation was strong enough to manage without someone at the helm. This summer, it is my hope that we can begin to experiment with Forage Oakland as a lab, testing best practices, and incorporating many ideas from the neighborhood and community.
Facilitating the project has been wonderfully overwhelming at times, too, and I know that some of you may have sent correspondences and I have yet to reply. I apologize, and I promise I will get back to each of you, individually– you have my word. Even if I have not personally responded to your question, note of support, or request to join, I sincerely appreciate your interest in the project, your support, and your kind words. This late spring marks a return to the robust activity that marked the previous seasons.
As I begin graduate school in the fall, I will also need to creatively reformat the model that I’ve developed over the past two years (which is labor intensive and not conducive to concurrent grad school study) and experiment with methods that streamline participation. For example, could we develop a CSA-style weekly meeting point where any neighbor who has fruit in excess can convene and exchange his or her fruit? Can we partner with a neighborhood organization in the delivery of surplus fruit? Is there a local school that could benefit from a regular delivery of delicious fruit? What do you think?
The marmalade and jam exchanges have been a critical part of the Forage Oakland model, giving members a time and place to meet one another each season over the sharing of their preserved (and fresh) fruits. While we did not convene this spring, hopefully we’ll compensate for that with two exchanges this summer. The winter exchange was very well-attended and boasted the most diverse collection of fresh fruits, Oakland-preserved fruits, and even showcased chanterelles and Davis-gleaned olive oil.
Please send me your thoughts and ideas. I would love to hear them. Anyone is welcome to share their ideas, but as always, Forage Oakland is- for the moment- a project that serves the Temescal neighborhood.
Love + Thank You,
(510) 499 – 6315