Oakland’s Planting Justice: Transforming Urban Life through Permaculture


Planting Justice is a nonprofit based in Oakland, CA that offers a unique model for urban transformation. It brings together designing and implementing Permaculture projects with door-to-door community organizing and education in a way that creates a synergy between each of them. Its mission is to grow food, grow jobs and grow community.

Today, 80% of US residents live in a city and the transportation of food from rural areas to cities creates huge problems. While the fuel required to transport foods is an obvious problem, it also leads to vast areas in cities that do not have access to healthy foods. Many low-income areas do not have grocery stores and people rely chiefly on convenient stores and liquor stores for food. This is the case in parts of Oakland and one of the main needs Planting Justice tries to address.

Planting Justice does Permaculture projects for supporters who can afford to pay, and uses this money to fund Permaculture projects at schools, community centers and for low-income people. Through their Transform Your Yard program (that costs money), they have implemented dozens of Permaculture designs and used these projects to fund even more projects such as on-going partnerships teaching Permaculture and installing gardens at San Quentin prison and low-income public schools. They were able to hire one of the graduates of their San Quentin program as a landscaper when he was released and hope to hire some of the high school seniors they have been teaching when they graduate this summer.

Planting Justice also has a door-to-door canvassing program that informs people about food justice issues, accepts donations and talks with people about possible Permaculture projects. These community organizers sign people up for the Transform Your Yard program and learn about community centers or schools that would want free Permaculture projects. They also go door to door in neighborhoods of existing Planting Justice sites to spread awareness and build community around the gardens. Finally, Planting Justice offers educational programs that teach people about Permaculture, food justice and help people learn about the services they offer. These educational programs are mostly funded by the canvassing program.

As foundation grants become harder and harder to come by, I believe that Planting Justice’s model of being self-reliant for funds and having several projects that feed into each other will be adopted by more and more nonprofits.

Tim Desmond is on the Planting Justice Board of Directors. He is also a therapist offering counseling through www.phonecounseling.net

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