Friday, June 15, 2012

Phat Beets Launches New North Oakland Farmers’ Market

By Luke Tsai
Fri, Jun 15, 2012 at 2:49 PM

In this week’s news roundup I included a short blurb about the new North Oakland farmers’ market that the food justice collective Phat Beets Produce is launching at 942 Stanford Avenue (at Lowell Street). The North Oakland Flea N’ Farmers’ Market moved to the new location on June 2, but will be host an all-day Juneteenth celebration this Saturday — during the market’s regular 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. hours — as a livelier and more official kickoff.

Yesterday I had a chance to catch up with Seema Rupani, a member of the Oakland-based collective, who gave me more details about the market and its food justice slant.

First off, it turns out that the Phat Beets Saturday market has existed for about two years already, but was previously held a couple blocks away, outside the North Oakland Arlington Medical Center. According to Rupani, the availability of an abandoned building at the corner of Stanford and Lowell provided a unique opportunity to expand the market and to hold it at a visible space that’s more conducive to serve as a community gathering place.

This building at the new North Oakland Flea N Farmers Market will eventually serve as a community kitchen and healthy cafe.
  • This building at the new North Oakland Flea N' Farmers' Market will eventually serve as a community kitchen and healthy cafe.
New market features will include a healthy cafe and a commercial kitchen space, both of which are being created by a small cooperative that’s partnering with Phat Beets. The commercial kitchen, in particular, is meant to provide economic stimulus for the area, as aspiring food entrepreneurs will be able use the space as a business incubator.

Both of those projects are still a few months away from coming to fruition, Rupani explained.

Also providing economic opportunity will be the flea market, where vendors can set up a stall for a mere $5, with priority given to those who live in the neighborhood.

What won’t change will be the Phat Beets collective’s commitment to providing fresh, healthy food for a North Oakland neighborhood where those options are extremely limited. Rupani said the area doesn’t quite qualify as a “food desert,” but it doesn’t have a fully-functioning grocery store.

“People shop at corner stores, or else they have to go to Berkeley,” she explained.

Market manager Toveo Hill sells some avocados.
  • Market manager Toveo Hill sells some avocados.
The Saturday market will feature affordably-priced produce from four small organic Bay Area farms — mostly farms that are owned and operated by people of color. Low-income families suffering from diet-related diseases will be able to make purchases using vouchers. The site will also function as the pickup point for Phat Beets’ Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes, which are also available to low-income families at a subsidized rate.

In addition, Phat Beets will host a variety of educational workshops at the farmers’ market. For instance, next Saturday, June 23, a three-week series on “Deconstructing Oppression in the Food System” will kick off, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each week.

This Saturday’s celebration of Juneteenth — or “Freedom Day,” commemorating the emancipation of slaves in Texas — will feature food, music (Tupac’s, since Saturday is his birthday), speakers, and other live entertainment.

Got tips or suggestions? Email me at Luke (dot) Tsai (at) EastBayExpress (dot) com. Otherwise, keep in touch by following me on Twitter @theluketsai, or simply by posting a comment. I'll read ‘em all.

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