By Michael Sweet.
In Alameda County’s unincorporated neighborhoods of Cherryland and Ashland the crime and unemployment rates are higher than anywhere else in the county. Along with those alarming statistics run the side effects of poor health and various public safety concerns. So it may be surprising to some that the conversation has turned to urban farming.
Dig Deep Farms is a community-driven project and a great example of public policy in action. The collaboration between multiple county agencies and local area businesses contributed to Dig Deep Farms’ success in bettering the overall community.
“Health disparities are significant here. Rates of diabetes, childhood obesity, heart disease are well above county averages,” explained Lieutenant Marty Neideffer from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office. “So it’s got all of these overlapping issues that affect public safety, public health, public education… you have to really address that overlap.”
Those overlapping issues are what Dig Deep Farms focuses on. All the farmers are locals from the surrounding neighborhoods – some of them on probation. Regardless of how they came to work on the farm, one thing is obvious from the moment you talk with them – they are all thankful for the change Dig Deep Farms has brought into their lives.
Michael Silva works on one of the three farm locations in Alameda County and has now been employed for over a year. He loves being able to watch something grow from a tiny seed into something that helps his community get stronger. And he’s gotten stronger himself – he no longer eats candy and is now a happy vegetarian.
It is not just the lives of the people working at the farms that the program is changing. Dig Deep Farms have farm stands that sell their wares as well as a successful fruit and vegetable box CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery program – both ensure the local community has constant access to fresh fruit and vegetables at a reduced price. In an area where most food retailers are corner stores that don’t sell fresh food, this is invaluable.
Dig Deep Farms has planted its roots deep in Alameda County. The project is helping the community grow through jobs and healthy, affordable food.