Urban farming in Sacramento: A Community and Social Event.
Categories: Food, Green
“A true farm is social. We only think of it economically. Eating is one of the most basic political and social acts that you can partake in. Food is a weapon,” Yisrael says, and thinks about how incredible it is that he spends his days farming. “I didn’t know I was going to get all into this when I first started. But being in the soil on a regular basis — oh, I see why people quit their jobs and do this. I think I’m going to be the next one.”
It was in 2007 when Yisrael started planting food in his backyard. His intention was solely to feed his family. When his parents both got cancer, he was determined that he and his family would do whatever they needed to do to eat healthy. He quickly saw that eating an organic-plant-based diet was expensive. Even though he worked as a systems engineer in the IT department of a global telecommunications company, making good money, it dawned on him that he’d have to work more to afford to eat the right way. The other option was to grow the food himself.
“Food insecurity is not just something that affects poor people. It affects everybody,” Yisrael says. “As I started growing food, I realized that what was really changing was me.”
Being out in his backyard growing vegetables sparked something in him: passion, which he wasn’t getting from his corporate job.
“I’m not really knocking 9-to-5s. But what I found is that most people are working jobs they don’t necessarily want to do. When you’re not doing the thing on a day-to-day basis that is connected to your passion, it’s so tiring,” Yisrael says. “This, I don’t ever get tired. There are times when my mind is like, I still got more to do. I’m having so much fun. But my body’s like, nah, you’re not doing nothing else today.”
We discuss his role in the Oak Park revitalization, and what it means to “transform the ‘hood for good.”
“This is changing the status quo. When you used to say ‘farmer- six or eight years ago, you wouldn’t have me as the picture. The statistics say most farmers are upper 60s, white. But now you say ‘urban farmers in Sacramento,’ some people mention my name,” Yisrael says. “There are children that are watching this. And they’re saying, oh that’s what a farmer is. There have been people that have come to classes that have said, you know what, I’m in my backyard growing food because of you. I’m now eating healthy.”
When Yisrael decided to quit his job in 2011, he hadn’t exactly figured out how his farm would make money. At that point, it wasn’t legal to sell produce in the county, something he and a group of urban farmers called the Sacramento Urban Agriculture Coalition helped to change in January of this year. He knew that by making the decision to follow his passion, he would figure out how to make it work. By 2013, he could sustain himself from a variety of income streams.
“We jumped off the building and we built the parachute on the way down,” Yisrael says. “When I said I’m going to start a farm in Oak Park, people said, you can’t do that. I’m like, yes you can. You can do anything you want.”