November 25, 2015—Imagine not being able to buy a fresh vegetable or see a garden anywhere in your neighborhood. This is what parts of West Oakland look like. It is one among hundreds of food deserts in the U.S., where a glaring absence of access to affordable, nutritious food disproportionately affects low-income people. It is also an area where community gathering spaces of any kind are scarce.

In a neighborhood where a third of residents live below the poverty line and 16% experience food insecurity, West Oakland community members founded City Slicker Farms, a branching network of small farms in previously vacant or under-utilized lots, backyard gardens, and public markets. City Slicker Farms is part of a growing movement to help residents in the art of urban agriculture. Thanks to them, Mildred Williams, a grandmother who grew up tending to strawberries and corn on a family farm, is planting again. She has set up a fruit tree and two plant beds right on her front porch and is teaching her granddaughter to garden.

Now, City Slicker is taking root in a different way: the organization is building an urban farm and park on over an acre of purchased land in the heart of West Oakland, creating a community touchstone for present-day Oakland and for generations to come. It aims to produce and distribute up to 10,000 pounds of produce in the first few years of operation—double the output of all of CSF's current programs. No one will be turned away due to a lack of money. The new farm and park will include a Great Lawn for meeting family and friends, a chicken coop, a community garden and greenhouse, a playground, a beehive, and a "nutrition demo zone" for education and outdoor cooking. It will also feature environmentally sustainable designs, such as drip irrigation and composting receptacles.

While the majority of the project is funded by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, City Slicker needed an infusion of capital to bridge the gap between expenses and reimbursement. NFF stepped in to fill the gap with $400,000 in financing, working closely with CSF's Executive Director Ariel Dekovic. "The Urban Farm and Park represents the collaboration of so many people who care about West Oakland, food access, and open space," Ariel shared. "NFF was a key partner over the last several years. NFF staff were truly invested in the project's community impact and found the financing solution that allowed the project to move forward. We are so excited to open this new civic resource with our community next year."

But we realize that there is still a lot of work to be done for the 23.5 million people in the U.S. living in food deserts. During the holiday season, CSF's work in Oakland reminds us to be grateful of the seemingly small things—like vegetables—that we can so easily take for granted. We're proud to be among the many collaborators making this project happen, including KaBOOM!, Play Works, and Planting Justice. We're proud to come together in solidarity to create a better West Oakland.

For more information about City Slicker Farms, click here.