Written by Ayano Jeffers-Fabro
Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project, located in the midst of the East Oakland urban sprawl, works toward elevating life in the inner-city by challenging oppressive dynamics and environments through urban farming. Nestled in a .25 acre corner of Tassafaronga Park lives Acta’s certified-organic urban farm that is planned, planted and harvested by the neighboring youth in the area. Across the street from the farm is Acta’s office where members of the organization host cooking classes and provide an accessible food pantry for the residences of Tassafaronga Village Apartments.
Founded and led mainly by women of color, Acta Non Verba strives to put their mission of food justice into action by engaging, educating and transforming their community’s understanding of food, nutrition and self-wellness. As a part of the first cohort in the Food Systems Minor at UC Berkeley, I was fortunate enough to spend my last semester interning with this amazing organization. Through my internship with Acta, I was able to get first-hand experiences working with a severely economically depressed neighborhood, located in the second most dangerous city in the country; for someone from a rural, plantation town in Hawai`i, this was an entirely new experience for me. Through this hands-on experience, I was able to give back and enrich a local community, but even more so, I gained an immense amount of knowledge about positively influencing a community through farming and food.
The main projects I was involved with were general community outreaching, and planning and facilitating Camp ANV and ANV’s 5th Anniversary Spring of Green/ Earth Day Celebration. Acta Non Verba is extremely connected to their community mainly because of their constant outreaching at events, community-based activities such as monthly farm days, weekly cooking classes and “open-gate” policy allowing kids playing in the park to visit the farm during open hours.
Although I spent a lot of time doing graphic design and deskwork, I learned about a lot about the administrative side of running a successful non-profit. Outreach and educational planning is critical for effectively reaching out to the community, in addition to the hands-on farm work that Acta does.
The best part of my spring internship at Acta Non Verba was being an educator during the youth spring break camp in March. Every time the Oakland Unified School District goes on break, ANV hosts a youth camp for kids K-8, and are working on extending the program to older youth. During the spring break camp, I met kids travelling from all over Oakland; some of them caught the bus with their guardian at the crack of dawn to make check-in at 8am, others lived right around the corner in the Tassa apartments. Activities ranged from farm chores, to African drumming, to cooking and art projects. On top of the many stimulating happenings, the kids were given a lot of time to play with each other outside. Within that week, I saw much transformation among these urban youth. They grow up in a concrete jungle, so to see the looks on their face when we find creepy-crawlies on the farm or the longing looks to play outside for just a bit longer, shows me the dire need for these kids to be in programs like Camp ANV! You can see their brilliant minds absorbing and retaining all sorts of knowledge within the short time of their spring break.
All in all, Acta Non Verba not only taught me about how to run an incredibly successful urban farm program, but it also reaffirmed my life values and goals in the food and environmental justice spectrum. It reconnected me to the earth and with people who care for and respect the earth to the same degree that I do. Being stuck in the life of a college student can consume you but Acta helped me break out of the systemic stresses that I found restricting my passion. I strive to found a non-profit as impactful as Acta Non Verba has been for the community of East Oakland, partnering with organizations, food justice advocates and students just like me. Check out more information on Acta Non Verba, their current projects and how to support!