PLEASANTON -- On weekends, you can find Mihir Naik and Sohan Shah, two seniors at Foothill High School in Pleasanton, doing their gardening.

They rummage through dirt clumps and pestering weeds at their plot in the Pleasanton Community Garden to pluck from the ground heavy, green zucchinis, which they throw into bags to transport to West Oakland.

Their efforts, which they have dubbed "The Green Initiative," help to provide healthy, organic food for Oakland residents by growing vegetables as well as selling reusable aluminum water bottles to help raise money for the nonprofit group they partner with, City Slicker Farms.

City Slicker Farms has been partnering since 2001 with the West Oakland community to help grow and distribute thousands of pounds of fresh, cheap produce.

"We can really see that we are accomplishing something," said Shah, 17. "A lot of kids our age just worry about grades or college applications. We also worry about our zucchini."

In the boys' first zucchini haul in June, they took more than 50 pounds to Oakland. In subsequent trips, Shah said they took about 20 to 25 pounds of zucchini. Trips to Oakland are made a couple times a month.

But who would have expected the two teenagers to have such green thumbs?

Shah and Naik will be the first to admit that while initially they were teased for their extracurricular activity, the popularity and success of their efforts has garnered them some attention.


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Their Facebook page has 88 followers, and a majority of those who read the page also volunteer to help pick zucchini or help with weekend weeding.

The teenagers, however, also admit that they too initially doubted their ability to grow vegetables. But like any good gardener, they did their research.

Naik, 16, said they read, watched YouTube video and talked with family about what was easiest to grow and what could grow quickly.

"It's really not that hard, and the seeds are cheap," Naik said. "You actually have to watch out because they grow so fast. You are gone for a week, and they are already full-grown."

Going forward, Shah and Naik are hoping to create a club on campus to expand their efforts to not only grow more vegetables, but to help raise awareness of the poverty and hunger issues that are in their peers' own backyards.

Less than 30 miles away, West Oakland boasts roughly 53 liquor stores and just one vegetable stand, the boys said.

"We live in this bubble," Shah said. "You can drive for 20 minutes and see how different life really is. And you can also see that you can do something to change that."

Contact Katie Nelson at 925-847-2164 or follow her at Twitter.com/katienelson210.

Want to help?
Visit Mihir Naik and Sohah Shah's Facebook page, "The Green Initiative," to find out when they are weeding, gardening and how to help.
For more information on City Slicker Farms and how you can start your own garden, visit www.cityslickerfarms.com