BERKELEY -- Urban Adamah, a nonprofit educational organization promoting urban farming, has purchased 2.2 acres of land in Berkeley from the United States Postal Service. The land, on Sixth Street at Harrison, will give the group a permanent home.
The organization, founded in January 2011, currently farms on one acre of leased land at San Pablo Avenue and Parker Street.
"Because we're going to have more space on the land, we hope we can grow a wider variety of vegetables," program associate Zach Friedman said.
The lease for the current farmland runs through the end of the year, so Urban Adamah probably won't begin farming the new land until then. The new land is vacant, although Friedman said it was once set aside for housing during World War II and some foundations are still present.
The land was used to store rail cars as well.
According to Friedman, the post office purchased the land from UC Berkeley in the 1990s.
The north side boundary is Codornices Creek.
Urban Adamah is beginning its fourth year of operations. Adamah means earth in Hebrew. Urban Adamah integrates Jewish traditions with sustainable agriculture, mindfulness and social action. The group's website says its work is inspired by the core values of ahava (love), hesed (compassion) and tzedek (justice). The original idea for a farm-based residential leadership program was created in Falls Village, Conn.
Three-month fellowships are open to young adults ages 21 to 31. The fellows live in a house together and work the farm. They also receive training in anti-oppression and social justice. The program typically hosts 12 to 14 fellows at a time, although with the larger property, that could increase.
The farm also hosts agricultural classes that are open to the community. School groups visit the farm, and summer camps are open to children entering preschool up through fifth grade.
During the school year, the farm even hosts Hebrew school.
"We partner with local temples and synagogues," Friedman said. "They send their Hebrew school students to our farm once a week in the fall and summer. We run Hebrew school for the kids focused on the natural world."
Urban Adamah also hosts various religious services, including Shabbat services and a Hanukkah celebration, as well as Havdalah dance parties.
Vegetables grown on the farm are distributed for free at a weekly farm stand on the property at 11 a.m. each Wednesday. Produce includes kale, collards, mustards, arugula, chard, tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes, corn, radishes and turnips. With more land, that could grow to include broccoli and cabbage, according to Friedman.
Urban Adamah also has fruit trees on its land, as well as a flock of chickens, some bees and three goats.
Urban farming has become popular in recent years as activists have begun advocating what they claim is a healthier, more sustainable and local source for food, rather than from giant agriculture businesses.
Not far from Urban Adamah's future home, activists have been fighting to stop a planned development on University of California-owned land along San Pablo in Albany, calling for it to be used for an urban farm. Appeals challenging the mixed-use development were rejected by the Albany City Council last week.
In Berkeley, the Edible Schoolyard project teaches children about growing food through hands-on work on an urban farm.
"There's definite similarities with what we do," Friedman said. "We're passionate about growing food in an urban environment. We'd be thrilled about more urban farms sprouting up around the Bay Area. We're focused on growing the community around our farm.
"For thousands of years, there's a strong connection between agriculture and food and people. We've lost that, especially recently. It's important to me because I derive a lot of satisfaction from growing my own food, having food that's fresh and growing closer to the land."