NerdWallet’s Top 5 Bay Area Urban Agriculture Nonprofits

Personal Finance

Community gardens are sprouting up all around the Bay to supply citizens with organic fruits and vegetables. Increased awareness of dangerous pesticides and fertilizers, accompanied by the health benefits of organic produce, has contributed to an evolution of urban agriculture. There are hundreds of communal gardens around the Bay to dig your hands into, but here at NerdWallet, we’d like to honor our favorite urban agriculture nonprofits for growing food, and communities, in our Bay Area home.

Eco House: For motivating neighbors to go green

The Eco House was founded as a community-based educational house in Berkeley. Its purpose is to serve as a decentralized resource center for the local, diverse community and to contribute to ecological and social awareness in its own neighborhood. In 2006, the Eco House was adopted by the Ecology Center, a resource to promote environmental responsibility, and now serves the entire community as a gardening epicenter for ecological living. The Eco House acts as a demonstration site for the Ecology Center, hosting classes and workshops on sustainable living techniques. We green thumb nerds honor Eco House’s efforts to overcome the barriers of healthy environmental choices and bring to all members of the community.

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Common Ground: For inspiring edible gardens

Established 40 years ago in Palo Alto, Common Ground is an organic garden supply and education center founded by Ecology Action. Common Ground offers everything you need to create and maintain a home garden: seeds, composts, fertilizers, tools, natural disease and pest control products, and of course books. Edible gardening in particular is encouraged, thus implying the motto “Creating Abundance in Community.” An array of edible, medicinal and ornamental seeds and plants starts are available to hobbyist gardeners and devoted farmers alike. Hands-on classes and events in organic gardening and sustainable living are offered as well, from creating and maintaining a garden to growing edible fruits and veggies to beekeeping. NerdWallet commends Common Ground for its dedication to helping both newbies and experts grow their own food.

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Marin Open Garden Project: For sharing nature’s resources

Marin Open Garden Project is an all-volunteer gardening community in Marin County. Launched as a sponsored project under Marin Link, the project brings together the hungry, farmers with extra food and volunteers eager to help both people and nature. Backyard gardeners meet weekly to exchange produce of all types. The primary focus of the project is to harvest unwanted produce and donate it to people in need. Volunteers harvest fruit trees, vegetables, and any excess produce a landowner is willing to donate, then distribute the surplus produce to other neighbors, community food banks, and soup kitchens. Generous project outreach efforts emphasize community farming. For example, if landowners are willing to share unused plots of land, local gardeners are able to utilize it to harvest produce, so the Open Garden Project links gardeners to unused plots of farmland to efficiently allocate local resources. Thanks, Open Garden Project, for making sure that no space or food goes to waste!

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SAGE: For linking rural agriculture to urban development

Headquartered in Berkeley, SAGE attempts to develop urban agriculture by linking urban and rural communities to live in harmony. Through collaboration with public agencies, developers, planners, and community groups, SAGE helps inspire informed action in local communities. SAGE pioneered agriculture parks, where farmers and citizens share land for farming and recreation. In collaboration with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, they created the Sunol Agriculture Park, which integrates sustainable agriculture, environmental stewardship, and public education into a communal park space. SAGE has been asked to consult the establishment and design of farmers’ markets nationwide, proving their outreach goes far beyond rural agriculture. Currently, SAGE is developing a business plan for the Green Valley Agricultural Conservancy, in an effort to preserve a 2000-acre area in Solano County. NerdWallet honors this high-level guidance in the shift towards a sustainable life.

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Phat Beets Produce: For spreading the love of fresh produce

A collective entirely run by volunteers, Phat Beets Produce is as clever as its name. The mission is simple: to create a healthier, more equitable food system in North Oakland. The means to accomplish this goal call for affordable access to fresh produce and a close relationship between farmers and local communities. Farmers’ markets, the creation of farm stands, and urban youth market gardens all contribute to the success of Phat Beets’ mission. A community supported agriculture (CSA) box, nicknamed the “beet box”, is a weekly box of organic, locally grown fruits and vegetables sent to people who do not live near a farmers’ market. Options for low-income and senior citizens are available for discount pricing. A subscription to a “beet box” supports small-scale, sustainable farmers and families suffering from diet-related disease. Phat Beets dedicates time and effort to offer health and nutrition education to youth in North Oakland in order to foster a sustainable future. NerdWallet applauds the Phat Beets crew for changing the face of fresh, organic produce in their respective urban community.

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Community gardens and farmers’ markets offer unique sanctuaries to harvest fresh, local produce affordably. These nonprofits are fostering a communal approach to sustainable living, going far beyond growing plants to build environmentally conscious, well-fed communities. Working together towards a sustainable Bay Area will provide everyone with delicious produce as well as a functioning system of agriculture to share local resources.