Yisrael Family Urban Farm

URBAN ROOTS INITIATIVE

What started as a journey to transition their family to a plant based diet, grew into a grassroots organization that envisions agriculture as a tool for individuals to become agents of their own social change.

Tucked in South Oak Park, Sacramento, California, the  Yisrael Family Urban Farm (YFUF) started their initiative in 2012, led by  Chanowk and Judith Yisrael. 

But there was an “in-between,” too. Before they formed a full mission, the two farmers spend their time as urban farmers.

“We taught classes about composting, herbal medicine, seed starting, irrigation, crop planning, soil fertility, backyard chicken keeping, container gardening, vermiculture & our “turnip” your backyard garden series. That led to many people to “turnip”(i.e. turn up) their backyards into gardens.” – Chanowk Yisrael

Today YFUF primarily engages the affected communities of South Oak Park through their  Urban Roots Initiative, which offers three core pillars:

  • Garden Build Program: A program that provides residents a garden and hands-on learnings to grow from – either at no or low cost
  • Project G.O.O.D (Growing our own destiny): A summer youth mentorship program
  • Culinary education: A separate pillar that provides educational programming in culinary, herbal and food preserving skills. 
farmer with bee box

TRANSFORMING THE HOOD FOR GOOD

yisrael farmers backs

The Urban Roots Initiative motto is ‘Transforming the Hood for GOOD’ which aims to address current inequities in their local food system through growing food, greening urban spaces and  fostering a healthy learning environment for youth and families of color. Chanowk and Judith aim for community members to develop autonomy  by shifting from consumers to producers,  and at the same time, connecting their personal growth  to  community resilience, which results in improved food security and self-reliance.

TOOLS TO EXPAND

With new space, the Yisrael’s are bringing in necessary regenerative-lending equipment to preserve the integrity of the soil. They’ve requested tractor and irrigation equipment to increase their food production. Ultimately, they’ll be able to distribute goods to more people in low-income areas affected by food apartheid, and to enter the wholesale market with their organic produce..  

First task: bring in the BCS Walk Behind Tractor. This tractor is a game changer, enabling the farm to activate their initial one-half acre area by eliminating the need to use a traditional rototiller, and still creating production rows and spreading compost all while practicing low-till farming.

Second step: Loop in irrigation equipment for watering. After consulting with local organic farmers in the area, the Yisrael’s decided to utilize an overhead watering system for the cropland area.  

“Now that we have expanded our space to and will include animals such as goats, sheep & a 1.5-acre market garden, this commitment to land & skills-based training will continue.” 

They’ll be busy with more, like adding electrical fencing for the livestock area which will enable them to practice rotational grazing, and buying storage containers to keep their equipment in shape when idle. They’ve been able to raise $5,000 for the purchase of a mobile cool bot trailer for cold storage, too.

BIPOC ROOTS & ROOTED VALUES

yisrael family farmers

As black farmers making big waves in a state with a general lack of black farmers, they want their expansion to provide a space for new and emerging black farmers to come for mentorship & practical demonstration. YFUF collaborates with other farmers and organizations to heal the community from racial trauma and heal the relationship BIPOC has with the land. 

“As members of The National Black Food Justice Alliance’s Black Stewards Land Training, we have access to seasoned and aspiring black land stewards across the nation. This program is designed for beginning to intermediate land stewards to train at various sites and learn skills such as natural earth building, animal husbandry and more,” explains Judith.  

The farm’s rural site will provide an immersion experience lasting 3 to 5 days, covering skills such as irrigation design and construction, soil fertility, natural building, seeding/plant propagation, cover cropping, and more.

“We will be particularly of interest for folks transitioning from urban to rural farming or folks who have urban experience and want to scale up to larger, rural regenerative farming.” – Chanowk Yisrael

Each day will consist of 3 to 4 hours of hands-on work using various tools and equipment, 1-2 hours of classroom instruction, and time for personal reflection and cultural activities. They’re further committed to making this experience affordable and will offer these immersion experiences on a sliding scale based on the season, number of participants and planned activities. 

“Our urban location will continue to provide workshops and classes mentioned above through seasonal ‘learn by doing’ field days. Learn by doing field days are free to the public where folks can pre-register to work side by side with a farmer and be immersed in the activities of the day.” 

To learn more about the Yisrael Family Urban Farm, the Urban Roots Initiative, or to get involved, visit them at Yisraelfamilyfarm.net. Email Chanowk and Judith at [email protected].

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