Promoting Economic, Environmental, Nutritional, and Social Justice in the Community
Combining urban farming with environmental education and jobs for ex-offenders—that’s the focus of Planting Justice, an Oakland, California, nonprofit. The organization, which offers a living wage and full benefits to its staff, promotes economic, environmental, nutritional, and social justice in the local community. “Staff in Oakland want to serve the neighborhoods we live and work in,” says Researcher Laura Nolan. “Volunteering at Planting Justice offers an opportunity to do just that: build a stronger community by connecting over love of the outdoors and growing plants.”
Planting Justice runs a constellation of programs—including outreach in local schools teaching young people about their right to fresh and nutritious foods as well as building and sustaining gardens in area prisons, jails, and juvenile detention facilities—to help transform neighborhoods and rebuild lives. Its reentry program for formerly incarcerated community members, profiled recently in the New York Times, provides meaningful opportunities to work and advance. A partnership with San Quentin State Prison trains people transitioning back to the community and offers a legal job, health benefits, and a living wage. Planting Justice is also working to transfer part of its two-acre nursery in East Oakland to the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust so the Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone communities can reclaim the land for indigenous stewardship.
Nolan first learned about cultivating and growing plants to build community and independence as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Fiji Islands, where she worked with rural Indian women with limited means of generating income on backyard gardening and beekeeping projects. Nolan and her Mathematica colleagues have planted and weeded at Planting Justice’s five-acre farm in El Sobrante and potted fruit trees at the nursery in the Sobrante Park neighborhood in East Oakland. “It’s part of our contribution to the local community to address structural inequalities in the industrialized food system and support transformation through land reclamation, ecological design, and urban food production,” she says.