Welcome to a day at WOW Farm Produce, where vegetables and herbs are grown. As you walk through the front gate on Lewis street, the first thing you will see are the youth associates working, an abundance of plants and vegetables, and Nick and Philip–the farm managers. Throughout the year, WOW Farm hires associates to plant different vegetables and herbs for their customers, mainly downtown Oakland restaurants. Harvesting, glass clean-up, taking out the trash, and taking the temperature of the compost are just some of the jobs WOW Farm has for their associates. Another thing you may encounter is the neighborhood rabbit. The rabbit can eat almost an entire vegetable bed so the associates have to look out for it. However, the rabbit always comes back.
You may also notice toward the end of the farm a pile of manure. This comes from a local East Bay ranch. When you first see the manure, you will notice the smell and that steam is coming out. This is because the microbes are slowly decomposing. Then, the manure is mixed with dirt and compost, creating enriched soil.
Compost at WOW Farm is very important because it keeps the herbs, vegetables, and trees healthy and fresh. Compost is used as a fertilizer for vegetables, turning the soil into a dark, rich color; farmers call this black gold. As you can see in our pictures, the soil is dark and moist. Below, the associates are collecting the manure, then breaking down the large chunks and mixing it with the soil.
Associates chop down compost so the process of decomposition is much faster. The compost layers release vital components for growth. As you can see below, Nick explains the process of stacking layers to his associates and teaches them what should be on each layer. WOW Farm is not only a place to work but also a place to learn.
One thing you may notice are the amount of vegetable beds and how they are arranged. In previous years, the rows were aligned parallel to the Lewis and Peralta streets, but this limited their production. In 2012, they lined the rows perpendicular to the streets, and as a result, they increased their harvest yield.
WOW follows a strict cycle where every 2 weeks they plant herbs and vegetables and every week they harvest. This ensures a steady supply of diverse, seasonal vegetables for restaurants.
Many local restaurants like Hopscotch and Flora turn to WOW Farm Produce to get fresh, local herbs and vegetables for their dishes. From farm to plate, WOW Farm strives to bring the highest quality, organic produce to the tables of their customers.
Written by Jonathan Espinoza, Summer 2014 GTA Intern