Andromeda Brooks is at it again. If she had her way, she’d turn every empty lot near her home into a farm fit for Old McDonald.
And to her luck, and maybe Old McDonald’s, there’s more land to be had near the corner of 1st Street and Chanslor Avenue.
Linda Schneider, founder of Self-Sustaining Communities, said the city is willing to forgive a lien near Brooks’ home and offer the lot to Self-Sustaining Communities for sustainable neighborhood-type projects. Her Richmond organization would then find a resident who wanted to work and manage the land. “It would be great” if Brooks decided to take on a second location, she said.
Brooks’ first location is called Happy Lot Farm and Garden. And in nine short months she’s converted an empty lot where people littered and let weeds grow knee-high into a food oasis. She said her philosophy in converting the land is that people shouldn’t have to pay for food when they can grow it.
The city farm has no John Deere tractor or combine. But there is an apiary and corn, tomatoes, summer squash, peas, beans, beats, carrots, zucchinis, basil, parsley, onions and verbena. Winter crops will include cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. And not to leave livestock out in the cold, soon she hopes to raise chickens, turkeys, rabbits and a pig.
“The city ordinance for having livestock is ‘a reasonable amount of livestock,’” she said, standing outside near her mud and glass bottle greenhouse. “What that has come to signify is how much your neighbors are going to let you get away with. The neighbors I have love what I’m doing, so as long as I don’t offend them I think I’ll be doing okay.”
None of this bee-like activity could be done alone. Brooks says she gets advice from Self-Sustaining Communities, and a lot of the sweat equity comes from students that need community service hours to graduate.
Ellen Fabini, a student at El Cerrito High, said she got involved with Happy Lot Farm and Garden because she wanted to help provide a big mural for the fence that surrounds the farm.
“I love doing art and thought that doing a mural would be a great experience for myself and the community,” she said. “I think that what Andromeda is doing is really great. I believe that if everyone could do something along the lines of what she’s doing, then a lot of issues in our communities and our nation would see a significant impact of improvement.”
“Little by little this whole area is going to be different in two or three years,” Brooks said.