After COVID-19, community farm manager Andromeda Brooks is a one-woman show
on September 22, 2020
For the last eight years, Happy Lot Farm and Garden has been thriving under the watchful eye of Andromeda Brooks.
“You come out here, get lost in the trees, problems leave, eat a couple of grapes off the vine, chase a chicken, that is Happy Lot,” said Brooks.
But as shelter-in-place orders swept through California, Brooks, who manages the community farm, struggled to maintain the 14,000-square-foot lot on Chancellor Avenue and First Street in Richmond. After losing her job as an Oracle Park usher, both Brooks and Happy Lot Farm have been surviving on her unemployment checks.
“Every third unemployment check that I get comes to the farm and I see what fires need to be put out,” she said.
But Brooks still can’t afford commercial chicken food. The bigger farms and local stores that had supported Brooks with supplies and green waste picked up had to close. And with the loss of volunteers, Brooks is working double-time to maintain the farm.
Alicia Gallo has been a volunteer since 2012, but hasn’t returned to the farm since March. “There is a fear or reluctance to go out because of COVID-19,” said Gallo.
Then, thick smoke from recent fires in California made it unhealthy to work outdoors.
“This is the first time I felt that it was too scary to be outside,” Brooks said. “Because of the fires and the air quality, I am mindful of that.”
Although the pandemic has drastically changed the way Brooks is running the farm, she is hopeful for the future.
“I feel the sky’s the limit out here,” she said. “I see so much more, I could see someone glamping [glamorous camping] out here, I could see someone doing their vows out here.”
(Lead photo: Andromeda Brooks. Credit: Andromeda Brooks at Happy Lot Farm and Garden Facebook.)
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