Practicing sustainable agriculture in an urban area can be a powerful tool in supporting the health of social, economic, ecological and environmental systems. Through this series of classes Urban Adamah fellows learn ways to grow, process, and distribute food within a whole-systems framework. This curriculum is designed to give fellows a foundation of knowledge and skills on a range of topics fundamental to starting and running a farm in an urban context. The curriculum explores three broad questions:
How does one sustainably grow food in an urban setting?
Fellows learn the science, skills, and techniques for successfully growing organic food in the Bay Area and in an urban setting. Classes introduce fellows to a range of farming methods and design techniques, as well as methodologies for assessing and planning for the needs and yields of a particular climate and place. These classes also give fellows a taste of various animal husbandry practices, as well as alternative farming techniques. Fellows are trained through both formal/frontal and hands-on classes, and take increasing responsibility for managing the farm as the fellowship season progresses.
How does one understand food injustice within larger social, economic, racial and political contexts and movements?
Fellows learn the issues affecting access to fresh food in the East Bay and explore the social, political, and economic implications of the great food disparity of our time. Classes address local and global threats to food safety and sovereignty, as well as statewide and national policies that shape our current food realities. Fellows also learn about other organizations working to address issues of food injustice in the East Bay, California and beyond.
How can we build self-sufficiency in ourselves and in our communities?
Fellows learn essential skills for creating farm-based products to support the medicinal, nutritional, and functional needs of our communities. These classes may include any of the following hands-on workshops: cheese making, herbal medicine, fermenting, basketry, bread making, soap making, and canning. We explore these skills as they relate to ideas of sovereignty, anti-consumerism, community-building and empowerment, and resource-sharing.
The following is the 10 week core curriculum included in each fellowship. To learn more about our faculty, click here.
WEEK 1: ROOTING OURSELVES IN PLACE: Agri-Culture and Permaculture
Goal: To begin to understand the bay area in terms of climate, agriculture, type of population center, etc; To become introduced to the Bay Area of California: its history, climate, agriculture, racial and socioeconomic make-up, and to the nuances of growing food here; To learn the basic principles of Permaculture (earth care, people care, fair share) and how they directly inform the work we do at Urban Adamah. We will begin to understand permaculture as a tool for encouraging sustainability in local social, economic, ecological and environmental systems.
WEEK 2: STARTING WITH SOIL: Soil science 101- Growing, feeding and healing your soil
Goal: To understand the components of soil, and how the right mix of sand, clay and silt is crucial for the health of plants and people; To learn how to use the tools of soil assessment including ribbon testing and the soil separation test, and the tools for soil improvement including mulching, nutrient cycling, and adding amendments.
WEEK 3: PLANT PROPAGATION: Seed-Starting and Asexual Propagation Methods
Goal: To learn the biology of seeds, how to properly plant, what should be started in the ground vs. the greenhouse, and different techniques sometimes needed for propagation (i.e. stratification and scarification); To learn asexual methods of propagation such as starting plants from cuttings, runners, bulbs, division and grafting.
WEEK 4: SUPPORTING PLANT HEALTH: Plant Nutrition
Goal: To learn about the macro and micro nutrients plants need to grow, and learn different techniques for providing these nutrients to plants; To understand common Bay Area nutrient deficiencies that occur due to the nature of local soils, and be able to recognize and work with nutrient deficiencies and excesses in the soil.
WEEK 5: EXTENDING THE HARVEST: People’s Medicine
Goal: To learn how to grow, wildcraft, and use plants as medicine; Understand how herbal medicine can empower people without access to health insurance, and communities in areas with many health issues due to air quality, food quality, etc. Fellows make basic herbal preparations from the farm.
WEEK 6: CULTURALLY AND CLIMATICALLY APPROPRIATE FARMING: Permaculture 202- Techniques
Goal: To learn and practice the basics of permaculture, such as conducting site assessments, sector analyses, and zones within the context of designing for efficiency and beauty; To learn particular things to take into account when using permaculture techniques in the Bay Area; To understand and practice permaculture as a way of knowing a place deeply.
WEEK 7: ENCOURAGING WHOLE FARM HEALTH: Integrated Pest Management/Pest and Disease Management
Goal: To learn about plant resiliency, and the different ways of approaching pest control in an urban area with a focus on encouraging biodiversity and whole farm health; Fellows gain experience with the most effective non-toxic pest control methods as they apply to the pests on our Berkeley farm site. Fellows also gain experience in identifying and remedying various plant diseases common in our area.
WEEK 8: WATER: Retaining Water on the Farm
Goal: To explore and understand the crucially important issue of water for agriculture in California; To learn about drip irrigation, retaining water in the soil, water catchment, greywater on the farm, drought resistant crop choice, and mulching for water conservation.
WEEK 9: ALTERNATIVE FARMING METHODS AND DESIGN: Permaculture 303- Design
Goal: To explore and practice the permaculture design techniques of zoning, modeling, and needs/yields assessments in order to design beautiful, functional, efficient farms. Fellows will do a permaculture design project on the farm incorporating the skills learned in all 3 permaculture classes.
WEEK 10: SOWING THE SEEDS OF CHANGE: Seed-Saving
Goal: To learn about flower anatomy, plant families, and the pollination process; To learn common techniques for saving seeds; To understand seed-saving as a revolutionary act, discuss important global seed saving projects, and understand the crisis that commercial agriculture practices (i.e. monocropping, GMO’s, and hybridization) has created for ecological and cultural biodiversity.
The following is a list of complementary classes given during a fellowship season:
Tool Safety and Self-Care on the Farm
Goal: To introduce fellows to the tools used at Urban Adamah and learn proper use of each to ensure fellow safety while on the sadeh; To learn best practices of caring for tools on the farm.
Getting Down and Dirty with Compost:
Goal: To understand the components of compost; to learn different methods for building and maintaining a healthy compost pile, and detect and diagnose problems in a pile; To explore the uses and benefits of compost in organic agriculture for overall garden health, as well as the larger environmental implications of using compost.
What’s all the Wriggle about? Vermicomposting for a Healthy Garden
Goal: To learn about the production of vermicompost from Red Wriggler worms; To explore the benefits of vermicompost in organic gardening and for recycling home food waste; To train fellows in various aspects of Urban Worm’s operations.
Chicken Husbandry: Lovin’ our Mamas
Goal: To introduce fellows to the lovely flock of hens at Urban Adamah; To teach about the life cycle of a laying hen, and give basic information about how to start a chicken coop of one’s own; To discuss the benefits of keeping chickens for organic gardening.
Goat Husbandry: Tending the horny, stinky herd
Goal: To introduce fellows to the Urban Adamah goat herd and learn its myriad of benefits to organic gardening projects of all sizes; To learn the basics of raising and caring for goats and creating/managing a safe and healthy system for milk production.
Discovering the Delicious Art of Bee Keeping:
Goal: To learn about the role of honeybees in agriculture and develop an appreciation for these important pollinators; To learn about the life cycle of a honeybee and bee hive; To explore the politics of beekeeping and honey production in the US as it relates to large-scale agriculture; To participate in a hive inspection and personally meet up-close the bees of UA’s two hives.
Method behind the Madness: Crop Planning for Greater Yields
Goal: To explore the factors necessary to consider in formulating a crop plan, including family rotation, nutrient need rotation, and environmental needs of plants; To discuss the importance of crop planning in production agriculture; To practice the skills and knowledge acquired at UA to put together a crop plan for the farm.
Who’s Who in the Garden: Plant Family Identification
Goal: To learn about common defining characteristics of major plant families found in fruit and vegetable agriculture; To expand our depth of understanding about the plants on the farm; To develop a deeper relationship with common food crops through the exploration of the histories and stories behind different families.
Bay Area Urban Farm and Homestead Tours:
Goal: To explore different socially-minded urban farming projects in the area; To learn about what other projects in the area are doing to address issues such as food security, food sovereignty, community empowerment and environmentalism in their communities; to develop networks with other Bay Area urban farmers and projects; To use our abundance of labor in service to other community farming projects.
This Revolution was once a Tiny Seed!: Seed Security and GMOs
Goal: To learn about contemporary threats on seed sovereignty and genetic biodiversity; To explore the importance of small and large-scale seed saving; To learn about the politics of genetic modification of crops in the US; To discuss different viewpoints of the role of GMOs in today’s society.
Fermentation and Pickling: Gettin’ Funky with Lactobacilli
Goal: To learn about the use of biotic cultures by different cultures throughout history; To explore the benefits and process of fermentation and pickling as used in food production; To learn about the health benefits of fermented foods; To experiment with different foods and processes to create yummy fermented treats.
Cuttin’ to the Chase with Cheese: Small-Scale Cheese-Making
Goal: To learn about the ancient art of converting fresh milk into cheese; To learn key terms and important processes common in cheese-making; To discuss cheese production within the context of large-scale dairy production; To be radically amazed at the separation of curds and whey.