Organizational History

Planting Justice emerges from the work Haleh Zandi and Gavin Raders accomplished as co-founders of the Backyard Food Project (BFP), a for-profit business they started together in Summer of 2008. Similar to Planting Justice, BFP sought to address what we see as a major disconnect and shortcoming of the “food movement” and edible landscaping in general, which includes only those who can pay a high premium for these services, leaving most low-income and people of color behind.

 Harvest at Explore middle school in East OaklandBuilding an herb spiral at Keller Plaza Community Garden in North OaklandBuilding an herb spiral at Keller Plaza Community Garden in North OaklandPlanting at Explore middle school Burbank Garden

In order to make permaculture relevant, accessible, and affordable for low-income urban residents, we put our grassroots organizing backgrounds to work, knocked on doors, and raised funds so that we could do this work with those who couldn’t afford thousands of dollars to landscape their yard and couldn't afford the cost of expensive organic produce in the first place.

In our first year, we designed and developed nearly 40 permaculture gardens and three community gardens, held 15 free workshops, and organized five community work parties. In early 2009, we decided to transform BFP into a non-profit organization, but we were and continue to be wary of the prevailing model that ties the economic solvency, ability to create jobs, and social mission of non-profit organizations to the foundations that fund them. There are quite a few progressive foundations that fund social-change movements for equality and justice, but we wanted to build a regenerative social-change model that could fund itself, create jobs itself, and respond to the people's call for healthy food and healthy jobs. In April 2009, we incorporated Planting Justice, recruited 21 diverse and talented Board of Directors, filed applications for tax exempt status, secured fiscal sponsorship, and charged ahead with our programs. With almost zero institutional funding, Planting Justice co-founders Haleh Zandi and Gavin Raders used their backgrounds as community organizers to canvass door-to-door in order to fund tangible food justice work with those who could not afford the cost of our services. Planting Justice is now an income-generating non-profit that is creating green jobs in edible landscaping and grassroots organizing, while increasing access to healthy food, building community, and offering environmental education and green entrepreneurship in economically disadvantaged communities. Thus far, our canvass program has successfully sponsored community garden projects and ecological education at Golestan School, Explore College Preparatory School, Mandela High School Law and Public Service Academy, Keller Plaza affordable housing complex,  and San Quentin State Prison.

In early 2010, Planting Justice hired two veteran communtiy organizers, Seneca Schachter and Phil Abraham, who began to ignite a broad community-led movement for a just and sustainable urban food system. Planting Justice also hired Andrew Chahrour as a permaculture designer and May Nguyen and Jeffrey Rutland as landscapers for our Transform your Yard program. The best part is, for every three full paying clients, we are able to offer one free edible garden to a low-income family in the East Bay.

A just and sustainable urban food system is only possible with the support and positive energy of everyone who cares to see it come true. Please support this work in any way you feel called.


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