EcoVillage Farm Learning Center Protected (CA)
Richmond, CA, 11/16/2005: Where can you find urban kids caring for sheep, tending vegetable gardens, learning conflict resolution skills, and restoring creeks? Right here in the heart of Richmond, on the six acres of land called the EcoVillage Farm Learning Center. This remarkable place is safe from development after a three year effort, and its ownership by the Earth Island Institute provides the Center a new level of security and permanence that will allow it to grow and flourish. Young people for generations to come will continue to enjoy this resource, a place of hope and renewal in the inner city.
For years, the Farm had been operating in an institutional limbo – perched on land it couldn’t afford, with the imminent threat of development hanging over its head. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Trust for Public Land, Earth Island Institute and the State Coastal Conservancy the 6-and-a-half-acre plot has been purchased and protected permanently.
When the land on which EcoVillage sits was put up for sale in January 2001, Shyaam Shabaka, the farm’s Founder and Executive Director, turned to TPL. “When the land under a resource like this goes up for sale, you really only get one shot,” says Reed Holderman, Executive Director of TPL-California. “With the help of a generous grant and loan from our partners at the California Coastal Conservancy, we were able to raise $650,000 to purchase this land and ensure that kids in Richmond will continue to have access to this amazing place for years to come.”
“The Conservancy was glad to support this important project. Places like EcoVillage bring nature to the inner city and create a sense of stewardship and responsibility in today’s youth,” said Sam Schuchat, Executive Officer of the Coastal Conservancy. “There are few things more rewarding than working the earth and enjoying the fruits of your labor, and the residents of Richmond can count on having that kind of experience in their own backyard now that the Farm has been protected.”
EcoVillage teaches organic farming techniques and environmental education, but just as importantly, it teaches life skills, including social justice, violence prevention, and respect for others. Shyaam’s vision for the Center extends far beyond fruits and vegetables, and the impact he hopes to have on the community will extend far beyond the farm’s boundaries. He want to teach urban residents the importance of environmental and civic stewardship in the creation of a healthy and just society. “EcoVillage Farm will be a model for growing healthy youth and healthy communities,” he explains. “People are important part of the environment, and we want to broaden the range of people involved in environmental work to include residents and people of various cultural backgrounds.”
“Residents of all ages learn here that small actions can have big consequences,” says Shabaka. “That’s a lesson that’s just as important in the city as it is on the farm. Everything is connected to something – the choices you make in your life, the way you treat the planet you live on. When you plant something, nurture it, and it blooms, that’s a positive experience you carry for life.”
The final funds needed to protect the property were secured this year after TPL and Earth Island Institute were awarded an Urban Parks Grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The grant also included $600,000 for capital improvements to the Center, so that EcoVillage can provide even better services to the surrounding community from an improved facility. “Today’s world is seen by more and more by our children as just asphalt, concrete, housing and malls,” said Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks. “Our children are slowly losing the feel for the natural world. This rare bit of greenery in the midst of urban sprawl is like an oasis in the midst of a desert.”
The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Founded in 1972, TPL has protected 2 million acres nationwide. The EcoVillage initiative is part of a long-term Bay Area Parks for People Program, which recently helped renovate Bella Vista Park in Oakland, among other projects. The Bay Area Parks for People Program aims to provide city dwellers with space for recreation, exercise, and education. Find TPL online at www.tpl.org
EcoVillage Farm Center’s mission is to provide residents of the San Francisco East Bay with practical knowledge and skills through a wide range of participatory experiences will help East Bay citizens live more sustainable and healthier lives and will better protect the Earth’s natural resources and ecosystems for present and future generations. Find EcoVillage online at www.ecovillagefarm.org
Earth Island Institute (EII), founded in 1982 by veteran environmentalist David Brower, fosters the efforts of creative individuals by providing organizational support in developing projects for the conservation, preservation, and restoration of the global environment. EII provides activists the freedom to develop program ideas, supported by services to help them pursue those ideas, with a minimum of bureaucracy. Find EII online at www.earthisland.org.