If you live in West Oakland and want to start an urban garden, there's only one way to begin: call City Slicker Farms. At the very least, they'll hook you up with expert advice on what to grow and how — and when to be wary of contaminated topsoils. But where City Slicker Farms really shines is its full-service backyard garden program for low-income residents. Free of charge to qualifying households, the program employs experienced gardeners and young volunteers to outfit homes with mulch, raised beds, trellises, soil, fruit trees — everything a prospective gardener needs to get started. Then they partner participants with a mentor to ensure two years of fruitful farming. Many have gone on to launch urban farms or businesses of their own — or simply got their neighbors growing, too — resulting in an urban-farming network that has helped place Oakland on the vanguard of a national movement.
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