The two of us know where most of our food comes from, but that is hard to say for a lot of urban kids today. We make it our mission to empower folks to grow and raise more of the food they eat.
“Know your farmer. Know your food.” Birgitt Evans and Yolanda Burrell are taking this battle cry one step further: “Be the farmer. Grow your food.”
As master gardeners with decades of combined experience, Evans and Burrell had a dream to reimagine how their community interacts with food. In 2013, they opened Pollinate Farm & Garden in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, Calif. Their small shop not only provides gardening supplies and tools, they empower their customers with all the knowledge and support necessary to start an urban garden.
In only two years, Pollinate Farm has become more than a feed store or gardening shop. With Evans’ and Burrell’s help, neighbors are meeting and literally breaking down fences to create collaborative farming spaces. Although not all customers come to Pollinate Farm with a mission to overhaul their food production, the duo treats each interaction as an opportunity.
“Every time a person opens that door and the bell rings, it’s an opportunity for a conversation that helps to educate,” said co-owner Burrell. “I really think it’s very important for people to know about food, to know where it comes from, to know that it doesn’t come from a supermarket. At the end of World War II, 45 percent of all produce grown in the US was grown in home gardens and [somehow] we lost it. We gave it up, we gave up this incredibly basic knowledge of how to feed ourselves.”
Evans and Burrell have expanded their offerings to include workshops on gardening, animal husbandry, beekeeping and food preservation. Two years into their entrepreneurial endeavor, Burrell is still confident in the future of Pollinate Farm, “I would love to just see it grow; I would love to see Pollinate Farm & Garden become the vision and resource that I wanted [it] to be.”
Photos by Kike Arnal
Shayna Cureton and 18-month-old toddlers Ellis and Aya take a break from shopping to read books in Pollinate Farm's living room/library area.
Armed with a beekeeping suit and a smoker, Yolanda Burrell uncovers the beehive.
Yolanda Burrell prepares to inspect the beehive. The bees help to pollinate the fruit trees in the adjacent orchard and the honey is sold at their store.
Yolanda Burrell opens the back door to the outdoor nursery of Pollinate Farm & Garden. They sell vegetable seedlings, berries and fruit trees, and also keep bees in the orchard that is part of the property.
A view through the front window of the Pollinate Farm & Garden store located in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, Calif.
Yolanda Burrell inspects a frame of bees from Pollinate Farm's backyard hive.
Pollinate Farm’s regular customers Jacob and Linda Hart buying chicks. The Harts keep a chicken coop at their home garden in Oakland, Calif.