Oakland based Black farmers’ market celebrates 10 year anniversary

Zack Haber
3 min readAug 9, 2023
Will Scott Jr, a Fresno based farmer and president of African American Farmers of California, stands with Iyana Haynes, a beginning farmer and worker at Farms to Grow, Inc. at Scott’s farm in Fresno in January 2023. Photo courtesy of Farms to Grow.

Freedom Farmers’ Market Oakland, a seasonal market that honors Black farmers and African American foodways, is opening again starting on Saturday, August 12. This year, the market is celebrating its tenth anniversary and will run every second and fourth Saturday of the month from 9 am until 2 pm, at 4521 Telegraph Avenue in Oakland’s Temescal District, until November 11.

Freedom Farmers’ Market is operated by Farms to Grow Inc, a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to assist African American farmers and other under-served farmers/gardeners to maintain and create sustainable farms and spaces to grow food and motivate the next generation.” It was established by Farms to Grow’s co-founder, Dr Gail P. Myers, in 2013, and is part of her 20 years work as a cultural anthropologist to document and share stories and knowledge of African American farmers through lectures, writing, film, and other projects.

According to Adrionna Fike, who is involved with Freedom Farmers’ Market and works with Farms to Grow, the market is unique because it specializes in legacy foods and food crops grown by Black farmers, such as okra, sweet potatoes, collard greens, and purple hull peas. While some of these crops are common in grocery stores, others aren’t. Fike said many varieties of watermelon that would be hard to find elsewhere will be sold along with under-ripe tomatoes, which are perfect for making fried green tomatoes.

Fike, who began attending the market when it opened in 2013, thinks a community has grown there that “taps into the spiritual quality” of African American foods and “encourages present and future generations to get into farming.” Music, workshops and art that celebrate Black culture have also been present at the market.

“Freedom Farmers’ Market is a particularly special place where people converge,” Fike said. “It’s there in the music, in the way that food is talked about and how recipes are shared. It’s a great unique experience that’s needed for the Black community to remember in particular but it’s welcoming to all.”

Celebratory events also occur. Carrying on a yearly tradition, there will be a watermelon eating contest on the opening day and a sweet potato pie tasting contest at the end of the season.

Some Black farmers have been coming back year after year. Fresno based farmer Will Scott Jr, who is also the president of the non-profit African American Farmers of California, has been selling at the market since its opening day. Other farmers come from Capay Valley in Yolo County. Many of the farmers who sell at the market are Black elders interested in passing on the knowledge and experience they have growing food.

“They’re trying to pass on a tradition,” said Fike. “They really spend time with people and form lasting relationships with folks.”

Farms to Grow also hopes to attract new vendors this year and aims to make participating affordable. New vendors interested in selling prepared food, beverages, crops, or crafts and arts can get started by filling out a vendor application for $25. After turning in the application, there’s a $37 per week fee for stall fees and taxes.

Notes: A similar version of this story will be published soon in The Oakland Post by the Post News Group.