Urban Adamah buys phenomenal new site in Berkeley

Urban Adamah executive director Adam Berman calls it “a once-in-a-generation find” — the 2.2-acre site next to a creek in northwest Berkeley that his nonprofit has purchased.

In announcing the acquisition last week, Berman said he hopes to move the agency’s community farming operation and educational programs to the new site in the fall of 2014. The new site is more than double the size of Urban Adamah’s current location, and eventually will allow for two times as many annual visitors and more than four times as much food production.

When complete, it would make Urban Adamah the largest Jewish urban farm in the country and the largest urban farm and environmental education center in the urban East Bay, he added.

Adam Berman

Urban Adamah, which launched in the summer of 2010 to spread ideals of sustainable farming and food justice (adamah means “earth” in Hebrew), currently is located in West Berkeley, a block off San Pablo Avenue not far from the 4-year-old Berkeley Bowl supermarket. The lease on that property expires at the end of 2014.

The new property is an empty, weed-covered lot at 1151 Sixth Street in Berkeley, 11⁄2 blocks north of Gilman Street and about halfway between San Pablo Avenue and the Eastshore Freeway.

The cost of the new property is $2.1 million, Berman said, and Urban Adamah is in the midst of a frenzied capital campaign to raise $2.5 million (the extra money will help with the move and building up the new site).

“We’ve already raised $1.3 million [in pledges], but we really, really still have to raise $1.2 million to make the project happen,” Berman said. “Without additional support, we won’t be able to close the deal. We’ve now got 75 days [as of May 23] to come up with that money.” Closing date on the property is Sept. 15.

Tending the crops at Urban Adamah photo/cathleen maclearie

“The new property is phenomenal,” Berman continued, explaining how it abuts a restored section of Codornices creek and forest habitat, and is surrounded by public parks and sports fields. “These amenities will enable us to add educational and recreational opportunities for our program participants that are not possible on our current site. They will benefit everyone — from our summer campers and Hebrew school-on-the-farms students to visitors for our holiday festivals and environmental workshops.”

Berman said the new site will allow Urban Adamah to increase its number of visitors from 10,000 to 20,000 a year, and its food production from 12,000 pounds to 50,000 pounds annually, once the farm is completely built out, which might take years. There also will be more chickens and goats, and an aquaponics program to raise fish.

“The site will also make it possible for us to think creatively and in a long-term way about developing programs and trainings that serve the larger Jewish community of the Bay Area,” he said, noting that Urban Adamah has had 18,000 visitors since first opening  and currently runs programs for more than 40 Jewish organizations from Los Gatos to Napa.

Urban Adamah also has grown and donated more than 20,000 pounds of organic produce since it opened, Berman said. The food is distributed through food banks and a free farm stand.

As part of the fundraising effort, there are naming opportunities: $750,000 for the campus, $200,000 for the campground, $75,000 for the chicken coops, $36,000 for the medicinal herb garden, and $5,000 apiece for benches and fruit trees, among others.

To find out more about making tax-deductible donations, visit www.urbanadamah.org/about-us/capital-campaign, call (510) 649-1595 or email Berman at [email protected]

Andy Altman-Ohr

Andy Altman-Ohr was J.’s managing editor and Hardly Strictly Bagels columnist until he retired in 2016 to travel and live abroad. He and his wife have a home base in Mexico, where he continues his dalliance with Jewish journalism.