Ten year old Farmscape is the largest urban farming venture in the country with some of their biggest projects right here in the Bay Area. Projects that include The Garden at AT&T Park, Levi’s Stadium and gardens at corporate campuses including Oracle and The North Face.
One of the organic gardens that they built and maintain is at the Clif Bar Headquarters which provides ingredients for Clif’s employee-run Kali’s Kitchen (currently being removated). Kali’s was recently honored with ‘Gold’ certification in sustainability and nutrition from the USHFC.
Principal and co-founder Lara Hermanson and CEO Dan Allan started Farmscape when they began to notice that small-scale farming was becoming less of a trend and more of a cultural mainstay. “People began caring more about where their food came from and they began wanting to feed their kids organic food,” Hermanson acknowledged while picking through some edible flowers at Clif’s garden. Lara, Dan and their team have now spearheaded over 700 residential and commercial gardens in mostly Northern and Southern California.
The Clif Bar project began when Kali’s head chef Scott Erickson contacted Lara with a request to create an urban garden on their campus. Farmscape was able to transform Clif’s infrequently used Bocce Ball court to accommodate seven beds. “Bocce Ball Courts convert very easily into vegetable gardens.” Hermanson noted that Bocce courts were a trendy landscaping feature for a while but generally get used less than anticipated. “We’ve converted quite a few Bocce courts lately!”
“All the food grown in our garden is organic,” added Clif Bar’s Office Manager Kate Cunniff. “The organic garden also aligns with who we are as a company. Three-fourths of all the ingredients we use in Clif Bar’s products are organic—and we continue to strive to increase that percentage. We believe organic is key to creating a healthier, more just and sustainable food system.”
If you are lucky enough to be a Clif employee, daily harvests from the garden manifest in delicious ways – from dark leafy kale in a smoothie — to homemade batches of root veggie kimchi.
Clif Employees generally appreciate its presence and have been very curious about the crop variety the beds can grow. Farmscape’s lead gardener Sarah Gilligan gets plenty of questions from employees about their own home gardens while she’s attending their beds and is more than happy to provide her expertise.
“We are certainly out in the garden harvesting as needed,” said Erickson. “It’s been really great for us to have the freshest possible herbs and produce at our fingertips. Being able to taste and use produce right out of the garden has been fantastic. Herbs go in everything from salad dressings to soups. We end up using a lot of items as fresh and simple as possible in the salad bar.”
Clif Bar is not the only Farmscape project with an Emeryville connection. In fact, one of their first northern California projects was for one of prominent local developer Rick Holliday’s projects (In fact, ‘The Intersection’ project on San Pablo is expected to have an Organic garden when eventually completed). Farmscape’s Northern California office is right off Mandela Parkway in bordering West Oakland. Their construction yard is at the Historic 16th Street train station on land they lease from Bridge Housing that Holiday co-founded.
The benefits of a residential farm are just as fruitful as a commercial plot. According to Farmscape, having a farm on your land can omcrease ROI by +28% and homes with outdoor garden space sell fifteen percent faster than ones without.
Farmscape is committed to sustainability in other ways including the use of drip irrigation and organic pest control. Farmscape provides their employees with a living wage, health care, a 401k (very uncommon in landscaping professions), other benefits and ongoing career training.
For me personally, the prospect of a little vegetable garden or plot at one of our community gardens is the ultimate American dream. I want my kids to know the value of food and understand the time and effort it takes to grow a pea, tomato or carrot. Perhaps corporate farming was an aberration, and this ‘urban farming’ movement will put communities like ours back on a more sustainable path (Well, no lying here, you might see the occasional mac n’ cheese on my dinner table!).
View some of their projects or inquire about their services for your business or neighborhood at farmscapegardens.com.
Feature Image: Farmscape maintenance farmers Ashley Bowden (center) and Emma Samuelson (right ) instruct a team of Clif Bar employees.