Kelly and Kaia Carlysle

Listen to Kelly and Kaia’s interview!

Kelly and her young daughter Kaia live in Berkeley but have worked in Oakland for the past five years as farmers at the Acta Non Vera Urban Youth Farm. Kaya is 11-years-old and has learned about food and where it comes from in her school garden. For Kelly, learning where food came from was an amazing discovery.

Now an urban farmer in East Oakland, Kelly gets it, but she used to only know that food was purchased at the grocery store. She now understands the beauty of how it all comes “from a seed, and the seed grows into a plant, and the plant produces flowers, and the flowers produce fruit. It’s just magic every single season.”

Like so many others in Oakland, Kelly and Kaia have been personally impacted by gentrification. Kaia worries about the homeless and says that if she could change anything, it would be the housing issue. Kelly saw her own parents pushed out of their home of 18 years. Kelly also relates the issue of white privilege to gentrification in her observations of how people approach her at her farm. She says people of color approach from the gate and ask questions, while White folks come right onto the farm and start asking if they can have this or that. Kelly says this latter behavior is due to a “deeply ingrained colonization mindset.”

Even though Kelly has an analysis of gentrification, she is also self-reflective of her own mindset when she first started the farm project in East Oakland. She feels that in some ways she was, without knowing it, a bit of a “gentrifier.” She came into the community wanting to improve food access and food justice in deep East Oakland. It was one of the most humbling experiences for her to recognize that she needed to work with and build with the community, instead of arriving with a readymade solution and expecting the community to sign up.

In her short five years Kelly has accomplished much. In 2015, she cohosted the fifth annual Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference in Oakland, a testament to her commitment to this community.