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May 20, 2016

Former Black Panther Starts Urban Farm in Oakland to Give Ex-Cons a Fresh Start

From a Black Panther chairwoman in the 1970's to creating an urban farm that employs ex-cons may seem like an unlikely career path for Elaine Brown. Then again, it may be just the perfect choice for a woman who has always been an advocate for prisoners.

From Black Panther to green farms

Brown's West Oakland Farms is a for-profit farm in Oakland, California, with 40 raised beds full of tomatoes, peppers, kale, squash, corn, and other produce. The farm employs former inmates, giving them an opportunity to find employment and a life after prison. Each employee is responsible for taking care of their own section of the garden with the goal to produce fresh produce, and a fresh new life.

The farm has already secured its first client, Pic├ín Restaurant, an upscale Southern style restaurant and one of the few Black-owned restaurants in the area. So, the farm is proving to be a good business. However, Brown's main goal in establishing the farm was "to create positive opportunities for these people to return to the community.”

What's next?

Later phases will include the Cooperative Housing component, the Fitness Center, the Grocery Store, Blues & BBQ Remix restaurant and entertainment venue, Technology Center/On-Demand Manufacturing operations. Some of the businesses might be temporarily developed in container-based structures on the property.

To learn more about Elaine Brown and her West Oakland Farms, visit

Also, watch the video below: