Preston Gannaway: The Farms of West Oakland

Terminal 2

Apr 17, 2018 - Jul 10, 2018

Preston Gannaway: The Farms of West Oakland

Fifty-two years ago, the Black Panther Party (BPP) formed in Oakland, California. The central headquarters of the Party was located in West Oakland, a neighborhood that became predominantly African American following the Second Great Migration that began in 1940. Known for their social justice programs opposing white supremacy and police brutality, the Party also established food security and community co-op grocery programs aimed towards providing food access for local residents. Most notably, the Party’s Free Breakfast for School Children program served full breakfasts to over twenty thousand school-aged children in nineteen cities across the nation during the 1968 school year alone.

Today, food insecurity remains a concern in West Oakland, with nearly a third of its residents living below the poverty line and without easy access to nutritious food. In an effort to fill this need, new groups, greatly influenced by the BPP’s food access initiative, have formed to provide easier access to healthy, affordable food for local residents. Among the East Bay community-run services focusing on food justice are many urban agriculture projects. In her project, The Farms of West Oakland, Oakland-based documentary photographer Preston Gannaway draws focus on these efforts, surveying the diverse range of approaches to and intersections between urban farming and community outreach in West Oakland.

In 2016, City Slicker Farms, one of the more established urban farms in West Oakland, built a 1.4-acre working farm and public park complete with a sliding-scale farm stand and a twenty-eight-plot community garden bed. Another program, West Oakland Woods Farms, formed to help fill an employment need while taking advantage of the East Bay’s recent restaurant boom. They operate a produce and flower farm that supplies high-end restaurants while training and employing local high school students in need. Fleet Farming Oakland takes another approach by collaborating with local homeowners to replace their lawns with productive urban farms, called “farmlettes,” which are sharecropped with the host and sold at local markets.

Preston Gannaway is a Pulitzer Prize-winning documentary photographer and artist. Born and raised in North Carolina, she now lives in Oakland, California. Her work has been honored by Pictures of the Year International, NPPA’s Best of Photojournalism, Critical Mass, and American Photography and Communication Arts. She has been the recipient of numerous grants, residencies, and awards including the Chris Hondros Fund Award, The Documentary Project Fund, and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. Gannaway’s photographs are held in both public and private collections and have been exhibited at venues around the world. Her first monograph, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, was published in 2014. In Spring of 2018, Gannaway will attend the renowned artist-in-residence program at Light Work in Syracuse, New York.

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