Regenerative farming cultivates living-wage jobs, new opportunities in the East Bay

A new East Bay public-private partnership aims to help ex-inmates re-enter the workplace, fight local hunger, and reduce global warming all in one fell swoop. 

Alameda County says its non-profit Dig Deep Farms project costs $4.8 million and will stretch 90 acres all in an effort to launch Deep Dig Farm and ALL IN Eats.

The project is creating living wage jobs, producing regenerative foods and supporting local farmers. 

Originally, the sheriff's department developed this program to help recently incarcerated people get back into society with marketable skills. Now, it's growing in size and scope. 

"We bring people out of custody now. They make about $23 an hour working for us and we want to have it [as] a transitional job and, as you know, it's easier to get a job if you have a job," said Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern.

It's also providing fresh produce for county residents, especially food insecure or ailing residents. 

"We're making the people earn their money and showing them a way to restorative justice," said Sheriff Ahern.

Regenerative farming practices capture global warming carbon from the air and put it into the soil where is does no harm to the environment, but a lot of good for food. 

Carbon rich soils produce more nutritious foods, that are more pest resistant without need for synthetic chemicals and fertilizers. They're easier to rotate and, because the retain moisture, have greater resilience to floods and droughts. 

SEE ALSO: Oakland church that promotes psychedelic mushrooms sues city over police raid

Hillary Bass, the heart and soul of the effort, says using eco-friendly regenerative farming can also regenerate people. 

"If we invest in things that people need to be healthy and happy and well and joyful and be well-connected, maybe people will make good decisions and be less likely to get caught up in a mistake," said Bass.

Martin Rodriguez toiled here for four years, when it was in private hands. Now retired, he often stops by to give workers water, no matter their background. 

"My heart goes out to ones that don't have and the ones that have are willing to share," said Rodriguez. 

Regenerative farming, done on a massive scale, is a significant way to reduce greenhouses gasses.