OAKLAND -- Vandals tore through the wooden gate of a popular West Oakland community farm, uprooted its vegetables, knocked over bean poles, broke through chicken coops and left no chard unturned by the time neighbors noticed the destruction on Saturday morning.
"The message was pretty clear that they wanted to destroy this farm, but there's no context for it," said Ariel Dekovic, interim executive director of City Slicker Farms.
The triangular garden that encompasses Union Plaza Park is the biggest, and one of the newest, of several urban farms run by the 13-year-old nonprofit organization in West Oakland.
"We have a farm stand every week. This is our harvest -- it would have been our harvest," Dekovic said. "This was the community's work."
A team of neighbors and volunteers spent Saturday trying to salvage and replant vegetables and flowers, but some were too far gone. Vandals tore through nearly every raised plant bed on Friday night or early Saturday morning at the farm at the junction of 34th, Peralta and Haven streets.
"This one looks like it could be alive again someday," said 16-year-old summer intern Senay Alkebulan, as he tried to prop up a cucumber plant on Saturday afternoon.
The chickens were unharmed and all accounted for because they did not cross through the holes torn through their coops, Dekovic said. She said police were notified on Saturday morning but have not yet investigated.
Although tensions have been high in West Oakland over rising rents displacing longtime residents, why the community-agriculture group was targeted left gardeners confused Saturday.
Alkebulan has grown up tending to City Slicker's farms and backyard gardens and said "it provides health, vegetables to the community, it looks nice, it encourages a connection to nature and agriculture, something that isn't very present in this community -- especially with all the pollution and such."
The weekly farm stand sells produce on a sliding scale that starts at zero, all part of an effort to bring healthy and affordable food to low-income neighbors who also participate in the harvest.
The damage did not bear any overt evidence of the anti-gentrification messaging attached to another recent outbreak of vandalism. In June, just hours after a heated city meeting over a West Oakland redevelopment plan, surveillance cameras captured masked men throwing rocks into a new high-end coffee shop on Mandela Parkway.
City Slicker's outdoor classroom at the city-owned park did meet some opposition from neighbors in the past year, according to its website, but the organization said it reached out to resolve the dispute.
"It seems like whoever did this (vandalism) went through a ton of trouble. They were very detailed in their destruction," Alkebulan said.