A Tale of Two West Oakland Farms

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Teamwork on the WOW farm in West Oakland.

Serving top restaurants and diverse community needs

Continuing our year-long series about relationships between local farms and restaurants

By Sarah Henry | Photography By Scott Peterson

WOW farm manager Kana Azhari (left) and a WOW intern deliver produce to Flora chef Rico Rivera.

WOW farm manager Kana Azhari (left) and a WOW intern deliver produce to Flora chef Rico Rivera.

It’s around six at night and Rachel Littlefield, 16, purposefully carries a wooden crate with a WOW FARM logo into the kitchen at Flora, a long-time anchor restaurant in Oakland’s rapidly changing Uptown neighborhood. The delivery of gorgeous, tender mustard greens and baby red Russian kale is a little late today. An unplanned produce drop at Nido in Jack London Square has put the WOW crew a bit behind schedule.

No matter. Flora, which features updated American classics, is already humming as the staff heads into the heart of service. Nonetheless, head chef Rico Rivera, managing myriad details in the kitchen, takes a moment out of his hectic evening to greet this teen greens grower and admire the fresh-picked harvest.

Littlefield is an intern at West Oakland Woods (WOW) Farm in West Oakland, and it’s her day to serve as the farm-to-restaurant liaison. She hands over an invoice and tells the chef what he can expect from the farm next week. Farm manager Kana Azhari is there too. But Littlefield is in charge of the transaction. The adolescent seems a little nervous and excited—you can sense her trying to keep her composure and stay on top of the details, too.

For Littlefield, as for other WOW interns, this is her first real job. “It’s so busy in the kitchen. I love being in the back and seeing everything that’s going on. It makes you feel important to bring fresh food that a restaurant is going to use,” says the Oakland Technical High School student. On diners’ plates that night are Ruby Streaks mustard greens, French breakfast radishes, and braising greens, all grown by Littlefield and her fellow WOW farm crew. WOW Farm gets a shout out on the printed menu, along with established commercial farms such as Happy Boy Farms, County Line Harvest, and Kashiwase Farms.

Littlefield, who lives in West Oakland, is an eager new gardener and an avid home cook. “I love that we drop off our produce to restaurants that are located really close to the farm,” says Littlefield, who would like to work in a kitchen like Rivera’s one day. “And not just any restaurant, this is a really nice restaurant.”