I’m standing in the basement of a tumbledown house somewhere in the uglier areas of Oakland. Up top, it’s a punk squat. The outside is decrepitly unnoticeable, the inside walls are thick with incomprehensible spraypaint and hand-drawn posters calling for General Strikes. A constantly shifting cast of people of all genders sporting strange haircuts and bad ink drifts endlessly through the space. But down here in the basement, it’s a different world. There’s an array of beige plastic machines, most about the size of a small washing machine, connected with a dense network of cables. There are several computers, one of which appears to be a laptop held together with duct tape. There’s arc lamps lighting a cluster of plants, and you think, ah, here’s something I can understand, but instead of the usual dense forest of marijuana, I’m looking at a tomato literally as big as my head.
A man with a shock of grey hair exploding back from thin framed glasses grins at me. “That could be enough tomato soup to feed a family of six. Hungry?”