Raising Them Right: Oakland's Vegan 'Donut Farm'

Since opening its first shop in Oakland in 2006, Pepples Organic Donuts—now Donut Farm—has produced vegan raised and cake donuts made with ethical, sustainable ingredients.

“We make clean food,” said founder Josh Levine. “We don’t use animal products. We try to not use any GMO ingredients. And the donuts themselves are all organic.” 

The donuts run the gamut—old-fashioned cake, banana fritter, salted caramel, even lavender-Earl Grey.

“We make donuts with organic wheat, organic sugar,” said Levine, “and then fry them in organic palm shortening that’s both sustainable and rainforest-safe."

The result may not be health food, but these donuts are good for the planet. “We source all of our ingredients with a high ethical standard,” said Levine. 

Lavender/Earl Grey donuts. | Photo: Facebook

Customers can buy Donut Farm’s donuts at its flagship location (6037 San Pablo Ave.) in Oakland which also serves as a sit-down diner with a breakfast and lunch menu.

The company also vends wholesale and operates satellite locations in Los Angeles’ Silverlake, on Gilman St. in Berkeley, and at a stand in the Ferry Building.

The diner on San Pablo could almost be a speakeasy; there’s not much in the way of advertising outside, except for a truck tire-sized fiberglass donut. Inside, a family-friendly space has the feel of a classic diner with an undercurrent of punk.

“We’ve had people who work for the company play in bands,” said Levine. “We’re a diverse group. We hire all kinds of people.”

Punk is part of the company culture; Levine is also a founding member of 924 Gilman, an all-ages, volunteer-run punk art space in Berkeley.

Donut Farm's diner at 6037 San Pablo Ave. | Photo: Facebook

As Donut Farm expands, Levine said he's sticking with the business practices and recipes that have taken the company this far, but with one small change.

“We’re changing the name to 'Donut Farm' across the board,” said Levine.

The choice had to do with branding as the company expanded to Los Angeles, and also because the company sells so much more than just donuts at its Oakland and LA restaurants.

“We’re an Oakland original company that wants to meet you,” said Levine.

Donut Farm (6037 San Pablo Ave.) is open Monday through Friday, 7:30–3, and from 9 to 3 on weekends.

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