Monday, September 29, 2008

Random Acts of Sharing

In the nineties there was a popular movement of people practicing random acts of kindness and now there is even a Random Acts of Kindness Foundation that "is committed to spreading kindness". The Free Farm Stand has become a place where people come and practice random acts of sharing of food and I think it is very sweet and a big turn-on.

Lyz whom I haven't seen in a while came by with some squash she had grown in her Potrero Hill garden. It was a great example of what I had hoped would happen with the Free Farm Stand. That someone would pick up some seedlings they had gotten from the stand and then bring back some of the extra produce to share with others. I think for that for the idea to really take off I would need someone to hang out by the seedling table to talk to people wanting plants, and to explain the idea behind sharing free seedlings. It would also need to be someone to speak Spanish ideally and who would have a little knowledge of gardening. I want to eventually help people more than I do now to start gardens in their backyards, either by just giving advice or having a crew of volunteers that would help put in gardens for people and be their garden mentors throughout the garden season.

Lyz also brought by some vegan Horchata in a thermos that she had made to share with people. A real random but beautiful gesture that I always appreciate. I thought it was delicious and she is going to send me the recipe that I will share with you (basically almond rice milk with sugar and cinnamon). I think like the honey I give away it is a special treat and we all need to limit ourselves in how much sugar we consume…it can get addictive and is calorie increasing! Plus I am not totally comfortable buying almonds after being reminded of our states out of control almond industry and the negative effect it has on our honeybees.

Another beautiful touch to the stand was that Jenny showed up with oregano that she had trimmed the other day in the garden. She dried it and packaged it and printed up instructions in Spanish and English for it's medicinal and culinary uses.

Dave came by with more of his delicious cherry tomatoes from Treat Ave. (this might be the last of them). Jamie brought by more Acme bread. I want to send out a prayer for Fred and Carolyn who started picking up the bread to make it easier for Jamie. Fred is in the hospital and won't be driving for a while. They were not only picking up the bread, but had just started making sandwiches with some of it and giving them to Rita's Mission Reading Project for the kids that go there.

I am still recording here what is at the stand every week, and I am amazed we continue filling up the table: In terms of vegetables, there were lots of tomatoes (some from the Ferry Building Farmer's market, salad mix, lettuce, various kinds of greens, a few hot peppers, squash, cucumbers from Potrero de Sol Community Garden, some flowers, and a lot of herbs. I also harvested chestnuts that I helped plant in 1982 on 23rd St. There were also a lot of apples that I picked this week and a bucket of lemons. I also got some plums from the Ferry Building Farmer's market. And I grew more sunflower sprouts that have become very popular.

Gleaning report

This week I harvested apples from two locations. First I went back to David's house across from McLaren Park to pick peaches. One tree apparently had already been picked and the other one the big peaches were not ripe yet. Then we went next door and ask his neighbor if we could pick his fruit trees. He had two apple trees and an Asian pear. He was ok with us doing that so I climbed his small fence and picked a lot of apples. I also cleaned up the ground of apples and separated the apples that were compost from the ones for apple sauce. I think I had three milk crates filled with apples (there weren't a lot of Asian pears that I could find). I also went back to the tree on Folsom and harvested another two milk crates of apples and a bucket of lemons. Here is a link to an interesting apple tree story from the Chronicle that someone sent me: .

Today I started making applesauce with the apples left over from this week; there are quite a lot, mostly ones that I picked off the ground. Turns out they are filled with worm damage and take a lot of work to process. I cut out all the bad parts including the core and seeds. I cut them up a bit and then put them in a pot and cooked them until they were mushy. Then I put them in a cuisinart and blended them until they were pretty saucy. I found that I didn't like the texture of the skins so I put the sauce through a strainer. I have been thinking of getting a fruit strainer attachment for my kitchenaid mixer that someone gave Angie and I, but am not sure if I want to shell out $100. Maybe I can find one used. I did one crate of apples so far and made about a gallon and a half of apple sauce. It is pretty tasty. I have two more boxes of funky apples to go. Anyone want to have a food processing party? I also have walnuts from our backyard to shell and more honey to put in small jars. If I were really serious about making sauce and giving it away I would need to get a whole canning set up going…getting jars and the equipment. In the old days when I lived in a commune I did all that, but at some point we stopped canning and I think gave away all the equipment. Funny how things circle back around. I'm growing sprouts again too.

Maria has started wearing her Sunday best for the stand

Monday, September 22, 2008

Free Farm Stand Alchemy

The chemistry of the Free Farm Stand is actually pretty simple. Throw up a tent and set up a table in the same place and with the same hours every week. By word of mouth let neighbors know what you are doing (trying to make the world better by growing organic food to give away). Then wait to see who shows up to get produce or helps out or observes the interesting scene. There are other details, but basically it is all about consistency and generosity in spirit and in deed.

The huge pile of bread showing up in the photos now is an example of that alchemy, and personally I find it pretty exciting. It started out with someone wanting to contribute something to the stand because she liked what was going on. She just started working in a bakery that was over baking and threw out fresh organic bread at the end of the day. Workers were allowed to take it home, so she started bringing bread on Bart for the stand. Then another neighbor offered to pick up the bread for her by car. She in turn gave some to her neighbors and to another woman who gives out food to people in her reading program. Then the Farm Stand wound up with eighty loaves of bread (one of volunteers counted them)! We had some left over that I will bring to the soup kitchen that I work in on Tuesdays.

It was nice to get a lot of help this week which allowed me to talk to people and to hand out fresh picked berries for tasting.

Summer is for gleaning

I got an email from a friend that sort of sums things up about the amount of fruit we had this week, it was a bit unreal: "As of late I am especially impressed by your resourceful fruit harvesting in the area! Here we make special trips to take oj to farms outside the city to see where much of our food comes from, and of course lots of it does, but you have really opened my eyes to the continual food production from nooks and crannies all around us." Actually my eyes are opening too.

Saturday morning I had so many apples that I brought some to the Julian Food Pantry on 15th and Julian. Some of them were the last apples from Candlestick Point that Jo had picked and some were from the apples we picked from my friend who lives in Glen Park (we also picked some pears there). On Saturday morning I picked more apples and lemons from a neighbor on Folsom at 23rd. I also picked about a quarter of a bucket of apples from the tree overhanging Balmy Ave. I decided to use the fruit picker I have on a pole instead of hauling a ladder there. I prefer picking the fruit by hand so they don't fall and break. After I picked the apples a woman came out her door that is right across from the tree and she didn't know the tree was there (it might not be so obvious unless you notice an apple on the ground). I gave her one and she agreed with my that they were sweet and delicious. I want to go back there in the winter and get grafting wood from it.

Balmy Street Tree

Balmy Ave mural I noticed after picking the tree

This Sunday we had four milk crates filled with apples and at the end of the day we had less than a half left. And those were mostly the apples I picked off the ground that were damaged and funky.

A woman who didn't speak English brought a bag of lemons from her tree. And two neighbors Steve and Kelly came by with beautiful extra produce from his dad's home garden in Sebastopol…delicious dry farmed tomatoes, several varieties of raspberries, and red Serrano peppers that were out of this world!

It looks like Fridays and some Saturday mornings work best for me gleaning fruit. I plan to go this Friday to get more peaches and apples. One thing I have started doing is picking up the rotting fruit under the trees. It is a nice thing to do for folks and with apples helps prevent the spread of the codling moth worm that gets in the apples. I have even started hauling away the rotted fruit in cases where there is no compost pile (I imagine the fruit makes good compost).

Lemons, apples, and compost

Still lots of apples left to pick from this tree

Two friends from Morro Bay dropped by and brought some homemade applesauce. They "glean" produce all year long by visiting their local dumpsters. A lot of the fruit they get is organic (it is so expensive it tends to get thrown out first because people don't buy it as much is their theory). They get so much food they give a lot away. John even brings his blender to the gym and makes smoothies for his friends after they work out. I realized from hanging out with them that I should get a fruit strainer so I can easily make sauce with the damaged fruit. They cut off the bad parts, no peeling or coring, and cook the fruit until it is soft and then throw it into their strainer. They have an old Hobart KitchenAid that has a fruit straining attachment that works well (apparently different than the models made now).

I was talking to another friend that wants to someday set up a food processing kitchen or a food processing tool library so we can share the equipment that we don't need all year. I've got apples now I need to process if anyone has an unused fruit strainer lying around.

Here are pictures related to the fruit picking that went on this week:

Fruit picking with a view

On Friday, David, Brother Max and I picked apples and pears from a backyard above Laidley St. I think in the Glen Park neighborhood. The woman whose house it is said the trees were there before they moved in (20 years ago) and we were thinking they were maybe fifty years old. She said the apple tree fell over at one point and it is still producing tons of apples. The views from here place were fantastic.

It was fun going to a neighborhood in San Francisco you haven't been to before (like we did last week to McLaren Park). David has been exploring stairway walks in the city for a while and told us we should check out the Harry stairs while we we there. So after the fruit picking we walked down the Harry stairs to Laidley St. and were amazed at the sense of being in the woods rather than in a city. The houses on Laidley St. are prety awesome too with some quirky architecture.

On that fruit picking trip I found two backyards with lemon trees that looked very unpicked.

An orange tree that needs picking…

we need to talk to the neighbors to find out what is up.

The Vegetable Story

Our selection of vegetables continues to be modest. I am harvesting lettuce, kale, a few zucchini squash, cucumbers (actually one), hot peppers, lots of tomatoes, and some herbs. I have more seedlings started and I am actually behind in planting. I also have been behind in growing sprouts. Wow, being a farmer is a lot of work!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fruity Times


The high point of my week collecting food for the stand was going over to David's house across from McLaren Park in the Portola neighborhood. I never heard of this neighborhood before, though I had been in McLaren Park a number of times and liked it a lot. Christy joined me and we took the monster van that was big enough to haul the 14ft' orchard ladder and could also carry fruit and a load of manure that we planned to pick up after picking peaches. That's right it was peach picking time and David, who is in our local permaculture guild, sent me an email telling me he had five peach trees loaded with peaches in all stages of ripeness. I love good peaches and I knew that they grow well here. A friend on Treat Ave. has a tree that he grew from a pit that he planted and one year it made so many peaches it broke a large branch on the tree. And this year I saw it and it was still producing peaches that taste delicious.

To say the least I was pretty excited with the idea of giving out peaches at the farm stand, maybe a step up from apples and plums. On our way there we got a bit lost and wound up driving past the collapsing greenhouses I had heard about from David and another friend. On Woolsey St. and Hamilton there is a whole block of these sad structures with a big fence surrounding them and a no trespassing sign (I heard from a friend who ignores those signs and hops fences easily, that there are two peach trees in there one loaded with huge peaches, mostly rotting on the ground. And David said he has seen 16' rose bushes growing there).

By the time I got to David's house I was all pumped up. McLaren Park was literally right across the street and I knew this was a cool neighborhood (it was actually cool in terms of foggy, but David said it is usually very warm). David's landlord I believe is part of the family that owns the block of land with the greenhouses and actually owns all the homes on his block. His house was pretty exciting to see also, with the shell of a wooden greenhouse on the side of his house and in the backyard too. All the windows panes are missing and there are little fragments of glass everywhere in the soil. David's downstairs neighbor from Mexico keeps chickens and grows chayote squash and David has been doing lots of great stuff, besides cleaning things up, like installing a great rain water catchment system. David said this neighborhood was a rose growing hub at one time.

Before I go on, I want to say that it is truly sad to see a neighborhood that was once farmland, gardens, and greenhouses lose it's heritage to development. I think an effort should be made to return some of the farmland and gardens and greenhouses back to this neighborhood, and maybe we can get the city to help.

There are five peach trees on the property in need of lots of care. He has been letting neighbors pick the fruit, but there is quite a lot and like he said in different stages of ripeness. I am glad we brought the big ladder because I could get to the riper fruit at the tops of the trees. Christy and I picked over a rectangle size milk crate full of peaches. There will be more to pick in the future when they ripen.

We also saw a couple of neighbors with fruit trees in their backyard with fruit on the ground and I am not sure if the trees are getting picked or not (I would guess not). Apples (green with red stripes that taste yummy), Asian pears, figs, and lemons. When we were leaving we walked across the street to look at an apple tree growing in the park (it was mostly picked) and there was also quite a wonderful patch of wild blackberries with fruit that was ripe and tasty. We started picking them for the stand but stopped figuring they wouldn't keep until Sunday, and I wanted to get some manure from a place nearby (that is another interesting story!).

Apples, lemons, plums, and pears

I picked more apples from my friends garden on Folsom (and lemons too). I picked up some pears from Martin de Porres , who had bags and bags of them from man who picks them from his tree and drops them off every year to that soup kitchen. On Saturday Mike who lives in the neighborhood came by the Secret Garden where 3 of us were working and picked some more plums. I think if we want more of them we should bring a tarp and get maybe four people to hold it and then shake the trees over the tarp.

Around the time I was closing up the stand Jo brought more apples from Candlestick Point and a neighbor brought more of her beautiful Eureka lemons.

Gleaning is in the news: The article highlights local gleaners in the Bay Area, including North Berkeley Harvest. They are "part of a small but expanding movement of backyard urban gleaners…who voluntarily harvest surplus fruit and donate it to food banks, centers for the elderly and other nonprofit organizations". I love this, especially where food goes to people in need. This is the Free Farm Stand philosophy in a nutshell, to get fresh organic produce to Americans "who can't afford the two cups of fruit a day recommended by the government."

So this time of year is really special. Already just today I learned of two apple trees that can probably be harvested blocks from here. One friend told me of an apple tree hanging over Balmy alley with apples on it. I went there and sure enough I saw the tree. There were still apples on it and I was lucky to find one on the ground. It was the best and sweetest apple I have tasted so far. They should be picked right away, but a tall ladder is needed which I can loan out to someone interested in picking them. I also got an email from someone who said basically that she likes what we are doing. She said "1 apple from Safeway was $1.05 and I had to put it back". She told me about an apple tree on Bartlett St. that I need to check out. And then there is an orange tree on 24th St. that needs investigation. Today a friend that had a stroke a while back asked me to help her pick her apple and pear trees that are loaded with fruit. And my backyard has a large English walnut tree dropping tons of walnuts and they take a lot of work to process them, but taste great.

Any gleaners out there???

Trying to keep up with vegetable growing

I picked almost the last of the kale from the Secret Garden and this time it was very popular and I had no trouble giving it away. It is still the best bang for the buck in terms of growing lots of nutrition in a small place and it is very reliable. I also had lettuce, tomatoes, and chilies from several gardens and purple beans that came from a neighbor (who also brought tomatoes and chilies). It has been hard keeping up with planting and growing a lot of vegetables, and part of that is not having enough space to grow a lot more food and part of that is needing more help, especially if I could find someone whom I can train to take on more responsibilities.

Checking out the sunflower greens

Any wannabe interns out there?

Work days and news about the Secret Garden

Tuesday work day at Treat Commons is going well and so have the work days at the Secret garden, but I can't always be there on Saturday. The Secret Garden is going through some changes; I just heard that Robert has been hired to care take the garden and there is a meeting being held to develop a vision and long-term plan for the garden (Good Samaritan is taking over the management of the garden and contracted with the executive director of Occidental Arts and Ecology to design and facilitate the planning process for the Garden's future). I don't know where this will lead.

I would like to find time to schedule a work day for my backyard too where I grow a lot of the food for the Free Farm Stand.

Honey and Bread

I brought more honey to share thanks to a gardener at Treat Commons who gave us a lot of baby food jars. I still have more hooney to put in jars. One of the sweetest things happened on Sunday. A woman with a baby stroller who has been coming regularly brought by a big brown shopping bag full of clean baby food jars. And talking about honey, I learned when that hot spell happened about a week ago or so, there was a honey flow on and our bees filled up another box with honey (that is maybe 3 gallons in a couple of weeks!). I also learned that a neighbor just extracted honey and got about 6 gallons too. Where are all the flowers for this honey? What I have learned is that one worker bee visits five million flowers to make one pint of honey.

I was showing this boy the honeycomb in the jar of honey

Jamie came by with more of the wonderful organic bread from Acme and it is a big hit. I especially like their whole grain breads.

Bread and cosmos

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Life of Its Own

This week I had to help host a church pot luck in my back yard, so I asked Corrine to open the stand for me the first hour. She graciously accomplished the task and when I got there things were in full swing. The table was laid out beautifully and some people were already there getting food. My big reflection on the farm stand this week is that it is already growing a life of its own and becoming what it is somewhat independent of me. It is not that every week the farm stand is growing bigger and bigger, though more people are coming, nor do I think that I am growing more food to give away (the amounts of food still vary from week to week). And I haven't attracted a core group yet of people that want to help run the Free Farm Stand.

The best thing about the farm stand though is that it is becoming an actual part of the neighborhood that is attracting a number of "regulars" every week. Neighbors are getting to meet other neighbors and something else is happening besides a food program for the poor or a tool to support local food growing.

I loved it when I got to the stand and there was a stack of flyers on the table about a peace march in the neighbor happening that evening. I was able to hand them out to people who came by and there was talk generated about the violence in our neighborhood and what people thought about it.

It is so beautiful also when neighbors come by with a small amount of something they grew themselves and bring it to share. And what was exciting was that when something was low, a neighbor would magically show up with a small amount of something to replace it with. That happened with the tomatoes. First Dave came with some more of his cherry tomatoes from Treat Ave. that resupplied the ones I had brought from several gardens. Then those ran out, but Nosrat showed up with a handful of tomatoes he grew right around the corner on Folsom St. Catilyn brought some salad mix from her garden that added to the lettuces I grew and contributed to the bounty. She also brought some nice looking tomatillos and with the different chili peppers we had someone could make a nice salsa.

We had something new on the table this week. Jamie who lives nearby got a job on Saturdays at Acme bakery at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. She hated to see the bread that wasn't sold at the end of the day being thrown out, so after talking to me we decided to try giving it out at the Free Farm Stand. The company bakes very good organic bread. I gave away two big bags of it. She will bring some more next week, but she had a hard time carrying it all home from work on Bart, so she might bring less.

Justin and Brooke brought the most delicious pears they gleaned from an abandoned pear orchard in Morga in the east bay And Jo had more apples from Candlestick Point community Garden. A couple of people brought some lemons, including Dolores who came to our church potluck earlier. They were all mostly huge lemons. Dolores surprised me when she said hers were Meyer lemons, I thought that variety was small (at the least the ones in our garden are). The lemons at our stand were huge round yellow balls and pretty impressive looking. Someone else also brought a few cucumbers from a garden in Berkeley. There were a few beautiful lemon cucumbers and one Armenian cucumber. I was curious how that long unusual cucumber tasted. Maybe when there is only one of something I should slice it open on the spot so people can have a taste of it.

Peace March

In the wake of the six homicides in our neighborhood, a candlelight peace march was held Sunday night down 24th St. I thought there were 50-75 people in attendance and I talked to a number of our neighbors, some who I have met at the farm stand. I think everyone is freaked out with the violence going down around here and no one has a clue what to do. So just walking together with your neighbors I think is a good thing and that is why I joined it. We visited the site of three murders and dropped off our prayers for peace.

On the march, I was talking to neighbor whom I have known for years. The subject of horticultural therapy came up because she was telling me since her husband has started getting into gardening recently, he has become happier and he whistles when he comes in from working in the garden. This is a man who has had to deal with horrible treatments for prostrate cancer.

I am a big believer that gardens and trees themselves can bring healing energy to the planet and for that fact alone we need more of them. One of my crazy fantasies right now is to try to talk Delano Market into letting me plant a Peace Garden in a part of their parking lot. I live right across from it and at night a lot of stuff goes down out there, and our neighborhood besides needing some good local organic food could use some good vibe energy that gardens and nature can bring.


The results are finaly in about the jam Eli made with the plums from the Secret Garden. I opened the jar that Eli brought last week and gave out samples of the plum jam in small plastic containers at the stand. It was really delicious. Eli loves to make jam and maybe we can collect more fruit and work with him making another batch. The plums in the Secret Garden are almost getting to the point where they are too ripe to pick. Though there are still a lot on

Mayor talks the talk for Local Food

I just read last week an article in the Chronicle how our dear mayor has now come out in support of local food and has gotten the Slow Food bite or something: The article is titled "S.F. is developing a policy on use of local food" ( "The policy will also encourage urban gardens and call for planting fruit-bearing trees and plants in street medians and abandoned lots." "Mayor Gavin Newsom wants to get a lot more of that local produce onto the plates of anyone served a public meal - including schoolchildren, homeless people, hospital patients and jail inmates."

Personally I have a hard time not thinking this is hot air. I contacted Daniel Homsey in city hall who I know to see if anyone there can help me find a place to start a free farm stand farm in the city. I pointed out the article to him and he said he would try to figure out who to contact there that might help. I also asked him for leads to get free compost. We will see if anything turns up for small nobodys and projects like mine. I also wound up talking to Tom Ammiano at the Peace walk and he liked my idea of setting up an urban peace farm or garden and said to contact him about it.

I love the idea and hope something good will come out of it. In the meantime I hope to start working on moving foward the projects of planting fruit trees and bushes in Parque Niños Unidos and getting a garden planted at 18th St. and Rhode Island.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Fruits of Summer

We Bay Area folks are lucky to have so much choice in fruit to eat during the summer. The Free Farm Stand had a good selection of local fruit today. On Saturday night Angie and I visited friends in El Cerrito in the east bay. Having a one track mind and thinking a lot about food harvesting and collecting, I realized that a social visit can be turned into a fun fruit gleaning trip. I noticed right away that the family we were visiting had an orange tree loaded with fruit and the next door neighbor a tree loaded with apples. And the house on the other side had been foreclosed and was abandoned and up for auction. It had a dying lemon in the front yard and an apple in the back. Both had a lot of fruit on them that I picked, and I also got to pick some oranges from our friends. The other apple tree I had to get permission from the neighbor, but I didn't have time.

So besides the apples, oranges, and lemons, I scored a lot of delicious organic Brown Turkey figs from the Ferry Building Farmer's Market. Of course they were delicious and very popular and I learned the word higo for fig. We also had more plums from the Secret Garden and a woman came by with what looked like the last of her tasty dark red plums. I am still picking cape gooseberries that I wrote about previously and had some to give out today. People don't know what they are, but once they taste them they usually like them. This was the first week we had a lot of tomatoes, another fruit of the summer though we think of it as a vegetable. I picked them from all the gardens. And then Dave from down the street came by with three bags of the most delicious cherry tomatoes he just picked. I want to find out the variety name for his dark red ones that looked like Cherokee Purple.

Eli who I also wrote about last week, came by as promised with a large jar of plum sauce that he made from a half bucket of plums that he got from the stand last week that I picked from the secret garden. I am going to give it away next week probably if I get some small plastic yoghurt containers with lids to put it in. Brooke and Justin recently found an abandoned pear orchard in Moraga in the east bay and picked a lot of pears and have been drying them with a food dryer. I tasted one of the dried pears and it was yummy. I am really busy all this week, but would like to organize a trip there to pick the pears. Also, I would like to organize a community food processing day to can or dry some of our abundance.

Again I was surprised with the amount of other produce we had at the farm stand and that I was able to give almost all of it away. The secret garden produced a lot of lettuce, kale, and Asian greens. The runner beans are declining in productivity, I picked just a handful. A Treat Common gardener complained to me that she didn't like the way the runner beans tasted and that the fuzziness was unpleasant, but I disagreed with her. Am I a minority of people who like to eat runner beans? Christy came by with the end of her harvest of purple string beans, more rhubarb, and some summer squash from the Corona Heights Community Garden. I am continuing to grow sprouts and people like them.

Christiane came by with some honey from her bees in Golden Gate Park and it tasted very different from our honey. She put it in larger jars and once I get some more jars, I will bottle it up to share at the stand. She left some honeycomb in it for people to see it. I really appreciate people sharing something so special like honey that comes from hives taken care of with love and gentleness.

I was happy that Allegra and Christy came by and could speak Spanish with the large number of Hispanic people who come by the stand. I love all the families that get fresh organic and local produce, knowing that the kids are getting real healthy food. With diabetes and obesity of the rise, especially in minority communities, encouraging people to eat and grow some of their own organic food is a step in the right direction we all need to go in. I hope the free farm stand is getting this message out to the people who come. Here are some photos of some Mission kids, some of the cutest ones around.

Slow Food Madness

I made it down to the Slow Food events in the Civic Center on Saturday. The main event down there seemed to be the farmer's market with all the hippest probably most expensive, organic and sustainable produce and products around. I understand the labor that goes into growing this kind of beautiful loving food and probably putting your money into organic food (if you have it) is worth it to support the industry and the bees (more on that later). But the market by its nature and the whole Slow Food weekend hardly promoted slowing down and moving away from consumerism.

Personally, being a wannabe farmer, I got over excited and stimulated being down there with all the crowds and the excitement of all these groovy booths selling the most wonderful melons, or dry farmed early girl tomatoes, or Koda rice which I have never heard of but made me want to buy it all. Each booth had a printed sign describing the farm or product they were selling, and where they were located and why what they were doing was so great. I fell in love with the heirloom potatoes and was able to talk the saleswoman into giving me a red Peruvian spud to try growing at home (I didn't have say much she was very generous). To tell you the truth I didn't even look at any prices. The elephant heart plums were exciting too. I recently tasted an elephant heart plum at Martin's soup kitchen before I knew what variety they were, and they were absolutely delicious. The woman at the stand said they were alternate bearing, but worth growing them. I can't wait to get some scion wood for them and try growing them myself. I also dropped in the bookstore booth and checked out all the books out promoting local organic food, there are so many of them out now. Plus all the cookbooks with the same theme..."cook you own local organic sustainable slow foods".

I also made it over to the free 'Soapbox" events in the fabulous Victory Garden. Our local permaculture promoter Benjamin Fahrer was doing a great job as MC. When I showed up he was talking about pee-pee ponics and saving your nitrogen rich urine for your citrus trees (10 parts water to one part piss). I thought that was far out to talk about that with that crowd (the place was packed). He also made a great pitch to make the Victory Garden there permanent and told us to contact our local politicians to tell them that.

I spoke later in the day with John Bela who helped make the garden a reality and he told me that the garden was going to stay there until November. He says they already have harvest over five hundred pounds of food for the food bank! (By the way if anyone has an extra scale to loan or give us, I would love to weigh how much produce we are giving out at the Free Farm Stand each week, I think it is great to document these things).

John made one of the best arguments for moving the garden from its present location. He said that the space should be preserved for large gatherings that often happen in front of city hall, like big protests or rallies. I see his point, but am not sure if there isn't room both for garden and rallies. I saw a complaint on the SFist website ( about the closing down of the City Farmer's Market for the Pride Sunday event.

There has been a fair amount of complaints about the Victory Garden being only temporary and even a protest on August 20th by Food Not Bombs ( .. "In this case the garden is temporary and at a cost of $180,000 (though sponsored by a private group), while the nearby Heart of the City Farmers Market, a critical and much needed source of healthy food in the tenderloin and south of market neighborhoods has fought for it's survival and against massive rent increases pushed by the mayor and real estate
department". SFBG Politics ( ) called it a "Hollow Victory". .. "Indeed, if Newsom and other city officials wanted to make a real commitment to support this effort, they would pursue a citywide program of supporting community gardens (which keep getting ripped up these days) and doing a survey of what surplus city properties could be turned into gardens that might still be there after the television crews have gone." I think having the garden downtown and across from city hall is a valuable educational tool that gets a large number of people thinking about all kinds of food issues and gardening in general. I think finding another sunny place downtown to grow a big garden would be a good goal of the city, Slow Food Nation and Victory Gardens 08. There is a lot of lawn around the new library though not as sunny as where it is. I also like community gardens, but I think we need more Victory Gardens that grow food for non-profit groups feeding the hungry. Like FNB writes, "Enough with theatrics, resolutions and press conferences, San Francisco needs concrete support for permanent, healthy and accessible food for residents of civic center/tenderloin neighborhood and other low-income communities." They might have missed the point that the current garden is doing that right now and it is a beautiful effort, it just needs to be made permanent.

The best talk I heard was by Serge Labesque who is a bee keeper and teacher from Sonoma County. He is the teacher that my bee teacher Bryan respects. He spoke about the "trouble time for our bees". He explained what the factors are for the pollinators declining in the U.S. He said the number of honey bee hives have declined to critically low levels for the past six decades. He said there were a number of things we can do. Among the things he recommended to help the bee is to buy locally grown organic produce, to provide habitat for pollinators around your homes, don't use chemical compounds in your gardens, become an organic backyard beekeeper, propagate local bee stock (don't buy bees especially queens that were raised away from our area), or join a local bee club.

Wild Boar Eaters

Last Thursday went to a local event don't the street called the Pirate Seed Swap. The poster I got by email said "The Greenhorns, a sneak peak at the documentary about America's young Farmers", "Heather Flores, author of Food Not Lawns with a slide show about saving seeds and swapping them", "with slow nibbles, biodynamic wines, seed to swap, handout, nation –wide slow food friends". The event was hosted by the Greenhorns, Slow-Food Nation, and the Bull Moose Hunting Society (it was in their warehouse). Here is a review of the event on the web: Here is my reporting.

I actually looked the documentary trailer up online and I discovered my friend Brooke was in it. It looked interesting, stories about young people that become hip farmers that grow safe and sustainable food. The filmmakers want to inspire a new generation of farmers that will preserve our farmland and our food supply. And make a living out of farming (good luck!).

I checked out the seed swap and it was mostly seeds from seed companies, some seeds that people saved and brought, but I didn't find anything I needed. I talked up the seeds I brought to share to a couple of people looking at the seeds, the Double Purple Orach that I grew this year. I also attended the talk by Heather and she was mainly promoting seed swapping events. I like the idea of people saving seed and sharing it and eventually having a seed library, another wonderful project a local garden team could organize.

The part of the event that really sent my mind reeling was the introduction by this man from the Slow Food Nation. He welcomed everyone and explained the nature of the event and that people were invited to join in the feast, that include recently hunted wild boar from Sonoma (inspired I suppose by Michael Pollan in Omnivore's Dilema). The article above said it was shot on a non-functioning ranch north of Sacramento. He introduced
a man who lived at the warehouse that was hosting the event who is a member of the Bull Moose Hunting Society. The society is about promoting hunting and tracking, and teaches young people how to hunt and shoot a gun and clean and gut the animal for meat. The wild boar are non-native pests (kind of like non-native trees but more destructive) according to them and so it is good to shoot them and eat them and to know where your food comes from and what they eat. It is sustainable they claim and a good thing that we should all learn. My friend Antonio was trying it out and he said it was weird tasting, but that he has been eating vegetarian for a while so maybe he wasn't used to it. The platters of boar disappeared pretty fast as people chowed down on it all.

I just want to put this matter to rest. As much as I understand this boar eating, I personally prefer to remain a vegan and stay with my principles of doing as little harm as possible in the world. About a year or so ago I was so mad at the rats eating the avocadoes in the trees in the garden I was working in, I thought about getting night vision goggles and a bb gun and shooting them. I think I could have done it at that time. Now I am thinking that the wild boar eaters don't have to travel out of town to go hunting. They should stay local and hunt the rats that are everywhere here (it is a delicacy in Thailand and it doesn't come with the karma of eating pork). Then they could go for the feral cats that are everywhere pooping in our gardens and eating the birds and over reproducing.