Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday in Vegetable Land

I loved the produce table this week with all the variety of super local fruit and vegetables on it. It was like taking a holiday in vegetable land. According to the book Cornocopia II there are "approximately fifteen thousand species of plants recorded in literature as having been used as food by man." The author of the book Stephan Facciola says that "most of the world is fed by approximately twenty crops...". Here at the stand we strive to grow everything we can, the more diversity the better.

We had Yacón root (more on that later), Jerusalem artichoke, Purple Sweet Potato (just harvested from the garden), yellow and green zucchini (this may be the end of the harvest though the plants are still alive and growing despite it being December), winter squash, pineapple guavas, four kinds of sprouts, including red quinoa, red clover, black beluga lentils, and wheat sprouts, sunflower greens, Rocoto peppers, kale, chard, collards, lettuce, and oyster mushrooms. The mushrooms were picked from the FARM garden next to California College of Arts. They were really delicious (I sampled them to make sure no one got sick…actually I cooked one by cutting it up and sauteing it in Earth Balance margarine ). I have never gotten into growing mushrooms or eating wild ones before, but now I am hooked (a friend picked some chanterelles for me a few weeks back and that is actually what first got me excited). Mushrooms are great for our gardens too.

The selection from the farmer's market was not bad either including grapes (where are they from this time of year?). We also had some industrial organic definitely not sustainable mangos. It was a nice day despite the slight rain we got and again the amount of produce was low and it wasn't off the hook with a huge line that never ended. We had a lot of great volunteers helping as usual which I am so grateful for.

I have been giving away Yacón root starts for a few weeks now (someone came by a while back with extra roots) and it is a good vegetable to grow if you have the space. Pam Pierce writes about this plant on her blog, which by the way I highly recommend as regular reading: It is a perennial plant and is in the same Daisy family as Jerusalem artichokes or sunchokes. It has both a storage root that is sweet that you eat and a propagation root that you plant to clone it. Wikipedia also has a lot of information about the plant, including other parts of the plant you can use (like the leaves) and information on its religious and medicinal connections. Yacón is also known as the Bolivian Sunroot and is another plant grown in the Andes region, like the Rocoto peppers we had on the table too. Both plants are great to have around for winter harvest (the Rocoto pepper is still growing and fruiting).

We should all be giving praise and thanks for the rains that came to town the last few days. Speaking of getting out into the elements, on Saturday I put on my rain gear and grabbed some shovels and headed to Mission High to participate in a fruit tree planting there. The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation ( donated 15 or 16 trees and berries to the school to plant with the students. I was amazed at the big turnout of kids on a rainy Saturday to plant trees. The people from the foundation and the staff at the school were great too. Planting fruit trees and berries is one of my favorite things to do (even in the rain). Can you imagine fruit trees growing in a high school, not just in a garden adjacent to the school, but in a court yard within the building? I can imagine romantic scenarios of two high school sweethearts kissing under a persimmon tree like in the Garden of Eden.

This local food growing excitement and interest in urban homesteading that is taking over right now is like a sort of sixties revolution all over again. It's a green love vibe, a red wiggler be-in, a sustainable and organic daisy chain, a local do it yourself tuning in (and a turning out of the compost). Time magazine just came out with an article on humane manure (,8599,1945764,00.html), holy shit!

I pray that this current revolution doesn't get totally sold out, that we can focus our work on sharing and caring for others. I heard that the Homeless Connect garden on Octavia and Lilly St broke ground last week. I don't know what the vision for that project is, but it has to be good just in the fact that they are reclaiming some earth by pulling up a parking lot. I also heard that the city has ok'd putting in some kind of sustainable, permaculture oriented garden/farm at Laguna and Oak where the freeway has been torn down. As I understand it the land can only be used temporarily whatever that means (they want to leave open the possibility of developing the land). I also heard that the city is giving $50,000 seed money towards this project, some of which is going into salaries for people to manage the project. Part of the plan is having a farmer's market there for San Francisco farmers only. Another idea is to have all economic models represented at this garden. One the traditional capitalist model, one that is based on barter or a different currency, and one that is based on the free economy (I was actually invited to help set up another Free Farm Stand there). This could be an exciting project to see develop, but there are a lot of questions I have that I hope will be answered eventually.

I am leaving town Saturday December 19th and will return Jan 4th. When I get back I hope to have some fresh energy and clarity in the New Year. I sense that there will be even more food growing locally than this year. The stand this year has given away now 6200 pounds of hecka locally grown and gleaned produce (this is produce that I know who grew it or picked it within 100 miles of the city). Over 1000 pounds of vegetables were grown on the once vacant lot at 18th and Rhode Island St. and that is only a year that we have been developing that garden.

Vanessa will open the stand next Sunday the 20th of December and then we will be closed December 27 and January 4.

Look out for the blue moon coming up the last day of this month.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Free Standers

Last night winter was knocking on our windows and doors with a short burst of hail and later we had a small amount of cold rain. I thought about all the seedlings and potted young plants I have started and how I wish I could put more of them under cover, like in a green house. We did pull off another Free Farm Stand with cool and cloudy weather but it was dry, though we didn’t have as many people as usual. We are definitely in our winter season mode with less vegetables being harvested and less gleaning of left-overs from the farmer’s market.

We did have an impressive amount of greens that we harvested on Friday from the 18th and Rhode Island garden. We also harvested a handful of small zucchini. I am really impressed with this variety called Soleil (though it is a hybrid) that produces non-stop, is easy to find and pick, and gets less mildew than other varieties. I hear tonight there will be a frost so that might do in the rest on the plants.

Mentioning 18th and Rhode Island, we had a great work day on Friday. Mike a park director down the hill brought all these neighborhood 2 and 3 year old rug rats to help in the garden. I had seven varieties of potatoes that I thought it would be daring to try planting at this time of year. So the kids and parents had fun planting making tater towers until their attention span went elsewhere.

Jeanie who I volunteer with at Martin de Porres gave me a basket full of pineapple guavas that we gave out (it is always fun to turn someone on to a delicious fruit they haven’t tried before…especially kids). Lyn dropped off three bags of delicious sprouts that she grew. My sprouts are behind schedule because of my distracted mind. Being that we had relatively so little produce for the number of people showing up we ran out early like last week, like around 2pm we started getting pretty low on most things except bread. Then as we were closing up Clara and Bianca showed up with some greens from the Secret Garden and out of nowhere two people came by to take them.

Being the end of the year I am shifting to a more contemplative mode and have been thinking about all the garden/local food growing opportunities that popped up this year. People are calling who want help turning their backyards into gardens, schools are ripe with potential projects (there is a fruit tree planting coming up this Saturday at Mission High), new lots ready to turn into urban farms, existing gardens needing help, a fruit tree orchard itching to move into a park, etc. The bottom line is there a lot that we can do and a lot of dreams to be sowed and harvested. A lot of food can be grown to feed hungry people.

On Saturday I just happened to pick up the Bay Guardian, partly because the cover illustration and feature article caught my eye:” Out of reach: Organic, sustainable slow food is wonderful -- unless you're poor or a farmworker ( The illustration reminded me of my friend Lauren’s drawing on her web site Produce to the People. On hers there are arms and hands outstretched reaching for fruit in trees and some hands are holding the fruit they just picked. In the Guardian the arms and hands are reaching out for carrots that can’t get to. This article, especially the first paragraphs reflects some of my thinking and was one of the main reasons I started the Free Farm Stand: “Though organic grocery stores and farmers markets have sprung up on San Francisco’s street corners, it remains to be seen whether our current mania for sustainable, local food will positively affect the lower classes, be they farm workers or poor families.” I think we all do what we can to improve the current mess we have going now and I have always thought like Gerrard Winstanley and the diggers of 1649 that the “earth is a common treasury for all to share”. They dug up the commons or vacant lands and grew food on it to share with everyone.

Plans are starting to get firmed up for the rest of this month. I am leaving town on Saturday December 19
th and will return on Monday January 4th next year. So we will be open rain or shine December 12th and December 20th (I have at least two people committed to opening that Sunday I will be gone).We will be closed December 27 and January 3 I also am trying to focus right now before I leave on things other than gardening so don’t know how available I will be to work with people. The cold weather is not for gardeners, but gives much needed chill to our fruit trees.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunny and Sharing

I am still feeling an abundance of gratefulness as we swing into the last month of the year. Also, I'm am in a reflective mood as we head towards the New Year. Things are certainly slowing down produce harvesting wise and the fava beans are coming up announcing the coming of winter. We had sunny 70° weather at the stand yesterday which seemed confusing to say the least. Despite the glorious weather it seemed we had less people than usual (though there was still a line down the sidewalk for the first hour). We certainly had less produce and because we are a seasonal program we will be having less food for the next few months at least.

To boast the produce on the table, I have started growing sprouts and sunflower greens again and I am excited that I grew five pounds of red clover sprouts. This is with only two cups of seed approximately. I grow the sprouts in five gallon buckets, though they can be grown by anyone at home with a jar and some cheesecloth or plastic screen.

We also had five pounds of greens that we grew at 18th and Rhode Island, the main garden providing food for the stand at the moment. I did harvest about a dozen Rocoto hot peppers from Treat Commons, and both those sunny gardens are producing lots of the perennial African Blue Basil. We ran out of food early, though at some point towards the end, a woman showed up with a bag of Hachiya persimmons from her tree. I love Hachiya persimmons and I hope that everyone knows that they need to let the fruit ripen before you bite into them, unlike the Fuyu persimmons that you eat when they are firm. When we have free bread it is fun to see what shows up on the table. Autumn came by again with leftover olive samples from the farmer's market and there was a jar of plum jam left over from summer. I will be bringing more summer jam to share in the last week we are open before all the big holidays. Cristina shared some kale"chips" that she made Also, Sara showed up with a bag of figs from her tree that also needed some ripening. Since we were finished early and she came a little late, I wound up with the figs, some of which I gave away.

We need a campaign to plant more fruit trees everywhere in the city…really our parks and vacant spaces should be planted with fruit that ripen at different times and nut trees on the sidewalks. Can you imagine a time when you live in the city and people recognize the time of year when different fruit comes into ripening? We are now into persimmon season moving into citrus time.

I am still on my mission of trying to manifest two projects that will help promote local food growing in the city. One is getting the orchard/garden extended in Parque Niños Unidos and the other is trying to find sunny land to start a free neighborhood garden center. I remember years ago I had friends who would keep on their refrigerator a list of things they were trying to manifest. They believed that by just keeping things in mind and putting the thought out there that things would manifest themselves given time in their lives. I believe in that myself as hippy dippy as it sounds.

Please take note: From December 19th to January 4th I will be going out of town to visit the Midwest and the Free Farm Stand will be closed during those two weeks.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Tsunami of Thankfulness

This year I have been feeling especially thankful. The Free Farm Stand has provided me with more opportunities than ever to feel appreciative and grateful every week. I am especially thankful for everyone that has helped make the stand a success, all the hours people have put into setting up and taking down the stand and giving out the produce, helping us grow food or pick fruit, people that have brought produce to share, farmers who share their surplus at the end of the day, neighbors who come to "shop", landlords who have let us use their vacant lots to grow food for the hungry, sunny skies, and neighbors who have been more than generous letting us share their water connection. I am also thankful for having the opportunity to help out in the world and for friends and family, for bees, for earth, for sunflowers, beets, and great harvests. Really this could be a non-stop tsunami of thankfulness.

Again greens ruled the day at the stand. Another field at Green Gulch got gleaned before it was plowed under and the farmer's market had tons of different greens left over too (I had left over arugala and one box of greens that I took to the food bank this morning). Also we harvested eight pounds of kale and chard from seedlings that we planted that were donated from Green Gulch and are now happily growing at 18th and Rhode Island. The other gardens are pretty shady now and are not producing much. We also had a fair number of zucchini and basil that has been growing uninterrupted for over a month or so. Pretty crazy growing these things so late into the year. Pam brought by the last apples on her tree (I still have a couple on a tree in my backyard), some salad mix, and a few herbs. I especially like the Mexican tarragon she brought: you only only need a leaf or two cut up small in a salad to give it an interesting taste. I am looking forward to the new edition of her book Golden Gate Gardening that she said is coming out in February (with a lot of changes and updates). Molly brought some fresh picked cactus fruit that looked yummy and nopales that look dangerous.

the big Zapallo winter squash that I fell in love with last week

I also gave away small jars of honey from our backyard hive and that was very popular. I like sharing the honey with everyone, it is really a taste of the Mission neighborhood we live in and it seemed like an appropriate special thank you gift to give to everyone for the holiday. Not everyone read my comic that I had posted explaining why a vegan is dealing with bees and giving away honey, but I guess we do the best we can.

As we were closing up Jess came by with the bike cart and tools I loaned her for the garden work day at the new garden on Dolores St. She said it was a successful day, enough people came by and they mulched and made a bed and planted some different things.

I haven't heard from any ex-myfarm folk this week. Here is a blog about one woman's experience with myfarm that is interesting:

In contrast to the myfarm model of promoting local food growing, last Saturday I attended a small meeting of friends who are all on the same page about growing food to feed hungry people. We actually met to talk about fund raising, but didn't get far in that regard. The exciting part of the meeting for me was to just hang out with some beautiful and inspiring people that basically want to do the same thing together: distribute local grown organic produce to feed people in need, glean fruit trees that need picking, and helping people to start new gardens to grow food as a way of feeding ourselves and others (be they neighbors with backyards or vacant lots, shelters, soup kitchens or churches that want to have gardens). It is a breath of fresh air to focus with friends on the idea of tikkun olam or repairing the world. Believing that "the world is a common treasury for all to share" like the Diggers of England taught us.

Our first project that we want to work on together is to set up a free neighborhood garden center that I have written about before. Sort of like the Garden for the Environment with a greenhouse that will provide a place for us to propagate seedlings and trees to distribute to all the gardens in the neighborhood that need them, a demonstration garden, free garden supplies, a seed library, a place to drop off compost rather than putting it in green bin to be shipped out of the city, free worms, and a garden educational center.

Our first step is to find someplace (in the Mission is our first choice of location) to house such an operation that is visible from the street and would hopefully be easy to drive into to drop off garden materials. We are on the look out for land that we can use or rent temporarily until we find a place to eventually buy. If there is anyone that wants to help research or scout out places, or has some ideas please contact me.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Greens Festival

While the Green Festival was happening South of Market, the Free Farm Stand was having it’s own “Greens Festival”, greens as in chard, kale, mustard, collards, and amaranth (and no green as in money). Here is the scoop. A field at Green Gulch Farm was about to get plowed under so a number of Zen students gleaned the greens and we scored 40 boxes of fresh, delicious and nutritious organic greens. I takes a lot of time and work to glean a field of greens and I am so appreciative of the work my friend Joanne and her fellow zen students do. I dropped off more than half of the greens at two pantries on the Friday and Saturday and a two boxes were distributed in low income neighborhoods in Oakland. We also had some chard that was gleaned from a former myfarm garden in the city (I think 4 boxes) and later in the day another myfarmer showed up with some baby chard and other greens. Because there were so many greens I postponed harvesting the many greens growing in two gardens right now. As you might remember last week, 14lbs of greens were harvested from just the Permaculture Garden and I think there are that many more ready to be picked now.

Our greens festival was very well attended and there were lots of things going on. Tom came in from Santa Rosa with a lot of different squash, including the huge and handsome blue Zappallo winter squash that was too big to put on the table. I told Lauren this squash was so beautiful I was thinking of sleeping with it (I didn’t). Tom wrote this little piece about this squash that I am sharing an excerpt with you here :

Iris and I collected the seed to grow this squash in the little
town where she was born in the Peruvian Andes. It was
grown by a friend of ours here in Sonoma Co. Like all winter
squash it can be prepared in many ways. I am including an
easy receipt for cream of zapallo soup in Spanish. …
the sharing of food and recipes amongst people

has got to be one of the most ancient and honorable ways to
build friendships and community. Sure this large squash is
intimidating, but think of it as an opportunity to share and to grow.

I have some seeds that Tom scooped out and I dried to plant next year. We also had some small kabocha squash from 18th and Rhode Island and a box of mixed squash and gourds from Green Gulch. Bryce scooped out the seeds of the squashes, many which were dark orange inside, and shared them with people to take home and roast and eat. At least one person took seeds home to plant. I told him that unless the flowers were isolated the bees will pollinate them and if other squashes were growing nearby they were cross pollinated resulting in something different from the parent. You might not get something edible, but maybe a decorative gourd like squash.

All the greens were given out except one box (people were taking home a lot of greens). I took the extras home and made a lot of baked kale, one of my new favorite ways of cooking greens. I had mostly Dino Kale (also called Tuscan or Lacinato Kale) which works best, but any kind will be good. I strip off the leaves from the stems unless they are thin and tender or I want more fiber and like to chew. I wash them and let them drain a bit. I put the kale in a bowl and mix with a small amount of olive oil (or olive oil with crushed garlic). Then I put them on a baking tray. I try to make one layer of leaves if I want crunchy “kale chips”. Or you can pile on more leaves on the tray and have baked kale. The oven should be pre- heated to about 300-350˚, the hotter the faster they bake but you have to watch them more carefully. You take them out whenever they are as crispy or chewy as you like.

I actually started eating large amounts of kale starting Saturday. I made kale salad for a pot luck, which is another good easy way to serve kale. I had some left over so I brought to the stand thinking it is a good dish to share with people and show them a way to use kale. Pancho served it right next to boxes of kale and talked to everyone about how it was made (I think he is a good saleman especially to the Spanish speaking crowd).

Here is the recipe:I just took 1/3rd cup of lemon juice, 1/3rd cup of soy sauce or tamari, 1/3rd cup of sesame oil (not toasted) and mixed with two bunches of curly kale that were washed and drained. Any kind of kale would work, but tender curly kale is our favorite. On top we sprinkle roasted pumpkin or sunflower seed. I also like to sometimes add ground toasted sesame seeds.

When the kale salad ran out Yasue who gardens in Treat Commons brought leftover salad that she had made for an event Saturday night. It was hands down the most delicious quinoa salad I have ever eaten and I must get the recipe from her. I actually didn’t know that it had quinoa in it, maybe I just scarfed it down too fast to notice, but it looked like coleslaw with red and green cabbage, carrots, seaweed in it and some special dressing mixed in. Earlier my friend Craig who has a taco truck with solar panels on it and plans to run a vegan restaurant out of it, came by and parked across the street. When all the salad was gone he pulled out another green salad with all kinds of things in it and that was soon all eaten. Then he cooked up some really yummy noodles with vegan sausage. Though it was getting towards the end of the day for the stand, somehow a lot of people came by and ate all the food. Pancho was surprised by all the local kids who were playing in the park coming by and asking for salad and then really eating it.

While the greens festival was happening, across the street there was something else going on besides the rockin' solar powered vegan taco truck. Someone had dumped the entire contents of someone's apartment in the parking lot and the site became an instant free store. Some of our shoppers went over and brought the stand more baskets to put produce in. I heard stories of good finds and saw some of the treasures people had dug up. It was a non-stop scene for hours of people picking through junk. I really believe every neighborhood should have a free store that is well stocked and taken care of.

On Saturday I went with some friends to Berkeley to attend the California Rare Fruit Growers monthly meeting. I was particularly interested in the topic for the meeting which was fruit tree propagation. Although I have had some luck grafting plums, pears, and apples, I really want to learn how to propagate avocado trees. It is easy to grow avocados by seed, but you have to graft them if you want to get reliable fruit of good quality. Also, if you want to have avocados year round you need to propagate different varieties.

This club that I am a member of is really the best resources for meeting pother fruit growers and learning the skills of growing fruit trees. If we are serious about growing more local food we have to learn these skills. I lucked out that at the meeting I was able to pick up a branch of an Bacon avocado tree and I am going to use that to try splicing or grafting it onto some young seedlings I have grown. I also got a personal lesson from one of the old timers there that has had success propagating avocados. I am going to have a very small workshop Wednesday afternoon at 1:30pm at my house where I will show a video about grafting avocados and then we will try it ourselves. I am interested in having people attend who are really serious about learning these skills so we can grow fruit trees and distribute them free to our neighbors.

Before we went to the meeting we stopped by the edible schoolyard and participated in a work day there. The school, MLK Middle School, is truly an inspiring place, and it is hard to believe it exists, it is almost surreal. Just the amount of land they have to grow food on for a school is amazing (apparently some of the land was formerly a parking lot). I was blown out that in the city they have a deer problem chewing the lower leaves of the espaliered trees. I also got to meet Wendy Johnson of Green Gulch and author of the fabulous book “Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate”. Wendy told me every public school in Berkeley has a garden though I don’t know if they take the garden as serious as they do at the Edible Schoolyard. We have a lot of catching up to do with Berkeley here in San Francisco and I think that will mean digging up some parking lots just to get space to grow gardens (I don’t think we are at the point where we can dig up streets). There are a lot of locals talking the talk like the mayor, but I am waiting for the walking part. It is up to us to make this garden revolution happen in San Francisco. I know of a number of people wanting to plant a garden either in a backyard or some other place or who need help maintaining existing gardens. People are often writing me because they are excited about the Free Farm Stand and want to help. This is the way to make the stand more real, by growing more food to share with those in need.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Parking Lots into Garden Plots

Recently people with backyards have been showing an interest in growing gardens and sharing their surplus with those in need. There was a lot of garden activity this past weekend and I loaned out a lot of tools and distributed seeds, garlic, and seedlings to help support backyard and vacant lot gardeners growing food. I have been thinking for a long time that we need a free garden resource center in each neighborhood, where there would be a greenhouse growing seedlings to give away, manure, compost, worms, seeds, supplies, and tools to borrow. Also, there would also be a demonstration garden that would show people the possibilities of what grows in their neighborhood and to inspire people to grow some food. There are a lot of things people are getting rid of including redwood lumber, pots, straw bales, that could be collected and given away to people wanting to start or maintain existing gardens. Finding the land and then acquiring it for this dream is the challenge.

It is an inspiring time for me as a long time gardener and person interested in fighting hunger and food insecurity in our world. Projects are popping up all over and people are dreaming big. Already in this city more people are gardening and also talking about redesigning our cities. Making them less car oriented and more people bike friendly. So can you imagine Market Street being closed to car traffic and not only having places for people to stroll, bike, hang out and sip tea, but also to garden and grow food to feed poor people?

Just today I read a short fabulous article "Plowing Detroit into Farmland" in the NY Times:

"Already, Urban Farming, an international outfit that has made Detroit its headquarters, is said to boast some 500 small plots under cultivation to supply free food to the city's poor." I looked up the organization Urban Farming, Inc. ( ) and discovered they have similar goals as the Free Farm Stand: "Urban Farming's mission is to create an abundance of food for people in need by planting gardens on unused land and space while increasing diversity, educating youth, adults and seniors and providing an environmentally sustainable system to uplift communities." I say right on!

I don't know if I want to grow as large as that organization and have such a grand advertising presence as they do, but maybe that is what is needed to get land to grow more food in cities, especially in San Francisco where there is no excess cheap land like in Detroit.

Here is a funny link along the same lines that a friend told me about that is about a proposal for Farmedelphia:

I like these images from this site:

I think it is worthy to day dream about these things, especially in context of the Free Farm Stand. Yesterday we again had a long line , but this time not so much produce, maybe because it is a seasonal thing and we are moving into winter. While dreaming this up I should include the creation of a neighborhood canning center so we can preserve some of the abundance of summer.

I was pretty excited that we did have 14 pounds of greens that we grew at 18th and Rhode Island. We also harvested the I missed last week's work day there and in just that short time the greens had really grown a lot. They are the vegetable for most of San Francisco and all gardens here should grow some. Spike brought by some mustard greens from her garden and Steve came at the end with some beautiful collards that he had grown with seedlings from the stand. It was a green day.Here are some photos from that garden taken on Friday before the Sunday stand. At the end of the slide show is a picture of the harvest on our table:

We also had very little bread and it was nice that Danny of Sour Flour brought two of his beautiful and delicious loaves of home baked bread. He is teaching bread making classes for free and from my talking to him he knows a lot. I am always picking up tips from him, like how he gets the pattern on his round loaves, by putting the dough in a floured round basket to rise.

On the sidebar under Volunteer Opportunities and Upcoming events there are lots of places that need gardening help. It is a way you can be more than a consumer and help grow some of the food we are sharing.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kissing Cousins

My original idea for writing a blog was to keep in touch with people and let them know what is happening each week with the Free Farm Stand. I have been documenting my experiment with promoting local food growing and to give a report each week of what is growing in our gardens, how much we have been harvesting, and what is happening in general in our city with the local food growing movement. At this point it is starting to feel like I am repeating myself when I'm publishing photos of the same stacks of beautiful organic locally grown vegetables each week or describing what happened at the stand.

So I only took a handful of photos this week (if I do document this weekly event with photos I need someone with fresh eyes to do it), but here are two photos that are different. As I was hanging out at the end of the day in the garden, totally exhausted, an intense orange butterfly decided to hang out in the garden too (maybe she was tired too). I called some friends over to check it out and we all were amazed at how beautiful she was.

Then someone else pointed out another handsome (though destructive) visitor to the garden, chewing happily away on some parsley.

This caterpillar I know will turn into a monarch butterfly and that they like to live in parsley patches before their transformation.

We have all heard this said before, but when I was just chilling in the garden at that moment with all my animal and plant friends I felt a real connection with them all. If anyone got a chance to see the PBS documentary last week on TV called the Botany of Desire (a video version of the book) they might have been inspired like me, for it really made this point clear. That there is a relationship between man/woman and plant and non-human animal and that relationship goes both ways. We are kissing cousins.

So the point being that we need to learn to live in harmony with each other, we've got to work it out. The Free Farm Stand itself is an experiment in trying to build the networks that will sustain us as neighbors and community.

I must mention that some really cool things happened imho this week at the stand. One thing is a neighbor showed up with a big bag of meyer lemons that he just harvested from his tree and then later he came back with more of them. I also was tickled by a woman that brought some beautiful Granny Smith apples (and some red ones) from here tree just down the street. Another great thing that happened is that a woman sent me an email saying that she had spent $1500 to get a garden installed in her backyard by My Farm. Then that business folded and she had this big backyard that was overgrown and there was a lot of produce that could be harvested. She was feeling pretty lonely working in the garden by herself and she didn't know what she was doing. She wondered if we had people that could work with her and share the surplus at the stand. I really lucked out seeing that I knew two people that lived near her. I thought they might want a bigger space to garden in since they just had tiny plots in the community garden in that neighborhood. So I contacted one person and she contacted the other and now I think they are working together and rejuvenating her backyard garden. What surprised me the most is that she showed up with a few bags of greens to share right when we were getting a little low on super local produce. I think she told me there were 50-100 My Farm backyard gardens and that a lot of the people that paid for the service are in the same boat as she and that they may want help too. Plus there are all the people who signed up a year ago to get a free Victory Garden in their backyard that never got one. I am overwhelmed thinking how can we get all these places growing food and sharing the surplus?

I just realized that what was wrong with My Farm right from the beginning is the name My Farm. I think we need to move away from "my" this and that, because that is such a hoax and brings false security. On Sunday at the stand I also met an ex-myfarm gardener and he was also aware that there are a lot of gardeners that need volunteer help, that the gardens are all setup with drip and good soil, but the gardens need garden care and maintenance and guidance.

The work day in our backyard on Halloween was mostly a bust. I did wind up gardening mostly by myself, though Christina showed up to help me get all the palm fronds I pruned into green bins. Maybe I didn't get the word out or just because it was Halloween no one was available. Well this Saturday I will be extracting honey from our hive and maybe if enough people show up we can also get some gardening in too.

Here is a link that I got from the permaculture group called What's on My Food: . It is helpful in getting us to think about the choices we make when purchasing organic or non organic food. It also made me appreciate the organic produce we have at the Free Farm Stand. How lucky can we be that as bottom feeders we can eat a little more worry free.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Squash Appreciation Day

Now is the season to enjoy winter squash, planted in the spring, grown in the summer, harvested in the fall. The table at the Free Farm Stand was heaped high with winter squashes (and some of the last summer zucchini), some grown at 18th and Rhode Island garden and some grown by my friend Tom in Santa Rosa. We should sing an ode to winter squash because they are so wonderful!

We should strive to be like winter squash
they are a humble vegetable
like the lowly pumpkin squash magically transformed into
a high class carriage to take Cinderella to the ball
they are rock steady and patient
as they grow sometimes to large proportions
they are one of the three sisters
whose righteousness comforts and nourishes us
they feed us their fleshy insides and also their blossoms and seeds
they can be who they want to be and choose to be different
in sizes and shapes and colors
though their sexual expression is dependent on our friends the bees
the luffa squash scratch our itchy backs like good friends do
the gourd can play sweet music and is a multi-talented artist
Winter Squashes, Pumpkin, Hubbard, Delicata, Sweet Dumpling, Golden Nugget, Buttercup, Kobacha, and Turban
we love you all and think you de vine

Besides the squash we had more apples from the gleaning trip two weeks ago and others brought fruit too. Christina got some grapefruit from San Jose, Pam came by with apples, and so did Lauren who also had local figs, and lemons came from some local anonymous harvester. It just goes to show that one can keep their eyes open and find fruit growing everywhere that potentially could be harvested. Someone told me they saw pomegranates growing on Dolores St. near 20th St. that I would like to check out. Towards the end Clara came by with a lovely basket of vegetables from the Secret Garden, including some delicious figs that were finally ripe. When we were almost out of apples, someone came by with organic apples from Whole Foods, all with their organic label on each apple. They disappeared pretty quickly. Also, Danny showed up with a baguette and a loaf of sour dough he baked (he is the guy from Sour Flour who is into baking bread and giving it away). I talked to him about making a whole grain loaf and he is working on it. We also had stacks of super ripe organic dry farmed tomatoes left over from the farmer's market. A lot were given away but many were to damaged and too hard for people to take home. I haven't come up with a way for people to process soft tomatoes like that…they would make delicious sauce, but then it would be needed to can the sauce once it was made. That would take jars and equipment and then how do you distribute it and get your expensive jars back?

There was a lot happening in the park including a Healthy Family Days event that we were actually a part of. The organizer of that event served free healthy food in the clubhouse that we invited everyone to go to. They were serving among other things a vegan squash soup made by the Sexy Soup Lady and everyone said it was very tasty. I also hosted two bicycle tours to the stand. The Homo Homestead tour was fantastic and I enjoyed meeting them all. Joolie who organized it brought us a big bag of greens and herbs that she had grown in her nearby garden. The Garden City tour that is part of a workshop on how to get land in the city to grow a garden in came by while we were closing up shop. I spoke to them about the history of the park and garden and the current work we are doing feeding those with compromised budgets and promoting food growing.
Below are photos from 18th and Rhode Island on Friday, mostly pictures of some of the harvest. I forgot to mention that we had our largest harvest yet of potatoes, 9 pounds that we gave away on Sunday. They were mostly small in size, but looked great.

This coming Saturday the 31st, even though it is Halloween, I am planning on having a garden work day cleaning up and planting my backyard garden that has been pretty much neglected for a while. That will be from 10am-2:30pm with lunch being served around noon. We will be weeding, pruning, bottling honey if we have time, and planting. Then on the following Saturday Nov. 7th we will be extracting honey.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fall Meditation

I believe we can transform ourselves and our world by deepening our relationship with nature and the eternal power of creation. A seed contains hope. We can begin by planting just one seed or one garden. The seeds I have been thinking about at this moment are fava beans. I am doing some late research into trying to obtain some different varieties of this plant this year. The huge book Cornucopia II, A Source Book of Edible Plants is really wonderful and lists fava bean varieties like “The Sutton” that is a short growing kind whose pods can be eaten whole even when mature. If anyone wants to check out this book they may come over to my house to read it, I don’t think it is at the library, but it is probably at the fabulous library in the Arboretum. I haven’t quite gotten into the winter time seed catalog reading, garden day dreaming mode yet, that will come in a couple of months. Someone reminded me that I should not only spend time doing but being.

I have a lot of garlic that needs a winter home to grow prefers some daily sun to grow well in (I ordered way too much). On our Friday workday at the Permaculture Garden we planted a lot of this garlic, several different kinds. The rain will help them come up. I have already started planting sugar snap peas, lettuce, and broccoli. I put a big pumpkin on the super local table, this one was the biggest one we grew on Potrero Hill, what I now consider the banana belt of San Francisco. We gave out more apples that came from Apple Hill near Placerville and this week they were beautiful red ones as well as the yellow green Golden Delicious type. Lauren brought boxes of soft but handsome brown pears from gleaning two weeks ago. I harvested nine pounds of sunchokes from the Esperanza garden and the last of the tomatoes from the other gardens. My friend and neighbor came by with over a pound of gorgeous Rocoto peppers…I originally gave him the seeds for these and I don’t know how many plants he has, but the peppers really looked good and I am sure they were very popular. The Farmer’s Markets are selling more greens and that means we are starting to get more of their left-over’s. Some farmers are packing it up for the winter. Green Gulch Farm had their last day this Saturday and we won’t be getting more starts or greens from them for a while (hopefully I will make a new connection with them in the spring). This is what fall season is about here and I am enjoying it as the weather starts to cool down and feel crispy.

I am also feeling a bit reflective and joyful. I must admit I amazed at the way this project has grown this year and how it has generated a lot of excitement. I heard from one of regular volunteers who goes to USF on Masonic that they have opened their own Free Farm Stand for the students and also for the neighbors, a part of their garden project:

Our stand has also drawn such a large crowd and line, but so far we have continued to have enough produce for everyone. I am actually not going out of my way to collect more produce though my heart is often tugged in that direction. I really like encouraging local food growing. There still are places for people to garden if they want. I know of two backyards that need attention (besides my own). Also, I am still looking for a space to put a green house so we can grow seedlings and trees to give away to neighbors and schools, churches, and shelters.

Someone left this article from the Examiner in my mail box that got me totally excited: . The mayor is ordering city departments to pay a 13% surcharge on city employee’s travel that will go to planting fruit trees throughout the city to increase local food production. The Dept. of the Environment will oversee the fund. It all sounds nice when you read about it, but my sense is that from the start this effort is plagued by bureaucracy. The estimate is that the average cost per tree will be $200. Why so high when bare root trees are only about $30 at the most? Most of all why can’t I get anyone in the city to help me plant the fruit trees I have already collected and have money for in the park where we host the farm stand? They want me to put up a costly fence which in my opinion is not necessary. Again I feel like if we want real change we have to make it ourselves, we can’t count on government to do the right thing. If we want to engage in the political way of bringing about change it means spending a lot of time trying to make our voices heard and gathering a lot of attention.

Here is an example of where our city government is messing up and we should probably speak out about it. On Wednesday October 21 at 2pm in room 416 at City Hall the Building Inspection Committee will be voting on whether to require a permit for single source greywater. In other words discouraging people to recycle their washing machine water by having to jump through a bunch of hoops and pay fees. One can attend this meeting or at least send an email voicing your concerns to Ann Aherne: (she'll make sure every commissioner gets a copy). You can write the same to Steve Panelli, Chief Plumbing Inspector, at:

I ran into a friend of mine named Susan at the recent bee club meeting. She told me she just opened a small specialty nursery featuring edibles, herbs, grasses, and native plants. It is chemical free and is supposed to be an alternative to most standard nurseries. Although I am not a big fan of businesses, I would like to support her effort because the city needs a good nursery that features edibles and she seems open to carrying things that may be unusual if she can get them. I haven’t been by there yet, but we should all check it out, especially people in this neighborhood:

Independent Nature

1504 Church St at 27th

415 6421708

open 11 to 6 daily except Tuesdays

News flash! I just learned in an email from my friend Leif that he and Nicole Lobue are guest chefs this Thursday at Mission Street Food and the profits will go to the Free Farm Stand. I didn't know this was will probably be great food if you don't care about the meat being served or that there isn't anything vegan on the menu.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Glorious Gleaning Galore

I remarked to someone yesterday that the line of tables of produce and boxes of fruit and tomatoes was almost as long as the line of people going down the sidewalk. I still believe small is beautiful, but I haven't yet figured out in my lifetime how to keep projects small. Our project continues to be personal and friendly and non-institutional, but we just have a lot of people coming and we happen to have a lot of produce some weeks. Actually it is really wonderful that one thing we are doing is making a lot of connections with people and as a result hooking up with a lot of resources for food that might otherwise be wasted.

We were off the charts this week in pounds of produce because of all the gleaning that happened, the amount of surplus food collected from organic farmers, and the big harvests from local gardens. I do think the harvest season is the winding down and in the ideal world we would be canning and storing all the summer bounty. Below is a chart of the amount of just the super local food that we either grew or picked this year:

On Wednesday two friends drove down to Davis together to meet another friend who lives down there to glean tomatoes on a farm somehow connected with the University. They had a big field of organic Roma tomatoes that the machines picked and there were a lot along the edges that were not picked. There was also a huge pile of tomatoes that was the dump pile of tomatoes that were slightly blemished or damaged. In three hours the three people picked over 500lbs of tomatoes and brought back to San Francisco (taking both from the dump pile and the picking them). My friend Gary who drove down there said there were a lot left that they didn't pick if anyone wants to go down again. One person made four gallons of tomato sauce that she gave me that I thought about canning and bringing to the stand, but I decided to give it to my friend who was making chili at Martin de Porres Sunday morning. The rest of the tomatoes I brought to the stand and a lot of them were given away, but people choose the more perfect tomatoes and a lot of the blemished ones were left over. I don't think they will be taken if I give them to the Food Bank so I might compost them or try to sort through them and make some more tomato sauce. If anyone reading this wants to cook down some tomatoes contact me soon. The lesson is that we can only give away so much produce if it is slightly blemished and like all wholesalers the produce we collect has to be in somewhat good shape if we are going to store it for any length of time.

Besides the tomato extravaganza, we also had approximately 800lbs of apples and maybe 100 lbs of pears from last week's pear picking. Three gleaning groups went up to pick apples on a piece of land in Placerville, a place known as Apple Hill. Besides all the apples brought back from two groups of gleaners, I have another fifteen boxes of apples brought today. We only gave away some of the apples and the rest will be stored for next week and some will be delivered to the Julian Pantry and other food programs.

Besides all the apples we brought from outside the city, there were apples neighbors brought from two or three more local trees (some that we picked last year) and then three others brought apples to share. Page brought a lot of produce from his Stanford garden and we had a record harvest again from Esperanza garden. The highlight of that harvest was the huge trombone squash and the eggplant (I love growing hot weather vegetables!). We also had vegetables from a local gardener who dropped off a bag of beautiful vegetables from her garden (and apples). I thought the different colors of cherry tomatoes was very impressive, especially the ones that Steve brought from his father's garden in Sebastopol. Did I mention the 20 or more boxes of organic strawberries that came from Veritable Vegetables, the big organic vegetable distributor in San Francisco?

On Saturday I participated in a garden work party at Lisa's backyard. About eight people showed up and we cleaned up her yard, making a huge pile of woody plants and invasive vines and a pile of leaves and weeds. There already was a planting bed in the backyard that we put manure in and then some people planted it with some vegetables starts I brought. It was a great day and everyone seemed to enjoy how it went. Lisa made lunch for everyone and I brought some strawberries for dessert.

I couldn't make it to the Sunday garden work day on Dolores St. but I heard it worked out well. The two garden anchors and Aliza were there and two other showed up. They cleared away a tree that had been cut down and made an archway to the garden. They also got some plans together for the garden.

Another great connection that was made is that Ania contacted me about these two new garden sites wanting to know if she could install grey water systems there. She just graduated from a class at OAEC on grey water and wants to practice what she learned. So she and her friend came out and talked to Lisa and Alisa and took measurements. It looks like Lisa place may work out.

Every week it seems I meet some new person doing something great or learn of something going on that excites me. At the end of the Farm Stand as we were closing up a man named Danny came by with a warm loaf of fresh bread that he had just baked. He blew my socks off telling me he likes to bake bread and give it away for free. He also likes to train people to bake bread. Being a baker myself who rarely bakes anymore it really turned me on with what he was doing right now. His bread was very tasty, a chewy sourdough. You can't beat fresh baked bread right out of the oven. Another amazing thing is that he just started baking five months ago and he will be celebrating in November baking and giving away a 1000 loaves. I suggested he bring some loaves to the Free Farm Stand next Sunday and he might do that. His website and blog is fun to check out too:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hello and goodbye harvest moon!

One thing I have been thinking about recently, especially when I am schlepping so many boxes of produce around, is how much abundance there is, at least in my world. Last night I shared with some friends a large kabocha squash that came from the garden on 18th and Rhode Island and it was so delicious. We baked it with some oil and it had a special earthy sweetness that made me feel like I just tasted the fall season. Wonderful things are in abundance everywhere and this blog is really one extended gratefulness prayer for : the beautiful people that help run the Free Farm Stand, the Cinderella Pumpkins that Tom grew and shared with us yesterday (if anyone got one tell me how it tasted), the amazing pears that Lauren and friends picked on Saturday, for produce neighbors brought, for the left-over produce from the Farmer's Market, the pounds of producel from the Permaculture Garden, for the people that come to the stand and help make it a sweet scene, for the Green Gulch donated seedlings and greens that are grown with so much mindfulness and care, for the sweet amaranth seed spread that Sara harvested, made and brought to share with the bread, for so much plenty.

I decided this week to count the number of people in line just when we started letting people shop. We had 45 people in a line that snaked out onto the sidewalk and my guess is that we had at least over a hundred people getting produce yesterday. Although I write about abundance, seasons change and we actually had less produce that we have had in the past. I know next week is Green Gulch's last day at the market and then they stop coming to the market during winter. Our city gardens will be growing less soon and I imagine the same is true of local farmers who come to the market (thus less leftovers for us bottom feeders). Saying all this we still had plenty of produce to share.

I was especially jazzed that Lauren and her roommates went up to Clearlake to glean pears and that she showed up with boxes of red and yellow pears. They were tasty andthe red ones were especially a work of art. Here is what she wrote me just now about the trip:

" Ed (the pear guy) said he had 8 acres of land and there were about 700-800 trees, half, the red and Bartlett, had been picked before we got there, but we still gleaned through there and got probably around 300 lbs of fruit (and there was still more). The half that hadn't been harvested yet were Bosc, which we also picked around 300 lbs. of (I haven't weighed it all yet) were not as ripe (I'm going to bring them next week to the farm stand). The trees were pretty low, although some we couldn't reach the tops of without a ladder, but since there were so many we didn't use ladders anyway, we just picked the lower fruit. We didn't make even a small dent in the amount of trees or fruit that there was. He said we were more than welcome to come back again after they had harvested the rest of the Bosc and glean what they didn't pick. He bought the land a year or two ago I think, and is working on getting certified organic, so the trees haven't been sprayed since 2007. Currently he's breaking even by selling them to a brandy maker. Not sure what his plans are after they go organic."

There were also some boxes of apples that I think Jay came by with from the apple tree in Golden Gate Park (I missed the apple festival held around the lone apple tree there). At least two people brought by lemons to share from trees in their backyard and I just saw a photo of someone with a basket of plums that they must have brought. Nave brought some pears and apples from his parents place in Sebstapol. I was especially tickled that Chris (?) brought by a bucket of lettuces that were grown in the garden next to the California College of the Arts with seedlings they got from the stand.

This is going to be an abundant week for fruitful garden and gleaning work. This Wednesday there are friends of mine going up to Davis to help glean 500 pounds of extra tomatoes from the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility. Here is what the email I got says:

"the field have already been harvested with a machine harvester but more than 500 pounds is still left intact on the vines at the edges of the fields. A group of pre-school and elementary school kids with the Green Moms of Davis will be coming to help pick as well so come help inculcate them about gleaning! Gleaners are welcome to keep the tomatoes they pick and all left-overs will be donated to the food-bank."

If anyone wants to drive up there and pick I can send you more information.

This weekend, both Saturday and Sunday there are two different garden work parties happening. Two women want help putting in gardens in their backyards and want to share some of their surplus produce at the stand eventually. So here is the information:

The first work party is on Saturday October 10 from 10am-3pm at Lisa's backyard 1422 Guerrero Street between 26th and Cesar Chavez St. The Garden Anchor is Catherine ( and for more info you can email her or Tree (

The next work party is Sunday October 11th from 11pm-3pm at Aliza's backyard which is located behind the green door to the right of 529 Dolores near the Dolores Café on 18th St. The Garden Anchors are Jess ( 707-9717 and Rachel (

Things to bring and what is needed

*Vehicle to pick up stuff not suitable for bike cart
* mulch, manure, cardboard
* Someone to fix bicycle cart for moving tools, etc.
* Bring gloves, trowels, and clippers if you have them

* Someone on Sunday that knows how to use a chain saw…a big tree that was cut down needs to be cut up. We have a chain saw.
*Snacks and refreshments to share

I know of two more backyards in the Mission whose owners want gardens to grow food. This is a great opportunity for people who want to garden to have a place to do that and to give back to the community at the same time.

If anyone is interested in getting out of the city and going to Gold Country (Placer County) next Friday or Saturday I am helping to organize an apple picking trip up there. Again contact me for more information.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Heart Lessons

Today as I was walking Bernal Hill for my daily dose of exercise and meditation two bumper stickers on parked cars seem to grab my attention. “What are you grateful for today?” and “Girls kick ass”. I love thinking about things I am grateful for and there is no short supply. I also have been thinking about all the great feminine energy that I have been around recently. One example, the Free Farm Stand has a cash crop of fabulous helpers these days and a lot of them are strong beautiful women. Not to say there are no strong beautiful men who have been helping, there are, but the women are out there in full force these days and they are mostly running the show.

On Saturday I attended the sweet memorial celebrating the life of Barbara Collier, one of the main love engines who ran the Martin de Porres soup kitchen and community. I could summarize some of that event as being about both gratefulness and kick ass women. Everyone was so grateful for Barbara for the way she touched their lives and grateful for Martin's. She also had a special deep connection with women who were woven throughout her life. Besides the 30 plus year old women’s group she was a part of (it started out as a play group for their children and is still going strong), she had many close soul sisters that she loved and who loved her. She stayed in touch with them (one with regular phone calls to Germany), and she also worked with them at Martin’s. I also came away from the Martin’s remembering the lesson she taught by example, of doing things through our heart rather than our minds.

A funny thing happened this week in relationship to the Free Farm Stand. Because of the memorial happening at Martin’s, all food donations deliveries were canceled. Thanks to Green Gulch farm I was able to get a number of boxes of extra greens they gave to me. And I got some industrial organic food donated by Veritable Vegetable brought to me by Food Not Bombs. I was also feeling that we were doing pretty good with vegetables that we harvested from our gardens. I reminded myself that I am not running a food program exactly and that I want to emphasize growing our own if we can. I purposely did not try to collect more produce to make up for the shortfall we would have, considering the number of people who are showing up these days. As it turned out at 3pm on Saturday, an hour before I was to leave for the memorial, Food Runners contacted me and had a truckload of produce left over from the Ferry Building Farmer’s market and they were even willing to drop it off at my home.

So needless to say we had a ton of produce both on the super local table and the left over organic table. I had a huge harvest from the Esperanza Garden and the trombone squash were truly spectacular. They grew the best of all the locations we are gardening at, because the heat from the concrete wall reflects into the space. I also am excited by the eggplant growing there; it is such a beautiful plant besides being a tasty vegetable to eat.

The squash from the Permaculture garden is impressive in terms of how productive they are. I also actually brought some produce from my shady backyard, 3lbs of tomatoes. And talk about local, we had 3lbs of chestnuts a bunch of us harvested from the sidewalk kitty corner from the park where we set up the stand. A neighbor brought grapefruit from her backyard Tree on Treat that she said were sour, but I took one home and it made a delicious juice. Two others brought tomatoes they had grown. Lauren brought delicious and beautiful apples she had picked from nearby. L dropped off some of her delicious sprouts that she grew. I am hoping soon that we can offer sprout kits to people so they can grow their own sprouts. Autumn brought by olives and olive spreads from the farmer’s market, samples that they gave out and were left over at the end of the day. I love these gestures of sharing and it is really what makes the stand fun and about community. Also, she played violin with a beautiful brother named Jorge that played his homemade instrument out of recycled materials, like a bow with a gourd amplifier on it and a stick that he hit it with. Did I mention the return of the figs? I guess being a fig grower it is either use it or lose it. I had another 28 boxes of figs and because of the heat they some were starting to rot before we could even give them away. I am amazed thought that we had enough food for everyone that came, considering the line never really disappeared until way late in the day.

The plant/garden table was not happening much this week. I am really behind in growing seedlings and have been getting by on donations of starts from Green Gulch. We not only still need a consistent person at the plant table, but someone to help start growing seedlings for our gardens and to give them away at the table on Sundays. I think we could be offering people seedling starter kits and encourage help starting seedlings in homes in the area. Anyone got space in a small greenhouse or sunny window or porch?

I am excited because we will soon have two new gardens in backyards growing some local produce, some of which will be shared at the Free Farm Stand. It seems almost every week I meet people who are excited about what we are doing and they want to know how they can help. And a lot of people say they want to learn how to garden or just get their hands in some dirt. The sidebar on this page will list the garden work parties coming up and how people can help out and what we need. I just learned that a pile of manure on Bernal Hill is available to people who want some for their garden. I wonder if there is someone who wants to collect some for different gardens I know of that can use some?

Also, read about the fruit picking opportunity coming up next Saturday on the side bar. If anyone has a vehicle or even not, but may want to get out of the city for a trip to Clear Lake (2 ½ hours away), some guy is offering people to come up and pick his 1200 pear trees and give the fruit to the food bank or other groups like the Free Farm Stand.

I heard recently that My Farm went out of business, that they went broke (I do not know how to confirm this information though I got it from a good source). Someone described to me that their operation was run like a ponzi scheme, in that they were operating on the money that they got from installing gardens in people backyards, but they didn’t make enough to maintain the gardens or pay people. Although I have not been a big fan of My Farm, I do think that the more gardens growing food in the city the better. I hope all the gardens are kept going (I heard they had something like 70).

I also agree with my friend who told me about My Farm who says growing food to make a profit is not a good business. From my experience this last year or so, it is a lot of work to be a farmer. I know people trying to do that and live off their work, and I think good luck. Though getting $25 a pound for local grown lettuce sounds like a great way to make money, sort of like growing marijuana without the legal hassle. Time will tell with these operations how successful they can be and not getting burnt out. I know that most of us have to pay rent and that is a good question how to do that and have time too for repairing the world. The answer lies in being creative and committed to that goal, and it gets back to starting things with compassion in the heart.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pears and a New Paradigm

Here we are with the Fall Equinox approaching and I feel like I need to catch my breath as this year rushes by. Gandhi had his experiments with Truth and I have been having my experiment with planting and growing a Free Farm Stand. Every week in the park it seems like there is an incredible amount of energy present like a love bomb exploding. First there are now large numbers of people showing up, standing in a line winding out the gate of the park and going down the sidewalk. Then people hang around after shopping, tasting some jam and bread, wandering in the garden, laying on the grass, or kids running around doing what they do. Everyone seems so friendly and cheerful; maybe it is just the sunny weather. Then we have all the hustle and bustle of the great crew of volunteers who show up who work at sorting through boxes of produce and arranging the tables so they look beautiful. And they do and the food itself gives off a vibe that pulsates with life force. I think people really feel it, I know I do.

I love harvesting food that I have helped to plant and grow, I was thinking that last Friday as I picked some of the produce for the stand at 18th St. and Rhode Island. I also really like meeting so many really sweet people that I am meeting each week, there seems to be an equal abundance of beautiful produce and people.

In the Bay Area seasons are most evident at a farm stand by seeing what is locally grown. Tomatoes and squash rule the day in the approaching fall season and we had our share this week. Dave who lives next door to the Secret Garden brought 10lbs of apples from his backyard tree and I had a 10lb bag of locally picked pears that I don't know where they came from (they were dropped off anonymously at the soup kitchen where I volunteer). We also had another huge amount of figs, about 30 boxes, left over from the farmer's market. Later in the day as we were running low on super local food Clara came by with 9lbs of produce from the Secret Garden.

A couple of other beautiful things happened all on their own at the stand yesterday. Lyn gave me about ten bags she had crocheted to give out to people at the stand to put their food in. Here is the note she wrote that we put in each bag (Pancho translated it into Spanish):

This bag has been handmade as a gift for someone who is a part of the Free Farm Stand community; in other words, you.
I give away a part of me with each bag I give out. I make these bags to help spread the feeling of being nurtured and at the same time to inspire people (you) to bring this when you come for the special produce you get here. I would also be thrilled if you could use this bag as inspiration to find your own way of making your own connections with our community.
In making these bags I have only used materials from thrift stores, friends' leftovers, and other places that don't involve new materials. No two bags are alike.
Enjoy your day, the Farm Stand, the bags, and the new paradigm that we're creating.

I assigned Pancho the difficult task of distributing the bags since there were only 10. At the end as Pancho was giving the last bag to someone and another woman asked if she could have it , and Lyn offered to make her a bag to give that she would give her next week!
Another outstanding gesture of sharing happened when my friend Steve pulled up with his home made bicycle refreshment stand. He set up an umbrella and served aqua fresca with melon juice and ice. An act that was hard to beat considering it was pretty warm out there in the park and the line for that was almost as long as the line for the produce. He ran out pretty fast and he said he needed another large glass jar to store more aqua fresca in.

Things are moving ahead with two new backyard gardens coming to life. I think we have found Garden Anchors for the gardens and garden workdays/parties are being planned (see sidebar under volunteer opportunities and events). Yesterday a man who has lived in the neighborhood forever and actually helped us make this park a reality years ago told me he needs help with his garden too. He has an orange and avocado tree in his yard that he wants help picking too later in winter and he'll share his surplus. And a friend just wrote me that he is moving into a place in the Haight where there are four backyards and no fences and the neighbors are into making a big garden and he is looking forward to doing just that.

Last week was an emotional week for me. The previous Sunday (the morning it rained shortly) a friend of mine name Barbara died totally unexpectedly in her sleep. She was one of the core leaders at Martin de Porres (the Catholic Worker soup kitchen I have been helping at for years). Her loss is going to be tremendous. Two things I was reminded of was how sweet and wonderful having a loving, caring community is that an individual can count on for support. It is probably the most important thing we can have in life and it seems worth it to put the time it takes and patience developing that kind of community. And again I am reminded that our time in this world can be very short so we need to make sure we don't get caught up in distractions like dramas that can ruffle our feathers and make us sad or angry. I need to remind myself of this all the time, to take a deep breath.

At our Friday work day at 18th and Rhode Island Lyn brought some apples from Golden Gate Park and honey from our bee hive for us all to eat to celebrate the New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and so that our New Year will be sweet. Already things are moving in that direction.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Free Fig Stand

The Free Farm Stand is generating a lot of excitement these days and I can understand why. The quality of the produce that we are giving away is fresh, beautiful, and healthy. Now we are getting a big line and when the weather is nice like it was yesterday the park fills with people and it becomes a real social scene. A lot of people wind up sitting or laying on the grass, talking to friends, and yesterday there was someone drumming and another person playing a beautiful didgeridoo. From my perspective the scene is not quite sustainable, because I think I need more help in running the show. We seem to have plenty of volunteers the day of the event, but I am still trying to figure out how to get help dealing with all the produce I collect. Maybe it is just a summer phenomena, but the amount of food that we had at the stand was so incredible, it must have been a record amount. I didn't even bring the winter squashes that we had grown or collected because we had so much. This includes a 39lb. pumpkin that we grew at the Permaculture garden that I don't know how to give away and it is too pretty to cut up. So the story is, tons of food I pick up in different places and sometimes different times, put in the van, unload at my house to make room for the bread pick-up, and then I reload the van with the same produce I unloaded earlier. It seems like the way I am doing things is a bit crazy, but it works for now.

Both tables were full: on the super local table we had the summer harvest of zucchini, tomatoes, basil, green beans, Rocoto hot peppers, and mint. Also, my friend Tom from Santa Rosa was in town and brought by 108lbs of apples he gleaned in Santa Rosa and 18lbs of tomatoes he grew and a few cucumbers too. Forest brought zucchini, tomatoes, apples, lemon, and green beans from his father's garden plot in Stanford. Lauren gleaned apples in Golden Gate Park. They were smaller this year than the ones I picked last year. Also, I brought applesauce to share from the apples I picked last week and Christina brought some too, and there was also some hot pepper jam that someone had brought to the stand a while back and I finally put it out to share. Nave brought apples too. Early Saturday morning I picked up from the Farmer's Market 14 boxes of chard, kale, beets, broccoli, and zucchini that were gleaned from the Green Gulch Farm. Later in the day I got over fifty boxes of figs left over from the farmer's market (plus a lot of other produce). By the end of the day everything was given away except two boxes of greens that I took today to the food bank. A number of people took boxes of soft or mushy figs home to make jam. Stay tuned and get ready for great bowel movements.

Antonio brought over his students from the Ecological Gardening course he is teaching and I spoke to them about the stand. I talked about my early inspiration gleaned from the diggers ( and fast forwarded to today and the local food growing movement and my involvement in it. I still read a lot of stuff on line and get emails about all these hip events centered around eating fresh, local, wild or organically/sustainable grown foods or even politically correct meat, that one has to pay a pretty penny for. To me (being perhaps a bit judgmental here), that is not what this current revolution is about. I hope I got that point across. Then they all went to the Secret Garden and helped prune trees and plant snap peas. Fantastic!

Last week I went over with two people to check out Lisa's garden on Guerrero and 26th and talk to her about what she would like to see happen with her garden space. It was very exciting and I think all three of us went away excited about this new gardening opportunity. Then yesterday another woman approached me about her backyard garden space on 18th and Dolores that she wants help with. I want to start to train people to not only learn how to grow a garden for the Free Farm Stand but be "Volunteer Garden Anchors". I even wrote something up about it that I might add to a volunteer section of this web site someday, though I am not sure if this seems a bit stuffy:

(4 hrs per week) Volunteer Garden Anchor:

  • Learn how to design a small backyard garden, maintain it, and grow food and flowers to share at the Free Farm Stand
  • Learn how to work with and keep volunteers happy and busy

The volunteer garden anchor will work with me and a team of other volunteers and the tenant whose backyard garden we will be working in the Mission. My approach will be very hands on and hopefully I can step back and let the garden anchor learn by doing. We will use all appropriate approaches to sustainable organic gardening including permaculture and bio-intensive techniques. The anchor will be responsible for general garden upkeep, planting, harvesting, and bringing the surplus to the Free Farm Stand.


Must be responsible (the volunteer garden anchor will have a key to the backyard) and some familiarity with gardening. The ideal person for this job would hopefully be passionate about growing local food and making it accessible to all, especially people on low incomes and tight budgets. 3 month commitment necessary.

Say are there any web designers out here that may want to design a real web site for this blog?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pictures from Eat-In and Free Farm Stand

Here are some photos from the Eat-In at our 18th and Rhode Island garden:

Here are pictures from the last Free Farm Stand: