Monday, February 9, 2009

Fat of the Land

There is talk about sucking it in and tightening our belt buckles. I have been thinking how ironic it is that this country is so dependent right now on people over consuming and buying lots of crap. Now we are in trouble partly because consumer spending is down and people are losing their jobs. And what traditionally really keeps us artificially alive is government spending on the military and building prisons.

This land North America is fat and we can live off of it. One thing for sure is that we are fat with waste. Land wasted in our cities that could be growing food and unbelievably food going to waste everyday (including fruit trees that don't get picked and dumpsters being filled with good food). I must say San Francisco does a pretty good job of trying to reclaim food that would otherwise would be thrown out, with the existence of the San Francisco Food Bank and Food Runners and all the food programs here feeding the hungry.

Now we have the opportunity to learn how to live off the fat of the land and I feel so lucky to get to try my hands at it. Currently I am excited about growing potatoes in towers or trash cans with their bottoms cut out, and plopping these towers wherever there is unused sunny space. Yesterday I was in Treat Commons and my friend was harvesting potatoes that she had planted for the first time. It was wonderful seeing her excitement at the magic of pulling up the spuds out of the soil, I mean she was so happy!

Also, almost every day I walk by a recently created sidewalk garden and I would love to try planting a potato tower right there on the sidewalk. And an artichoke plant to boot! Where are the crazy people like me?

The Free Farm Stand came off without a hitch yesterday. It didn't rain, though it was rather cool and it kept Thy jumping up and down at the end to get warm. Though we did have brief visits by the sun. Besides our regular crew of helpers, there was a new volunteer Dana visiting from Vermont. I always want to say how much I appreciate the help and it was also great that Jeff came by with his Spanish speaking skills. We still need help in that department.

We loaded the table mostly with excess organic produce from the Ferry Building Farmer's Market, lots of broccoli raab, and other greens, beets, daikon radish, a little broccoli and cauliflower, various herbs, and leeks. I harvested from two gardens 3 ½ lbs of greens (kale and perpetual chard) and 1 ½ lbs of baby lettuce. I also picked some cilantro and arugula, and some more broccoli side shoots. We are still finding a handful of Cape Gooseberries (imagine if we had a long hedgerow of them growing in some sunny spot). Page came by with a small basket full of lemons from the Holy Innocents Church in Noe Valley and brought by some big cauliflower plants to give away and some other seedlings. We also had a good amount of bread and no non-vegan pastries.

Using a counter we counted at least 66 people shopping at the stand this week.

Other news

I went to the neighborhood meeting about the trees being cut down in front of General Hospital (so trucks can get into the site where they are building the new hospital). Immediately we learned that the number of trees on the sidewalk to be cut are going to be two not seven. The architect who is supervising the project seems like he is trying really hard not to cut trees unless he has to and one of the trees is apparently injured and not growing well. I also learned that where they are building the new hospital there will be over 100 trees removed. I got the impression there isn't much that can be done about it at this point. There was also talk about the plans to cut a lot of trees at St. Luke's hospital, but apparently there is no final plan yet, so people can still have an influence in what happens. I have a soft spot for trees and so that is why this gets mentioned here in my space for talking about the Free Farm Stand and growing food locally.

I don't know if this is true but I heard that the Victory Gardens project lost it's funding to put in 15 gardens this year. The idea of helping people put in gardens in their backyards is one that I am particularly fond of and perhaps this year the Free Farm Stand can start doing this. Already last week I visited a beautiful preschool here in the Mission, Las Americas, that has gardens and more space that needs a lot of help. They serve low income families and the staff seems open to any ideas we come up with for their gardens. I saw a lot of potential there including planting fruit trees. What is needed is someone to help start a garden group that would once a week help someone with putting in a garden and then over the season provide mentorship. The idea being the more gardens the more people growing their own food and any surplus could be shared at the Free Farm Stand with neighbors without garden space or other neighborhood gardeners.

I also heard the Homeless Connect Garden ran into problems putting a "homeless garden" in at 16th and 7th Street and is looking for another space to put a garden. What about the idea of closing parts of Market St. and putting in a garden there?

I enjoyed going to the Permaculture Guild meeting on Wednesday night. Though I don't see myself as a permaculturist exactly, I haven't taken any courses and don't have a degree, I like going to the meetings because right now I always learn something when I attend. There was an interesting presentation from some students of RDI (Regenerative Design Institute) in Bolinas. They have made a plan of putting in a food forest in Golden Gate Park next to Kezar Statium that is 2 acres of land. They are facing a similar situation I am with putting in fruit trees on Park and Recreation land.

Talking about that, things are still moving forward with putting fruit trees in our park where we do the farm stand. The head director of parks in our area wants to expand the space for the community garden so that any fruit trees we plant would go in the community garden and not be under the park's jurisdiction. Meaning he wants to pass the problem of growing fruit trees to the community garden, giving him less for him and his staff to deal with. How hard it will be to change the land use we will see, it has to go to the Park Commission.

This week I hope to start planting lots of seeds that I just got through the mail and perhaps installing a potato tower here and there. I've got spring fever already.

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