Monday, August 3, 2009

Peak Produce

We have heard about the idea of Peak Oil, but what about Peak Produce, have we reached that at the Free Farm Stand yet? Or what about Peak People, the beautiful people of all sorts that I am constantly meeting, the New Diggers, the dreamers and doers, the disguised saints, the sweet crazies (aren't we all)?

Sunday the sun came out in the afternoon to shine on all the hundreds of pounds of organic fresh produce that was collected to share. Check out the sidebar for see the total amounts of food people have grown or collected this year that doesn't come from the farmer's market. The shoppers lined up a little early and I don't think there was ever a break in the sharing dance. For me it started Saturday. Friday night I got a call from my friend Joanne that now lives at Green Gulch Farm and sits zazen and farms. You can't beat that. She found out that there was a field of food that was going to be plowed under the next day and she asked me if I could use some for the stand, that she could pick some and put it on the truck driving to the Ferry Building Farmer's market the next day. I of course said yes, I have always felt that the produce from them is very special, infused with a spiritual vibe that makes one high just to be near it. We got seven boxes of produce from them and I think in the future we may also get some starts from them too. And as I knew it would be the kale, lettuce, and rainbow chard was totally beautiful and fresh and such a beautiful gift and I was excited to be able to share it with our neighborhood.

Actually just before I left I looked across the street at the big supermarket and the area where the trucks drive in and block the open door to the back of the store. This is when one can sneak over there and look in their dumpster or go through the pallet of produce they are getting rid of (I don't know where it goes, it gets put in a truck and driven away). The store employers don't see you (they are not into sharing) and it is easy to score some stuff, mostly worthy of a compost pile, but every once in a while a box of rotting organic bananas for banana bread. These days industrial organic produce winds up in our supermarkets and then some of it goes out the back door probably to be composted somewhere. I like to grab some of it to make more compost for our gardens and I have a friend that is a Hare Krishna devotee who prefers to eat the food that is being wasted and no one else wants. We both hit this dumpster at different times, and I always offer him what I find before it goes in my compost. So that Saturday I hit a jackpot of produce but was too busy to get more than a box, I chose the one that looked like it had the most organic stuff in it. I spent the rest of the day thinking about what an abundant and yet so wasteful society we live in. I feel good that I can help recycle some of the abundant organic food we grow either to feed people directly with left over's from the farmer's markets or to help us grow more gardens.

Then later in the day I picked up food that Food Runners delivers to the soup kitchen where I volunteer and since they are on vacation for two weeks, I could get a lot more. It so happened that Food Runners picked up a lot of extra produce from the Ferry Building Farmers Market, somehow Eatwell farms had a lot of surplus zucchini and eggplant and the van was loaded to the max.

We also harvested a lot of locally grown food and throughout the day people kept showing up with more. People brought 131lbs of produce, including lemons, grapefruits, tomatoes, plums (about three kinds), loquats, apricots, herbs, sprouts, and zucchini. Also, Maggie brought two quarts of homemade tomato salsa and someone brought plum jam. One of the most beautiful "sharings" was that my friend Ray showed up with a big bottle of green tea with ginseng and honey and ice and cups. I have known Ray for about 22 years and he has been somewhat homeless forever, but now he lives in a Tenderloin hotel. I met him through a vegan soup kitchen I was helping to run and he just became a vegetarian so appreciated a place he could get healthy no meat food. He started coming around the Free Farm Stand and picking up bread and some fruit (I don't know how much he cooks). He finally got out of a wheelchair after two years because of a knee injury. And he uses a cane when he gets out. It was so sweet that he felt like he wanted to be part of the scene and bring something he could share with others (I spoke to him the week before and he offered to bring soda but we agreed on tea). Pancho also told me a sweet story he had with an older Spanish speaking woman who was getting some fruit and vegetables, but passed on the bread, because she didn't need it and wanted to save some for others. The real miracle of the day is that 99% of the food was given away. I still wind up having way to many herbs, mostly rosemary, that I have left over. Anyone have any ideas what to do with lots and lots of rosemary every week?

Again I need to say how great a volunteer crew we have. The stand seems to have a life of its own and I have been able to step away a bit and let others run things. One fantastic development is that Kevin who has been picking fruit with Produce to the People has really gotten on board with giving out the bread. He has shown up early to make sure he can do that job and it is great to see him feeling empowered with the work he is doing. The summer program ends next week but there will be funds in the fall to hire youth for these kinds of projects. And word is out that he wants to keep coming to give out bread. He does a wonderful job the way he organizes the bread on the table and serves the bread with jam.

Other projects:

One of my ongoing projects is to plant more fruit trees in Parque Niños Unidos where we have the stand. Unfortunately the park officials want me to put a fence around the area and basically expand the garden into the park so I have to raise maybe $3000 or more to do this. I have also been dreaming of putting a greenhouse there too which would require more funds. I was hoping to apply for a grant from San Francisco Beautiful, but temporarily they have run out of funds. I may be taking a workshop this week to help identify funders.

I get a lot of people saying they want to help in some way. Many people want to help us grow food for the stand. Right now there are four gardens that I am growing food in and they could all use help. I had the idea of training people to help manage each garden to supply food to share at the stand. Already a friend Clara has started working at the Secret Garden and we hope to know more in the future about her schedule and how others can join her.

The permaculture garden at 18th and Rhode Island with our non profit The No Penny Opera, just got a grant and once we get the check we will know for sure the amount. The money will pay for our water bill, give us money to buy seeds and plants, install a couple of types of a watering systems, etc. I will keep people up to date as we get more information. We have been having real nice workdays and thanks to Cristina we have been documenting each day with her great photos. Lauren brought the kids from her project over and they helped harvest four pounds of potatoes and plant seeds. Cristina has also been taking photos of our lunches which actually look pretty good.

Here are some pretty inspiring photographs of urban gardens around the world that Nanda sent me the link to:,29307,1913033,00.html. Included in the photo slide show is a shot of the rooftop garden on top of Glide and a couple of shots of City Slicker Farm in Oakland. I have been realizing recently that the Mission is so dense with very little open space that I see. Downtown has more open space in the form of big parking lots and if we reduced the number of cars in the city those park lots the concrete could be torn up and made into farms. But if you want to grow food in the Mission another far away dream would be to tear down fences in backyards and neighbors grow food together. There is also a lot of interest in rooftop gardens (a lot of the photos in the Time magazine link are of rooftop gardens). I have never been to excited by gardening on a roof, it seems like it could be a lonely experience. I will stick with the dream of searching for vacant land in the Mission that I can plant my feet in.

In case you haven't heard Greywater was just made legal in California: Hooray!

And I just read that the school district has lots of property going to waste, like a place on Mission and 16th. Can we talk someone into tearing up some asphalt there and planting a garden?

1 comment:

Anna, The Lemon Lady said...


You are amazing! Amazing! Amazing! I'm so happy to read your blog. Glad to know you are keeping a nice journal for others to learn and be inspired too. Awesome. Please, keep in touch.