Sunday, February 14, 2010

We have a new address!

Please visit the new improved site at

This site will no longer be kept up to date. Thanks

Monday, February 8, 2010

Harvested with a Kiss

I feel good and all ready for the love holiday coming up this February 14th. I remember years ago in the early seventies a beautiful man, one of my mentors, a poet, gardener, and visionary named Geoff Brown started probably the first free garden in San Francisco on South Van Ness Street near where I now live. He talked about delivering each lettuce he grew to fellow communards with a kiss. The Free Farm Stand and now the Free Farm is all about sharing the love in the same way. This week the love was mostly green and orange as we gave out lots of greens and gleaned oranges and tangerines (and some lemons). Tofutown folks came by with a lot of vegan fake meat that we handed out that sort of made up for the second week of no Acme bread. Steve brought by surplus collards from his plot at Portreo del Sol from seedlings he got from the stand. Hurray and right on! A neighbor brought by some sour grapefruit from her tree which I think can be used for juice. The oranges and tangerines were from Stanford glean. They were going to bring forty lettuces but they got rip off (ripped out literally) the day before they were picked. We were all out of produce around 2 or 2:30pm.

The Free Farm rocked this week as we began Wednesday workdays. Since others in our group are documenting this so well I suggest just going to their link for photos, writings, and even some videos:
Here are some photos from the Wednesday workday:

I love working with this new group of people. I am not a Christian, but I relate to all good stories about feeding the poor and miracle making. I stumbled upon this beautiful writing last year by Megan who we are working with and her Urban Share project : She says "Jesus feeds 5000….But what if we could do it too?...using this model of Urban Share we are working on a community garden project to enable churches and other organizations to create gardens to grow food, learn about hunger and meet the need that is so much more than a need for daily bread. Working with local gardening activists we have learned that it is possible to create raised bed, sidewalk, rooftop and [vacant] lot gardens virtually for free by recycling materials that are common in urban environments."

On Saturday I missed some of the Free Farm workday and the lunch which by all reports was fabuloso so I could check out the designs for the new park being designed for the parking lot at Folsom and 17th Sts. In the Mission. One of the questions I asked is why does the city have to buy the land from PUC (thus the need to write a grant proposal). It seems it is state law and I couldn't quite figure it out, just a crazy system, where the PUC has to protect it's rate payers who also just happen to be the citizens who run the city government. Anyway if they get the grant they can go ahead with this project. I heard that they at least talked PUC down in price to two million dollars for the lot.

I ran into a number of friends at the presentation of the designs that was held under a canopy in the parking lot, so we could get a better sense of what we are talking about. Wow it is a pretty big space! And the abandoned chocolate factory next door isn't even on the plan. Many of my friends that were there also were on the same page as me in wanting a design with the maximum growing area and supporting the idea of using the land to grow food for the community.

There were three designs presented and everyone was asked to put a label on the design they liked the best and got three stars to put on what design element they liked most. I had sent the design team an email with my ideas that included links to functional play equipment (like a teeter-totter that pumped water) and they used some of the photos in the presentation. The three designs are Revolution Park Concept, Mission Creek Commons Concept, Eco-People Park Concept. You can download the three designs here (at the bottom of their page) and also send them feedback by email
I liked the Mission Creek design since it seemed to have the most space devoted to farm/garden/growing food.
You can also attend the second design review tomorrow Feb. 9th from 6-9pm at the planning department (1650 Mission St. near Duboce Ave 4th Floor room 431).

Check out my links page on the is growing with new friends that are doing cool work. I forgot to mention my visit to the Hayes Valley Farm last week. Wow what a project going on there!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sukuma Wiki

Yesterday was a Sunday that was a beautiful cool and cloudy winter day at the Free Farm Stand, with the sun poking out once in a while. It was one of those seasonal days where we didn't have a ton of produce (like the week before) and the most we are getting from our gardens are greens, a little broccoli, and some lettuce. I was able to pick a few more rocoto peppers (they are our winter heroes, like our white sapotes, lemons, greens, and chayotes, though our chayote plants haven't stepped up to the plate yet). It was a skimpy day produce wise and we had a huge crowd. Though we ran out of produce early we did seem to give everyone some good stuff. The thing I felt most positive about is that now the Free Farm Stand has a Free Farm. So it feels like we are doing the best we can to grow our own food and to encourage others to do the same and to share the surplus.

Fruit gleaning is going ahead and Stanford Glean and Page brought by approximately 20lbs of citrus from students who gleaned the trees at Stanford and the fruit that he picked from Holy Innocents. I got some lemons from our neighbor's tree. Lyn grew some more of her wonderful black lentil sprouts. We got a bag full of greens from some kids gardens connected to Urban Sprouts. Treat Commons contributed about two pounds of greens and the majority of greens came from 18th and Rhode Island. Right towards the end when we ran out of most everything, Clara brought by some greens from the Secret Garden.

Last week someone had left a bucket full of tree collard branches in the garden. This week Mike potted them up and we gave some of them out. I really appreciate these plants and I think all gardens should grow them. Last year Pam Pierce turned me onto growing collards which she prefers over tree collards. I actually like them both a lot. A beautiful traveling farmer from Nebraska wound up at the stand this week who saw the tree collards and got very excited according to Pancho. This young farmer who was taking a break from the cold winter in Nebraska said that he was in Kenya (or somewhere in East Africa) and saw this vegetable. ""Sukama Wiki is the Swahili for "pushing out the week". Most households grow it (especially in Kenya) if they have the space, and it is also cheap to buy, highly nutritious and delicious. If there is no other food in the house, sukuma will be there until the next payment comes in. This is awesome! I was looking for a sukuma wiki for a long time (it can only grow from propagation) and now that I'm going back to Nebraska it would be perfect of our gardens!". I looked this up on the web and one place ( had a recipe and said the same thing about the name "sukuma wiki means 'to push the week' implying sukuma wiki is a food used to stretch the meals to last for the week." Us poor folks on tight budgets need foods like these. Pancho also had the impression " that it was an "up lifter", I guess it is a synonym of "pushing out the week". That is what is going on here in San Francisco in a spiritual sense…a green uplifter.

The news that is most exciting is that on Saturday we had the greatest work day at the Free Farm. Some of our core team started early by picking up some compost and bringing it to the site. We decided to start each work day with having a huddle and talking about what we planned to do that day. Since this was our first really highly organized day we came up with a list of responsibilities that needed taking care of on a regular basis and people volunteered to help. One neighbor who has lived near this empty lot for ten years offered to keep his eye on the property and be a security person. He expressed how grateful he was that we were putting the lot to good use finally. Then we went to work and the entire lot got totally cleaned up. A number of people moved all the stray bricks and rubble into a neat pile, compost piles were started, garbage bagged up, and construction materials put together in neat piles. I was impressed with how many syringes and needles that were found especially along the edges. I had two flats of strawberries that got planted and our first rows for vegetables were staked and laid out. At previous meetings we decided we wanted to serve lunch to our volunteers so every week a different person cooks and brings it to the farm. I really believe that besides growing a farm together, we are growing community, and taking a break together and sharing a meal is one way that helps with that process. At the end of the day we put away our tools away and held one last ceremony. We walked around and checked out what we accomplished and thanked ourselves. I think we all felt pretty high when we left. We don't have a website just for this farm yet but check out Welcome's blog on this project

I also had a wonderful workday on Friday at the 18th and Rhode Island garden. We planted more fruit trees and it looks like we are going to eventually have a food forest there.