It was a beautiful warm winter day at the Stand today. I was handing out numbers because we were short handed, but we were also very short on produce.  We did have a lot of greens from the farm though. I was feeling bad that we had so little to give out, but almost  everyone was so understanding and were happy to get whatever we had.  We are still trying to get a regular crew together to pick up produce from the farmer’s market at Stonestown Mall, but Mike drove the van this time and it was great. We got a lot of surplus produce and were able to give everyone who had been patiently waiting a fair amount of vegetables and fruit (a lot of oranges and tangerines).

A couple of friends that were involved in trying to save Kezar Garden and the HANC Recyling Center ran the plant table and gave away  seedlings. They are interested in expanding that part of the Free Farm Stand and making it more educational.

Being an old optimistic hippie, I try to keep this blog upbeat. I know that we live in a world of abundant blessings and we have the power to make a difference in the world. Yet just like we are a part of nature (not separate from it), we are also part of a world gone crazy. San Francisco seems way off the hook to me right now and I have lived in the city 43 years, 39 of those years in the Mission on the same block. There seems to be a lot of things happening right now. Besides the foodie explosion (The Chronicle reported that in the last year and a half there were sixteen new restaurants that opened on Valencia and that rents on space were tripling), apartment rents are sky high. Tech buses from Silicone Valley bring workers back and forth to San Francisco so that they can live here and work there (map). Valley tech workers  apparently can pay the high prices for rent and be in an up and coming trendy city. Also, investors are buying up property, doing the Ellis Act thing and eventually less rental units more condos (and no truly  affordable housing). I have two friends that are probably going to be evicted  soon. One friend lives in a property that foreclosed and the bank sold it to a  Chinese Real Estate Developer Wai Ahead LLC who wants to take it off the rental market by using the Ellis Act.  My other friend  has been in the building probably 20 years. This tends to send a negative vibration reverberating into my world of sweet dreams and pleasant happenings.

Then there is the struggle to preserve open space in the city.  Because of our bubble here, vacant lots are disappearing.  Esperanza Garden that has grown over 500 pounds of produce for the Free Farm Stand is soon to get the boot in April or perhaps a little earlier.  We have had an agreement with the very generous landlord to move when he wanted to develop the space, and now there is a notice on the fence that there is  a plan to put a condo there. What also irks me is that somehow these days you can get around the requirement for having a backyard and open space by counting your roof of the new building as open space. The plans for developing the Free Farm are moving ahead also. I just learned that the developers have signed paperwork indicating that they have the funding for the project, so the next step is an environmental review of the project…maybe 1 1/2-2 years left there.

Being a bit agitated with these thoughts I read an email on the San Francisco Urban Agriculture Alliance (SFUAA) yahoo group. Eli had forwarded an announcement from Bi-Rite market saying they were interested in buying locally grown  Meyer lemons for their “Public” label marmalade (here is the link to their blog post). I decided to write a short email in response to this because frankly it not only saddened me,  annoyed me too. It seems like now the Free Farm Stand will have to compete with people selling their backyard fruit rather donating it to us or other  group serving those people who are struggling to get by. My main point that I wrote was “we need to move away from the money making model based on the idea of scarcity and move towards a society centered on sharing the abundance, being generous with each other, and caring and compassion for those who are down and out.”

I didn’t realize how many people would respond to what I wrote. Here are some examples:

On Tue, Jan 15, 2013 at 10:53 PM, Ron Stanford wrote:

“not to set up an argument, tree makes some good points, but if bi-rite wants to make marmalade, ethically speaking, where should they buy lemons?…seems like the question is really one of scale and impact. They’re trying  to do the right thing, relatively speaking. If this marmalade were to become so popular that it started to distort the price/ demand for locally grown lemons to the point where people were stripping trees… one imagines there might be a lot more lemon trees planted and people trying to make/sell local marmalade. Maybe not the worst thing for poorer people locally. Clearly there are some circumstances where things shouldn’t be for sale, (http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/may/moral-limits-markets-052512.html), and/ or certain ‘markets that should be ‘protected (e.g.: local producers over international agribusiness), but at this scale, the biggest effect might be to raise awareness.

He is defending the current system we have going. He is essentially saying small is beautiful and that it is true. But don’t nice small businesses often to grow up to be big mean businesses?
Re: Bi-Rite Market is Buying Meyer Lemons Through Tuesday Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:31 am (PST) .                             Posted by:Mary Beth Pudup

“To continue and perhaps extend the important conversation initiated by Tree. Bi-Rite’s call for meyer lemons game me pause, as well. It also reminded me of an op-ed piece published in the SF Chronicle a few months ago by Bi-Rite owner Sam Mogannam and People’s Grocery Brahm Ahmadientitled “Groceries as Communities for Change”…The link to the original article on sfgate is posted below. http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Groceries-as-communities-for-change-3988850.php  In writing this, I know I run the risk of being labeled “anti-Bi-Rite” so let me make clear that I am not…it’s possible and important to have a critical understanding of the messy (complex, contradictory, etc.) politics of local food and its that understanding being asked for, it seems to me, by Tree’s posting…”

This response was well thought out and I agreed with her and with her observation of ‘”the Mission District’s rampant and relentless gentrification, which is the product of larger forces involving the City’s changing industrial and occupational structure.” I am not anti-Bi-Rite either, just wanting to point out that we have a problem here and that Bi-Rite in my opinion does not offer a solution, but is part of the problem.
Wed Jan 16, 2013 5:31 pm (PST) . Posted by: Diane Robinson

I find these responses to be way over the top! If Bi Rite wants to source out locally grown lemons and pay individuals for their harvest, that supports local economy and promotes integration in a lovely way…Fighting a creative idea put forth by a specialty food market is not going to bring your rents down. Please pick your battles more selectively.

More defending of the status quo.
On Wed, 1/16/13, Justin wrote: “Just because money and profit are involved, does not mean there is some evil afoot… Bi Rite is putting in extra work to deal with small sellers instead of large distributors, bringing community (the non-monetary) into cooperative interaction with  thriving small business. So they want to buy lemons from regular people with surplus? This could be encouraged and nurtured as the new model for distribution! Localize it!… And “gentrification” to me means a slum becoming a safe desirable place to live. The mission district of SF is already there. A health food store instead of Safeway. Good thing. Support small businesses like Bi-Rite!”
More supporting friendly gentler local business vs big bad corporations.

On Thu, Jan 17, 2013 at 9:06 PM, Jo Podvin  wrote: “Sounds like you’ve got a gentrifier definition of gentrification, Justin. Here’s Merriam-Webster’s: the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents. Not too bad for affluent marmalade consumers; not so good for displaced low-income folks. I love Tree for bringing up the complicated ethical conundrums inherent in the locavore/foodie/über-groovy urban homesteading movements…”

Yes the Free Farm Stand and the Free Farm is a part of that movement unfortunately, but I am pushing for a focus on service, generosity, compassion and care for those in trouble, moving away from materialism and focusing on the spiritual and divine.
From: Kevin Dole Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2013 10:50:19 -0800

“Is an independent grocer purchasing locally sourced lemons for the purpose of creating boutique marmalade targeted at affluent customers a textbook example of the “enlightened & bourgeois/bohemian cultural patterns correlated with gentrification? YES. Is the same sourcing of lemons a great example of low impact, localized agriculture and economic integration? YES. Will opposing the Bi Rite lemon purchasing program on ideological grounds do anything to slow gentrification in the Mission, or anywhere else in San Francisco? NO.  Will opposing the lemon purchasing program do anything to advance urban ag in San Francisco? NO….I can think of no better way to make urban ag relevant to low income home owners than to make them recognize the old tree in their yard as a possible income source, however small. Same goes for renters in multi-unit apartment houses. Someone should connect with low-income people with lemon trees and facilitate the Bi-Rite connection.”

I think he missed my point, but it did inspire the following response:
On Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 1:24 PM, Jean Yaste  wrote:

” I agree whole heartedly with kevin here, and can offer to volunteer to go door to door to find folks with lemon trees and give them info re: the bi-rite buy.”

I don’t think she would be inspired to go door to door to find folks with fruit trees that needed picking and offering to take them to some people or group that would really want some because they can’t afford to buy them.

Fortunately, these days there are plenty of examples of people doing good work to repair the world. Here is a group I just heard about that is trying to preventing food waste starting at the farm: http://dailynightly.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/18/16588632-hidden-harvest-finds-new-use-for-food-left-behind?lite

Here is a link to another Free Farm Stand that I never knew about, this was reported being seen in June of 2012:

http://missionlocal.org/2012/06/snap-free-farm-stand-gratis/.

And while we are all enjoying our delicious quinoa salad, here is another article that has come out saying we might want to eat more locally: Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa?

Yes this world we live in is way too difficult sometimes figuring out how to navigate it…I have always wanted a moral GPS application for my heart.

Here are a few photos from the Stand…

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 Beets fresh from the garden keep me Up Beet

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peppers from the hot house at the Free Farm

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 kale from the Free Farm

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perrenial leeks

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a sunny day  perfect for gardening

 

 

 

 

  • http://funcrunch.org/ Julie Bernstein

    Glad I could be there with you and the other volunteers on the beautiful sunny day yesterday.

    The lemon issue is interesting. I
    wonder if my Berkeley friends with their abundantly-producing lemon
    tree would rather sell the produce to make a few bucks or give them
    away. I find when I have extras of something like clothes or books, I would rather simply give them away than go through the hassle of finding a buyer and haggling.

    I think we need to foster a culture where sharing food
    without profit is not only seen as the moral thing to do, but is made easier to do, so tree and garden owners can simply arrange to have their excess collected on a regular basis, just like the compost is collected from homes and apartments here in San Francisco, with no further involvement on the homeowner’s part.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/QCT4TEPHC2KYHLKR7IAWFVSL7I Ken Smith

    Stay up beet!