One could say the world is a garden full of challenges growing everywhere. I grew up a good Jewish boy wanting to make the world better. There always seemed a lot to do.  I lucked out and at an early age and I found a group of people who became my real family (since I never had a family after the age of 17 years old). I lived in an “intentional community” or commune for 24 years with my new family.

The best thing that happened is they helped me do what I was passionate about, to live a life of service.  Karma yoga (selfless service), tikkun olam (world repair), love in action. That is what it’s all about and I love what I do.
Now I am not living communally though I still believe that it is the ideal life style for people who want to do service together. Share income and live together like a family: Catholic Worker style and creating Houses of Hospitality or homes of Love and Prayer.

These days I am running projects run entirely by volunteers and we don’t live in a commune together. For me it is somewhat difficult, since I am used to working together with people in a communal context.

The Free Farm Stand, after 6 years, has become the next best thing to a communally run project. We do pretty well for an all-volunteer group and we have some core people who have helped us run the Stand smoothly. It feels like a family event when I go there, a lot of neighbors connect with each other and it feels great. I also love it when people bring something from their garden to share. This week it was oranges and collards, and Padrón peppers.

Neighbors sharing produce

Neighbors sharing collards and peppers

Oranges from a neighbor's tree

Oranges from a neighbor’s tree

 

The All in Common Garden is in its infancy period. Since May we have been trying to create a core of volunteers to help to improve the space and turn it into an urban ag resource center. So far we are pretty shorthanded and can really use help, although we have done a lot so far. We are getting closer to setting up a greenhouse and that has been our next priority, getting a place to grow seedlings and having a place to work when the rains come. Right now we need carpentry, electrical, and plumbing help, help moving big things that take more than one person to move, and there is always gardening help (any skill level ok). I am especially interested in building a team of regular volunteers that want to help keep the All in Common Garden open to the public with regular hours.

All in Common Garden sign

All in Common Garden

This work we do is about making the world better. I don’t  want to live in a world where what’s yours is mine (for a price or fee), which sums up what is the fad right now, something that is deceivingly called the “sharing economy” or collaborative consumption.  Although AirBnB is getting some bad attention these days as the government tries to regulate it, it seems these kinds of operations remain pretty popular. I like the idea of a shift away from everyone having to own everything, but having to basically rent things from everyone is not what makes the world a place for happy campers in my opinion. I read on some “sharing” website  that their goal was to see people live less wasteful and more connected lives.  We too!

Here are some photos of what sharing gardens and produce looks like:

Hecka Local produce

Hecka Local produce

 

Salad from St. Aidan's Episcopal Church

Salad from St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church

 

Garden photos from volunteers and neighbors

Home garden photos from volunteers and neighbors

Also thanks to La Baguette from the Stonestown Farmers Market for donating bread.

Thank you La Baguette

Thank you La Baguette


Hi, I’m Pax. I’ll be helping Tree out with the Free Farm Stand blog going forward. I’m a regular volunteer there, helping with setup and breakdown and staffing our Vegan Information Station. I also volunteer at Alemany Farm and the All in Common Garden, helping grow and harvest food to distribute at the Farm Stand.

Harvesting pineapple guavas at Alemany Farm

Loren and Pax harvesting pineapple guavas at Alemany Farm. Photo by Tree

At Alemany Farm this month we’re harvesting a lot of pineapple guavas, also known as feijoas. These juicy green fruits are delicious raw. Many people peel them – amusing instructions here – but the peels are also edible, and their sour taste makes a nice contrast to the sweet pulp within.

I’ll be writing much more in the coming weeks. If you’re local, stop by the farm stand any Sunday and say hello!


I may have been born with extra worry genes. I always remember being a worrier (not a warrior). Though Peace Pilgrim said that worrying is just another habit like anger. She talked about relinquishment of the worry habit and living in the present. I think the universe has always been nudging me to give up my worrying habit. I remember as a kid I was big fan of Mad magazine and “What me Worry?” has been one of my mantras. I also relate to Meher Baba who said “Don’t worry, be happy”.

The other day I had an experience that made me realize that I still have a way to go to get off the worry habit, but that I have made progress as time goes on. I recognized in a close  friend their worry habit and that they were trying to push it on me. Thanks to grace I was able to see that I don’t need to be worried like they wanted me to be.

I am trying to break this habit in my life and in the work I do including at the Free Farm Stand and in the gardens I am growing, like at the 23rd Street Garden. I am trying to stay chill and not worry so much about everything working out the way I had planned. I try to put my worry energy into spending some time practicing sitting in silence every day and into prayer.

Both the Free Farm Stand and the 23rd Street Garden are doing great. This week was another time in our project’s history that it seemed that the Hecka Local table had more produce and greater variety than the table with the left-over produce from the farmer’s market. I am not sure why but the amount of left-over produce from the markets seems to be a little less, though there continues to be a lot of stone fruit (though last week we had a ton of tomatoes).

I continue to be super grateful for the generosity of Alemany Farm for supplying us with so much fresh produce and also with seedlings to give away. And we continue to have need for volunteers who want to harvest vegetables and fruit on Fridays at the farm. Please contact me if you are interested or might want to catch a ride from the Mission when we go.

Cat started a project that I love of having guests or volunteers who grow food or flowers posting pictures of their gardens at the stand to encourage others to do the same. Lorena who volunteers with us and her niece Cielo made the first poster to share with everyone.  This is really the best part of the Free Farm Stand.

P1050578

Here are some more photos:

Neighbors sharing some surplus:

neibors with oranges woman with apples

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pax just info booth

Pax at the new vegan information booth

The raised bed boxes are built in the 23rd St. garden and we are looking for more cardboard to cover the bottoms of the bed to keep the weeds from coming up. Then we have to fill the beds with organic material and soil (we may have to get more soil). We plan to start growing some food soon!  Though we will plant in the beds, our main focus will be to continue to get the infrastructure completed…from rebuilding the compost bin, installing drip irrigation, putting legs on the benches we rescued, moving and installing and framing out the greenhouse (the goal to get this done before the winter season moves in).

The Free Farm Stand and our new garden project need handy volunteers with carpentry, electrical, and plumbing skills. Plus we need drivers for both projects (we have a van though someone with a pick-up truck could be helpful).

Here are two interesting articles that highlight the problems with our current economic system we live under: Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Farmers from the New York Times and THE TIPPING POINT from the online version of edible San Francisco. The article about farmers says “The dirty secret of the food movement is that the much-celebrated small-scale farmer isn’t making a living.” The article concludes that small farmers need to  organize and form organizations like in the past that support farmers. “shape a vision of a new food economy that ensures that growing good food also means making a good living.” The other article is about the minimum wage debate going on that in the upcoming election voters will decide with to raise it.  The article asks the question “Can San Francisco Restaurants Pay Workers More & Survive?” The article talks about how unaffordable the city is and it is already hard for minimum wage workers to live here. This article focuses on those workers who work in restaurants that feed people who can afford to eat out, but the fact is that any minimum wage person can’t easily live here. “To afford a market-rate one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, a worker must make $29.83 an hour, according to a March report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.”

To me this system doesn’t really work for most of us and that I am always writing about how we need to come up with an alternative way of surviving. Places like Mission Pie (who are mentioned in the article) or Little City Gardens or any of the businesses trying to create green jobs (go to a San Francisco Urban Ag meeting and listen to the someone there who wants to create a profitable farm on a roof) are promoting a friendly hip world based on a system of exchange. The truth is coming out everyday in stories like these that it there are serious problems with capitalism, no matter what kind of smile is stuck to it or how much we love their vegan pies or love the gardens they create. Even worker owned businesses like Rainbow Grocery, which is a step in the right direction, have to charge high prices for food. I guess we all need to make choices on what we spend money on, but unfortunately there are those that can’t afford good food.

Like John Lennon sang, “you might call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”. I also hope you join us dreamers by helping us feed people in need and working together to build a magical garden in our neighborhood that demonstrates to people how to grow food in our back yards.


Since the Free Farm closed last year, I have once again centered my activities in the Mission where I live. Last week I met an inspiring farmer named Ron Ferrel from Oklahoma who writes an online blog for Mother Earth News (here is his latest one).  We quickly saw how many of our ideas meshed. One of his lines was “don’t invest in Wall Street, invest in your street. “ We both are interested in inspiring our neighbors to grow food in their backyards.

The 23rd street Garden is a project that will help us with our goal of encouraging more food growing in our neighborhood. This week we began using the wood we rescued from the Growing Home Garden to build raised beds that we will grow vegetables in.

We could really use help not only building more beds, but we have a lot of carpentry work to do fixing garden benches, fixing the new compost bin, and setting up our hoop house that we saved from the Free Farm.  We also need help with plumbing and installing drip irrigation.  In general there is a lot of work to do to make the 23rd Street Garden a good resource for our neighbors. Please drop by during our Saturday or Tuesday work days or contact me by email.

I want to share a video that Pancho sent me that picked my spirit up. There is so much sad news these days and this is the message we all need to hear to get us up on our feet so we can walk the talk. I want to share a video that Pancho sent me that picked my spirit up. There is so much sad news these days and this is the message we all need to hear to get us up on our feet so we can walk the talk. What is said in this video reflects our thoughts and feelings too. Canticle Farm is truly our sister project in spirit.

This week at the Free Farm Stand I was so happy that we had a great selection of produce.   Pax and I helped harvest 250 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruit. It is a lot of work, but we so appreciate the free produce to give away. We also could really use help harvesting at Alemany Farm right now when there is so much summer bounty. We are there around noon on Fridays . We only had the energy to pick some of the cherry tomatoes that were there last week for example.  On August 9th I won’t be available to go there myself to harvest, so on that day especially we could use help.

Here are some photos of the beautiful vegetables that we had:

P1010001 Michael grew these in his Potrero garden from Rocoto pepper seeds

from the Treat Commons Community Garden pepper plant. Also Janet brought more from her garden

P1010012she also brought pineapple sage leaves that make a mild herbal tea

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P1010003cucumbers from Alemany Farm

P1010004I brought samples of the white sapote fruit that  I grew in my backyard for people to taste

P1010015I also brought lemons from our backyard
P1010009plums Kerry brought from a neighbor in San Jose

2014-07-27 12.47.35a neighbor brought nopales from his garden to share

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I don’t have a photo of the new Vegan Information booth at the Free Farm Stand that Pax set up, but it is a welcome addition to the Stand that is much needed. If you have any questions about how to go vegan ask Pax. If we are moving away from the non-sustainable culture and economic system that is so prevalent today, then we need to move away from eating habits that contribute to the violence against animals.  Like St. Francis sang “Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures”.