It was Pride week last week and it felt like a celebratory and special time. The sky and air was smoky all week from local brush fires and one morning I walked to the top of Bernal Hill and the sun was suspended in the sky like a bright orange ball.
The Free Farm Stand got in the media twice. There was an article in last Tuesdays Chronicle (http://tinyurl.com/6yeuds) about some new local business that will plant a garden for you for $600 to $1,000, and then maintain it for you for $20 to $35 per week. Then you get the food and maybe food from other local gardens. At the end of the article they listed other sources of urban agricultural resources and they mentioned the Free Farm Stand without my knowing about it. I found out about the article when I opened my email mailbox and had gotten fourteen messages, many in response to the article. One woman wrote and said there was an empty lot across the street from her that I should look into, which I will.
There was also a nice article about the stand in the online newsletter of San Francisco Park Trust (the Real Dirt) that you can read at the end of this post. You can also go to their website and join them to get their newsletter (http://www.sfpt.org/).
Gardening with Kids
Earlier in the week I planned with Robert to garden with some of the twenty-five kids he works with at the Secret Garden. He got a grant from the Mexican Museum to do art and gardening with different age groups of kids in the neighborhood. In the morning he works with the younger kids and in the afternoon the teens. I invited a woman named Corinne who had contacted me early in the week as result of the Chronicle article to come help and that is one of the best things I did this week. She is real wonderful and has experience not only as a gardener, and a teacher’s aide in an elementary school, she has also helped manage a farm stand as I learned later! We mainly planted a bunch of seeds in tofu containers and their small hands were ideal for holding and planting tiny seeds.
Jake pointed out that our glasses look the same and they are both pushed down on our nose!
A Fruity Thing
I saw a sign at the Dyke March on Saturday night that said A Fruity Thing. That is what I have been thinking of writing about. Something in praise of fruits of all kinds, especially fruits that grow on trees. Before I went to the march I was in the Secret Garden picking some green onions and a few greens. I also started picking plums to see if they were ripe. There are literally thousands of small plums the size of large cherries on the trees in the Secret Garden and they are just starting to ripen. Unfortunately I am leaving town for ten days and I won’t be able to pick more of them, but maybe we can get some volunteers to continue picking some for the farm stand. Contact me if you may be interested and I may be able to organize it. Then I noticed the loquats on the neighbors huge tree and I saw that the loquat in the Secret Garden had huge fruit hanging over the fence into the neighbor’s yard. So I got the small ladder that was in the garden and I started picking the fruit, wondering if I should ask the neighbor if I could pick them. It was remarkable that the birds hadn’t gotten to this fruit like they have in my backyard. A neighbor came out and I asked if it was ck to harvest the fruit and she seemed to say yes, but she really didn’t speak English. I was so excited by the fruit and it was really delicious. There is plenty more to pick too, I harvested maybe five pounds of plums for the farm stand.
Fruit trees rule and all gardens should at least one. Fruits trees are a true gift from God/Goddess and I feel so blessed to be able to pick fruit and share it with my neighbors. Especially trees that are neglected and the fruit rots on the ground. I have been picking lemons from a neighbors tree for over a month now and it still has giant fruit on it. I love climbing in fruit trees and being in the branches and picking fruit up high away from the earth. But I must admit that the fruit trees in Treat Commons that I have been espaliering or growing flat against a trellis are much easier to pick and don’t create so much shade. Large fruit trees are truly glorious when they are laden with fruit free for the picking. I would someday like to prune those trees so we have both garden and trees living together in balanced harmony.
It is funny I was just thinking about the victory garden going to be planted in front of city hall July 12th (see side bar) and I remember working with some friends years ago trying to save the olive trees that were planted there in four groves. The powers that be didn’t like the homeless that lived in the groves, so they wanted to cut the olive trees down, so we fought them and won. Years later they did remove some of the trees where they built a playground, but they were supposedly moved to Bernal Heights somewhere. Too bad we can’t plant some fruit trees in front of city hall. And I guess too bad the victory garden won’t be a permanent thing at least right now.
The Julian Food Pantry
This is not quite farm stand related but I need to share this. I might have mentioned my new friend Lauren started a new food pantry on Saturdays in the Mission. She is hip and wants to give away the healthiest food she can get and digs local organic produce like me, and would love to give more of it away and support local growers. I started growing some seedlings to give to her program to distribute to some of her clients. This Saturday I forgot to bring the seedlings early when they are setting up, but I got there when they were just opening.
It is a really beautiful space in a church and the people were all sitting in the garden courtyard waiting. I heard they were serving tea to those waiting. Anyway as soon as I walked in I felt an enormous holy spirit present, this tremendous energy that hit me like whoosh! I must admit I have an addiction to serving food to the masses and these kind of things get me excited. The Free Farm Stand is beautiful in it’s small organic way now, but I sometimes miss feeding large numbers of people. Sara came by at the end of the farm stand yesterday and told me that her program is already grown to 200 people I think in two weeks! I wonder if they can keep it wonderful and sweet.
My point in sharing this experience is that the Julian Pantry is really a class act and I felt that the people that are running it are so lucky to be able to serve those in need and to be around all that spiritual energy and light. Whenever we get a chance to be with the poor or hungry and share the excess it is such a great experience. As wonderful as being in a tree picking fruit or harvesting rows of kale to give away. I feel lucky myself to have that kind of work to do.
A Great Day at the Free Farm Stand
I had a lot of good produce to share on the table and a number of people showed up to help me set up and run the stand. Corinne came early and harvested lettuce and carrots in Treat Commons. Christiane and Ali who are taking the urban permaculture design course came by to talk to me about designing an orchard and edible landscape outside the garden and in the park (the plan is to come up with a design for the first edible park in the city). Christiane came early to help me set up. Leslie an intern at City Slicker Farm came by too. I have been emailing her about how their intern program works) and she shared with me some more information on how things work there in West Oakland. I am very inspired by that project and it is one of the programs that inspired me to start a farm stand here. She also brought me a bunch of seed. Jerry came by from the Western Addition. I met him at the Big One and he is working with Ella Hill Hutch Community Center and trying to get a garden planted there. Nancy my friend that used to come to a pantry I helped run dropped by. She looked great considering she begins chemotherapy for cancer soon and just went through a major surgery. She also helped set up the stand by picking flowers and other things. I also met a man named Leif who among other things, told me about a woman who is doing a similar project to ours in Oakland (check out her a lot less wordy blog than mine http://forageoakland.blogspot.com/).
Corinne just wrote me and said she was really excited to work at the farm stand and wants to continue in the future. Hooray! She said her favorite part was meeting the man who got a tomato plant from the stand and he reported that it is growing tall. We had sunflower sprouts that I grew, round zucchinis, beets, basil, purslane, and parsley left over from the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, carrots, lettuce, BokChoy (from Rubens’s super productive bed in Treat Commons), salad mix, flowers, loquats, plums, and herbs.
A number of people were very interested in getting epazote which we have growing in the garden. It has a lot of different names including Mexican Tea and it has pungent leaves that is put in beans to prevent farting. It also has medicinal uses and I am not sure why people wanted it…for flatulence, flavor, or healing?
Here are a bunch of photos from this week:
Article from The Real Dirt
Every Sunday for just over a month now, Tree has been giving away fresh organic produce. What’s the catch? None. The Free Farm Stand takes place every Sunday in the Treat Commons Community Garden where Tree is the Garden Coordinator. He and local volunteers tend much of the garden and give the surplus away to local neighbors. The food production doesn’t just stop at Treat Commons. Local gardeners sprinkled throughout the city have been bringing their surplus to the Free Farm Stand every week to share their harvests. Neighbors are offering up their fruit trees for Tree to harvest and bring to the stand as well. Tree even grows starters and seedlings for people to take home and plant. The vision is that when neighbors harvest they will share some of their bounty with the Free Farm Stand.
People aren’t just sharing food at the Free Farm Stand, they are building community. One of Tree’s favorite parts of the farm stand is that it provides a space for neighbors to meet and interact.
The Free Farm Stand may be relatively new, but Tree’s vision and efforts to bring quality food to those who can’t afford it is old news. Tree has been greening and feeding San Francisco for over 30 years and he has no plans to stop. Tree’s philosophy has always been that all people should have access to high quality, healthy food and that has led him to head food programs and pantries throughout the years. To ensure that quality was always at the highest level, Tree ate only what he offered at the pantries. In light of recent food shortages and oil prices, Tree decided to challenge himself to discover just how much food he could grow and give in the city. So far the Farm Stand is fueled by Tree’s backyard, neighbor contributions and the Treat Commons space, but Tree has plans for expansion that may soon come to fruition. “Gardening by nature makes you optimistic” Tree says. Maybe that is because gardening gives you a powerful tool to help fight large problems like hunger, and oil dependency right in your own back yard.
The Free Farm Stand is always in need of volunteers (especially bilingual volunteers).