A Busy Farm Stand

This week the stand was pretty busy, a lot of people came by. Most people that showed up were new, though we now have one or two regulars. One woman showed up pretty late and I was totally out of food.

Chard vs. Kale
I sometimes have the most wonderful meditative insights while simply working quietly in the garden. The other day, the Saturday before the last farm stand, I was thinking about a topic of discussion I have heard come up a lot, what are your favorite kind of greens to eat or grow?. I had just picked the most beautiful bouquet of swiss chard, the variety Bright Lights, that has a rainbow of colors (sometimes it is called Rainbow Chard). I have always been a kale kind of guy, I just love kale in so many ways (it grows well, relatively few insects bother it, it is nutritious because it is in the brassica family (once called the Crucifer family, meaning the cross family, because of their cross like seedling leaves). This family of plants that battles cancer with its armament of anti-oxidants, plus it has all the dark green leafy vitamins and minerals (but reading the latest Michael Pollan book In Denfense of Food I shouldn’t get hung up with the nutritional aspects of these fabulous plants). Kale is not that popular yet at the free farm stand though, maybe because it isn’t a familiar food among Latinos. I don’t even know the word for kale in Spanish. On the other hand, people like Chard more and I would love to grow a lot of it. Chard though is susceptible to leafminer and you basically can’t grow it except in the late fall and early winter (August and September or even later). Pam Pierce my garden guru writes about the leafminer on her blog
/more-on-the-cha.html. As an experiment, a month ago I tried planting some chard, a variety I haven’t tried before called Perpetual Chard and so far it has been hit hard by that pesky leafminer and it looks rather sad.

Anyway, I was standing in the garden with the most beautiful two bunches of chard. They were survivors and had somehow avoided leafminer damage. Their beauty was something that left me in transfixed and I felt had to share this with the world. I tried to capture this experience digitally and below is my poor attempt:

I didn’t see who wound up getting the chard at the farm stand, but I hoped they enjoyed the beauty as well as taste.

Daydreaming Urban Farmer

I feel like I am slipping into more craziness every day. More daydreaming as I read seed catalogs. I am trying to order more lettuce mix seed and then I look at the cover of the seed catalog and see a woman harvesting beautiful lettuces standing in rows of lettuces that go on forever. Rows and rows of colorful happy lettuces with the blue sky and sun shining down on a farm somewhere probably in Maine (that is where the seed company is located). I day dream of cities having farms that I can work on, how joyous that could be. I am reminded that I am an urban farmer and that urban farmers don’t have farms (except there is the fabulous four acre Alemany Farm). I remember maybe 10 or 15 years ago there used to be a couple of commercial farms in the city which I visited, unfortunately they aren’t here any more. Urban Farmers have at best mini-farms and gardens. Urban farmers like me may have to be mobile and go from garden to garden, and harvest a little here and a little there. It sort of works. And Free Farm Stands have to depend on Grace (we all do any way) and other gardeners and gleaners sharing their bounty.

More on the topic of urban farming

At the free farm stand this week a woman came by who is trying to find a neighborhood to live in. She had been investigating places to garden and checking out community gardens. She sort of complained that many gardens she investigated had waiting lists to get a plot, but that it looked like a lot of the plots looked like they were not really being used or cared for. I know about that from being the coordinator of our community garden. It seems people like the idea of gardening more than they have the time to garden (or make the time). I just hope that I can inspire people to spend some time gardening. It may be a selfish thing; I love the idea of hanging over a fence and chatting with a neighbor about gardens (I don’t do this yet with our my neighbors, though they let me pick their lemon tree and their kids came over when we were extracting honey). I dig it when I can work with someone in their garden or mine and have a good time talking and working. Last week I got a chance to work with Christy in the Corona Heights Garden where she has a plot, helping her get their compost bins in better shape. It was fun and sweaty.

Farming on roofs and edible parks?

Today I joined a bunch of Permaculture Guild people to do a site analysis of the Chronicle roof garden. A few students taking the ongoing urban permaculture class are going to redesign the garden on the roof on top of the Chronicle building downtown as their project. One idea is that the garden could perhaps grow food for the Free Farm Stand. I have never taken a permaculture class and was interested how permies as they are called approach gardening. I found the experience fun and educational. It seemed like the permaculture approach was a bit heavy on the scientific and technical approach, though I appreciate where they are coming from. Knowing the lay of the land and such. Maybe we should have all sat on the roof and meditated on what the space was saying to us all. There were two fruit trees that looked pretty happy in their pots, and they were for sure winking or smiling at me when I looked at them. I didn’t share this with the group. I felt a bit disoriented up there and imagined myself traveling up the elevator with a wheelbarrow of manure. Turns out there were two roofs with the possibility of being gardened. The other roof was much higher up and was a larger space. It really felt surreal is all I can say.

Kevin told me some good news earlier, that there were some students that want to design the neglected space in the park where the farm stand is located. The idea is to expand the food growing area outside the community garden into the park (edible parks!). This has been one of my fantasies for a long time and I hope having a good design will help convince the city to try it out.

What was on the table this week

I wonder if some people are curious what we have to give out each week. I work at Martin de Porres Soup Kitchen on Tuesdays and go through the boxes of donated produce they get from the Ferry Building Farmers Market on Saturdays. It is interesting that I am harvesting some of the same things that the farmers outside the city are growing and harvesting now. This week the kitchen had extra beets and small onions that they couldn’t use so I brought some to the stand and added them to the few onions and beets that I harvested from Treat Commons. Christy brought rhubarb from Corona Heights and some big heads of lettuce, chamomile and rosemary. I pulled up a lot of baby carrots from Treat Commons. My backyard and the Secret Garden are really slim pickings now..somehow I managed to harvest some lettuces and salad mix, and some greens from all the gardens. I am still picking lemons from a neighbor’s tree. The table looked really good despite it being a challenge to find produce to harvest and give away.

Two photos from last week

The man in the middle shared with me his recipe for nopales…I haven’t tried it yet.

Mark takes beautiful photographs!

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