The Free Farm Stand Side Show

This week’s Free Farm Stand was a bit overwhelming to me and it seemed a little over the top with the crowds. First of all, Antonio brought by all these bicyclists from his 2nd In Search of Good Food Bicycle Tour. There might have been 30 or more people who showed up and the plan was I was supposed to talk to them about the stand. I am starting to feel like it is a mistake to host these tours, because it is too much for many reasons. I started feeling like I was more of a performer than I really wanted to be, like I was in some kind of side show act. “Step right up and see Tree and his Free Farm Stand Act.” Also, I wound up being busier than I like and having a hard time talking to people who were coming to the Free Farm Stand not only for the tour, but to get food, etc. I hope I inspired some people to go out and garden and grow some food at the bare minimum. I spoke in favor of abandoning our current ways we think about our economic situation and how to tackle it…moving beyond the tired ideas of building a green economy and providing social justice work, or hiring homeless people to learn skills like growing food. Can’t we just grow food and share the surplus and have fun meeting all our neighbors and new friends who come by our gardens? I was just reading the blog for Forage Oakland and her October 28 manifesto is an example of something I am writing about, a model of doing something that is beautiful, fresh, and exciting. She was writing about a passion fruit vine with fruit on it in her neighborhood that she showed her friend. Then her friend went to a restaurant to show them the fruit and to see if they would want it for their pastries (without consulting her or the neighbors whose house it was growing at).I found it alarming that the immediate reaction was to commodify the passion fruit.” That is the problem there in a nutshell, that a lot of people want to commodify everything in our world, and that was what I was trying to explain at my talk which I am not sure I got across.

After my talk to the bicyclists I did meet a couple of nice people who I talked to directly and it felt better talking to them one on one.

Fortunately I continue to have a great crew of people who are helping me set up the table and run the stand so I am more available to talk to visitors. By the way, I didn’t have a camera this week to document the scene. People are supposed to send me photos so until they arrive you will just have to use your imagination to see things.

At the very beginning two kids Camilla and her brother helped me set up the stand and put things on the table. They seemed to be around through most of the time the stand was open and it was fun having them around. The young boy told me at his school they have a garden and he seemed to know a bunch of stuff about worms and compost, etc.

The Secret Garden is getting less sun every day, but I still harvested small amounts of broccoli, chard, lettuce, kale, and one zucchini. I harvested the kohlrabi leaves as there wasn’t enough sun to get it to make kohlrabi and the aphids were moving in. In Treat Commons I harvested some more yellow peppers, a few rocoto peppers, basil (the perennial African Blue Basil is still growing strong and the other basils are about over for picking), some kale, and a handful of cape gooseberries.

At the permaculture guild meeting on Wednesday Tara brought a small amount cherry tomatoes (three kinds) from her garden in Visitacion Valley. On Friday at the work day at 18th St. and Rhode Island Christy brought some apples from her CSA box that she couldn’t use and some small pumpkins, a bunch of chives, and the end of the tomatoes from Corona Heights Garden.

I got a lot of left over vegetables from the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market. A lot of salad mix, shelling peas, some beautiful red speckled beans for shelling, green beans, beets, radishes, and chard.

My new friend Marcus showed up with the last of his beautiful peaches. He mentioned that they were dirty and should be washed. I noticed this too when I picked peaches near Mclaren Park. He takes the cake for being a saint, just dropping off some peaches and not taking anything for himself. Another new friend dropped off some tomatillos and a small amount of Aloe Vera. There were also a bag of figs that showed up and a new neighbor came by with a bag of apples from her trees. Granny Smith and Fuji.

Cooking Demonstration

I put up a sign about a cooking demonstration that Nosrat had the original idea of organizing. At around 2pm Nosrat showed how to make a vegan pesto using what we had on the table. He brought some garlic and olive oil, and we had basil from the garden there and walnuts from my backyard tree. He set up a blender and whipped it up and put it on the bread we had (again we got a large amount from our Acme angel) that he sliced up. Sara translated the talk into Spanish and there was a good turnout. Then I showed how to cook the greens we had on the table (a mix of kale, chard, and mustard). I used the wok I brought and put it on the nice portable stove Nosrat brought. Again, Sara translated. People seemed to like the greens, and it was great to see all the kids try it out. It seems with the kids coming to the stand, if you it make it like a party with food they want to try it.

Plant Stand Expansion

Earlier in the week I spoke with some new friends that go to SF State who are eager to get involved in gardening and growing food and want to work with the farm stand. I talked about the part of the Free Farm Stand that needs work on which is outreach to neighbors to help them set up gardens and grow food in their backyards if they have space. I talked about my desire to improve the plant stand area and to have it be a place where someone would be there staffing the table, taking to people about the plants we are giving away, answering people’s garden questions, providing garden advice, and offering support for people that want to start a garden. Sara made a nice sign in English and Spanish for the table and a number of people potted up seedlings and labeled them. I also saw some kids get involved in planting the seedlings into bigger pots. I think we have a ways to go with having it work out more smoothly, but I thought it was a good start.

Kier from SF State brought his hand drum and at one point got the attention of people in the park by drumming, and Skyler joined in with the flute. Kier told me he started a Free Farm Stand at SF State by giving away the produce from their garden on campus.

18th and Rhode Island Progress

The last Friday workday was pretty successful. A lot more people showed up and we got almost two more berms installed with 20 plus yds of chips laid down on 2 thousand pounds more of cardboard. There will be another work day on Friday and a workday on Saturday perhaps. We have been talking about having a workday every other Saturday maybe alternating Fridays and Saturdays. But this week we want to finish sheet mulching the entire site

Finishing the 2nd bermCardboard sheet mulching team

Ready for wood chips

Moving huge amounts of compost

Finished for the day

News about the Victory Garden across from City Hall

I just got this email about the Victory Garden closing down and what is happening to it. A couple of weeks ago I heard about the city giving land to Project Homeless Connect at 16th and 7th St. (I think about an acre!). Right now there is concrete there. Here is the email:


I want to begin by thanking all of you who have been involved in the Victory Garden project over the past few months. The garden has been a huge success and we could not have done it without the amazing volunteer support from all of you!

As many of you may know, the garden is being removed from Civic Center Plaza beginning on November 23rd. While it will be sad to see the garden go, we do have exciting news about its future! All of the materials are being moved to another site in the City where Project Homeless Connect will create a permanent educational food garden for the homeless community. We are very excited about this garden, and are grateful for the opportunity to donate the Victory Garden materials to such an amazing new project.

Between Sunday 11/23 and Friday 12/5 (excluding Thanksgiving weekend) we will be needing volunteer help as we disassemble the garden and move it to its new location. We will be potting up perennial plants and herbs, taking apart the straw wattle beds and fence, moving soil, hauling materials, disassembling irrigation, and more. This will be hard manual work, but should be fun and rewarding. Many of the tasks will require heavy lifting (35+ lbs) and as there is a lot of work to be done in a short amount of time we ask that volunteers commit to their scheduled shifts, and show up on time and ready to work.

If you are able to volunteer on any of the days listed below please let me know. We will be working from 8:30am-4:30pm. Full day and half day (8:30-12:30 or 12:30-4:30) shifts are available and lunch and other goodies will be provided for volunteers!

Sunday 11/23
Monday 11/24
Tuesday 11/25
Wednesday 11/26
Monday 12/1
Tuesday 12/2
Wednesday 12/3
Thursday 12/4
Friday 12/5

Thank you again for all of your help over the past months. We could never have done this project without you!

Anna Fleishman
Victory Garden Coordinator
Slow Food Nation
609 Mission Street, 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105
415.369.9950 T
415.369.9951 F

Talk about the homeless and Slow Food Nation, someone sent me a flyer with information and guidelines for staff and volunteers when they had the Slow Food Nation event in September across from City Hall. She was somewhat upset with part of what she read: “Handouts: Please do NOT give food, samples, or leftovers of any kind to any homeless person, at any location, under any circumstances. Word will spread of free food and we will soon have an encampment…” I wonder if the people who wrote these guidelines are going to be working on the new homeless garden?

I am excited about another garden springing up in the city and hope it can become a beautiful oasis in an industrial freeway dominated landscape.

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