O yee of little faith. That is me at times. A worrywart. When I went over to the park with a van full of food at noon nobody was around. The Carnival parade was going down 24th Street and the park was pretty much empty. I started thinking of contingency plans in case I was stuck with a lot of vegetables and bread. All my regular volunteers were away , some having graduated from school and have taken off for the summer. I set up the stand by myself, the first time in a year I would guess. I even put our sign on the sidewalk thinking I needed to catch the attention of people walking by the park. My friend Greg showed up with a nine month old baby strapped around his waist and was unable to do much except provide a cheering section for me which I appreciated. Greg was probably the first person to help me when I first started the farm stand and I hadn’t seen him for a while. He soon had to take off to put the baby who was getting cranky to bed (an aside note, have you noticed the baby boom happening right now?). Finally, one of our regular shoppers came by and realizing that things wouldn’t get set up soon without me getting some help, so she started helping. Soon some other shoppers pitched in and I sort of had a crew. I wasn’t really free to set up the plant stand nor snap a lot of photos, but everything worked out fine. And by the time we were set up we had the usual crowd of early birds who were nervous about getting some produce and it was a bit hectic from the start. Getting near 2pm, after the parade had finished, more people showed up and really people kept trickling in up until I actually pulled the cart out the gate. Two kids in the park asked me for some food as I was about to pull away and I had a few bunches of greens left…they seemed happy to get a bunch of red mustard. I can’ believe that I gave everything away except a few onions and some greens. Towards the very end, a Chinese woman who lived in Vietnam was excited to get the last bunch of Malabar spinach. I have never known what to do with that vegetable (I keep forgetting to look it up). She explained how it is good in soup and she gave me her complicated recipe for soup involving using egg. I just looked it up and somewhere it said “The mucilaginous texture is especially useful as a thickener in soups and stews.”
I had a pretty good harvest for the hyper local table i.e. the home grown stuff from the flavor zone. Besides another forty pounds of fava beans from 18th and Rhode Island, I harvested a few pounds of mustard greens and chard too, plus I got the last of the lettuce lawn at the Secret Garden. I also harvested some oregano and African Blue basil (mostly flowers), and a basket of strawberries from Treat Commons. Ruben told me to harvest his lettuce lawn too and also I picked some arugula and mustard from his bed. Also I picked a lot of sweet pea flowers and daisies. The less local left over table was really packed too, including some strawberries that I tried to save for the kids. Page came by with a boxes of oranges and loquats he picked near Stanford where he teaches (that is my guess… he was parked illegally and had to run in and out). My loquats are about ready, but I didn’t get around to picking them. Needless to say fresh fruit is one of the more popular things we give away and I wish we could find more to pick and distribute. Zoe came by with a beautiful lettuce mix from her garden in the Sunset. Another friend came by with a handful of salad burnett. The leaves taste like cucumber and is pretty good tasting. Later in the day Pancho showed up and was able to talk to all the Spanish speaking people who came by. He is such a warm person and it makes me really happy to have someone like him that can carry on a conversation with people who speak little English. At one point there was an older woman that came with a cane and he helped her fill her bag and they were both chatting and laughing, it was a really beautiful scene. He learned that she came from Mexico like him and had the same name as his mother, Mary. And she new all about the vegetables and how to cook them.
the less local produce from the farmer’s markets
a happy shopper with an orange from our friendly gleaner Page
The work day at 18th and Rhode Island was also sparsely attended, but Alvin did manage to pick those forty pounds of beans by himself. I hopped the small fence of the original squatted garden on the site and planted hot weather things in real dirt which was so exciting (as opposed to planting things in the mostly wood chip berms permaculture style). This is the spot where I harvested orange cherry tomatoes late into January of this year. I planted more tomatoes, including the cherry tomato from there that I saved seed for, eggplant, and hot peppers. This will be a good test to see if we can grow eggplant in San Francisco. Of course now I am waiting for our global warming to return to replace this cool fog. Kelvin is busy planning more lovely things for this garden including a special lentil that supposedly will grow here. Jay and David have been working on planting the “cool weather” bananas, pepino dulce (melon pear or melon shrub), and the babaco (mountain papaya) plants we have been growing for the garden.
Every week I seem to connect with some new beautiful person or hear of a project that is totally inspiring. I went to Mission High School last week to talk to some kids that were involved with an environmental service learning project there. One surprising thing is that I learned that the principle of the school, Eric, who visited the farm stand there once, is the father of Asher, the energetic and enthusiastic 13 year boy who has been helping me every week at the stand. His father seems like a revolutionary guy who gave the ok to turn a parking lot at the school into a garden. After the talk I visited the garden and saw Lauren who has been volunteering there and also helped at the stand. I also learned that the fabulous Mission Science workshop is now located in the space there that used to be the auto mechanics department at the school. Dan, who is the amazingly inspiring man who started the project, was showing off these planter boxes he is going to build with his students (he is going to build sixty!). I also met the biology teacher named Susan who is teaching biology through the medium of compost. She was looking at the worm bin Lauren helped build and the idea is to incorporate worm study into the biology curriculum.
I have been a bit restless lately and feeling the tug to explore other possible things to do. Not giving up the Free Farm Stand, but perhaps putting out the desire to find more consistent help to run it…I do not want it to be a one person show. I am still day dreaming of starting a communal household in the Mission based around service (remember the Urban Kibbutz idea?). I really believe that projects like the Free Farm Stand would ideally be run by a commune. Communal living is so much more an efficient and a sustainable way of living. We should be sharing our lives more, including income sharing and living like family. The challenge is to find a building and find people with like minded ideas to come up with the money needed to get a place.
There are companion projects to the Free Farm Stand too that may be fun to start, like a Free Neighborhood Garden Center. And there are more gardens/urban mini-urban farms to start. I have also been inspired recently by my friend who has started a free advertising zine called Baitline. I so much appreciate beautiful artwork and sweet words and ideas printed on paper. So I have been thinking about a Free Farm Stand newsletter. I need a lead balloon to tie around my feet before I float away.
By the way check out the Current News and Event s column. At the next Farm Stand two friends at Bay Area Source are going to have an ice cream party in the park neighboring the stand. They will be giving away their newest zine and have equipment available for people to make their own ice cream (both vegan and non-vegan). I am still in favor of the vegan diet, but I wanted to support these wonderful women who have being doing great things for a while. Maybe they will at least have dairy from non-factory farmed animals.
It has always been my hope that the Free Farm Stand will attract others to come to the park on Sunday and share for free something they are interested in…especially along the lines of art and music and education.