Local Farmer Dude

Yesterday’s Free Farm Stand was one of the best ever. It was the first time where the amount of locally grown neighborhood produce really out shined the left over produce from the Farmer’s Markets. I realized on Saturday evening that I didn’t have a lot of produce from the Farmer’s Market and I was feeling OK about that, that whatever I have to give away is a beautiful thing no matter the amount. So it turned out that the very local table had so much produce it had to expand onto the plant table and all the stuff looked really great. I felt like a real local farmer dude showing off the stuff I grew and the stuff neighbors and friends grew or picked from trees. Not just like a schleper with a tired back.

It wasn’t like the left over table wasn’t pretty full, but just compared to some weeks we didn’t have crazy amounts of things. We had a lot of nice young onions, some whole wheat flour from Eat Well Farms, and more odd greens. On the local table I had a bowl full of just picked Baby Gem lettuces from my backyard, sunflower greens that I grew, two pounds of mustard and chard greens and 2lbs of fava beans from 18th and Rhode Island, some mint and oregano and rosemary from there too, and a lot of citrus fruit from 20th and South Van Ness. On Saturday SF Glean had its first fruit tree gleaning orientation and then they went and picked some fruit trees. I heard about one tree through Neighborhood Vegetables, another fabulous local project trying to take off in San Francisco (it has already in Berkeley). I was out of town, but when I came back there was 12lbs of plums, 27 1/2lbs of navel oranges, 23lbs of mandarin oranges. Here is a slideshow of the picking crew in action:
I also picked chamomile from Treat Commons, some beautiful carrots, including some called Purple Haze, sweet pea flowers, and mustard greens and herbs The rest of the day people came by bringing things they grew or picked. It started with my friend Page who brought a number of cauliflowers that he had grown at Holy Innocents Church in Noe Valley. He also had a few lemons from a tree in Stanford. Steve our neighbor on Treat Ave. came by with a cooler filled with fresh lettuce and kale and big lemons from his Dad’s home in Sebastapol (he said he has just picked it that morning and everyone was oohing and awing at how gorgeous the produce looked). Pam came by later with some collards flowers for me to try cooking (more on that later) and I think she dropped off some extra lettuce. Another friend brought a box of lemons they picked from a neighbors tree down the block. I am not sure if I saw all the food that people brought by because I was kept busy talking to people, but the table had stuff on it for a while.

The other thing that was so exciting is that the plant stand was a big hit. Two people brought a lot of beautiful seedlings and we had a lot of plants to give away.

The local gardening scene keeps growing and it seems every week there is something up with that, some movie about gardens and local food, or radio show, some local food project or event happening. Mentioning interviews, a few people told me the other day they heard me on KALW radio talking about the Free Farm Stand (see sidebar for interview). I knew KALW came by and that I talked to someone who was a freelance reporter, but I didn’t know it was going on the air. I was rather disappointed that the interviewer didn’t quite get what I was doing, seeming to emphasize and be mostly excited about the free food being given away, especially the bread. I don’t think he understood the most important thing that I am trying to do which is to promote local food growing as a way of dealing with hunger and food insecurity in my neighborhood. Though I am giving away a lot of food, including bread, I really hope that people are coming because it helps with their tight budget, not because it is the hippest place to go to score some free food, which the interviewer seemed to imply.

My friend Ami who made the 4 minute movie on the Free Farm Stand for a city college project is organizing an event this Saturday which includes a Free Farm Stand. There is a queer gardens bike tour that is free at 4:30pm that meets at the Bike Kitchen (19th and Alabama) and ends at the event at SOMArts where there will be at 7pm Hortisexual Installations and a free farm stand (bring your garden’s excess to share!)” with: Queer Food for Love, Apothequeery by Dori Midnight, the genderqueer goat gods, music by Jesse Quattro and Devin Hoff”. At 8pm the other part (movies and performances) will cost $15-$20.

Another friend Lauren has started a cool project called Produce to People (http://www.producetothepeople.blogspot.com/). From the website which seems like it is in its infant stage: “Produce to the People (PttP) is a backyard harvest project that collects excess produce from residential fruit trees and gardens in San Francisco. The produce is given to local organizations that redistribute free food to low-income families and individuals, including the Free Farm Stand and the Food Pantry. Perhaps SF Glean which I have been helping with might join forces with Lauren’s project.

Near the Stanford campus in Palo Alto, Page who teaches a sustainability class at the university and is helping start gardens in churches here in the city, reported to me that the students have started a gleaning project there and that they picked 2 trees of the 140 they have located. Two of the organizers brought two large laundry baskets of oranges and lemons to the Julian Pantry on Saturday. To me this is the ultimate beautiful thing to do.

Last week Shandra, Marcus, and I planted two fruit trees in the Bay View in front of a house with some land in front of it. I keep pushing for planting more fruit trees in the city, because the more we plant now the better chances of having more fruit to pick in the future.

I was listening on the radio the other day while driving and I heard this guy talking about what a unique time we are in now, much better than the sixties. That not only do we have technology and the ability for lots of communication to happen, there are a lot of great ideas out there, and the system is collapsing for the moment. So this guy thinks we have the chance to experiment with alternative economies. And start helping each other out. I agree.

On the topic of “plant you now dig you later”, the potato towers are growing in various locations about town. Some are doing better than others it seems, like the ones at 18th and Rhode Island don’t seem as green as the ones in my backyard or the ones at Treat Commons. I planted a few more towers at 18th and Rhode Island, the kind that you layer with mulch as the potatoes grow. I used one upside down trash can with its bottom cut out and two with chicken wire with a black plastic insert that I found at Building Resources. I had to use stakes to keep the chicken wire ones from toppling over. I think I still have more spuds to plant, just need a spot.

So Pam Pierce yesterday turned me onto growing collard greens and harvesting the flowers as an less intense alternative to broccoli raab. You grow the collards and then in the second year they will start to flower (they are biennials) and that is when you begin harvesting them. You will have a harvest over a long period of time. Here is her recipe which I tried last night: Chop up some onions and garlic and sauté them in some olive oil. Then throw in the collard flowers and cook until not too crunchy. Then dry roast a small amount of pine nuts in a skillet and toss on top. They were quite delicious and better than raab.

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