Someone at the Free Farm Stand yesterday asked me why I started this project and I stumbled around for words to answer her. Last night in a bit of a sleepy state I remembered one of my first inspirations for the stand was harvesting a lot of kale in my backyard and washing it and tying it up with an reused organic label wire. I was thinking how exciting it was to grow that large amount of kale; and to be able to give it away in a classy and beautiful manner to people that could use some free healthy produce. Peace Pilgrim spoke about us all having a personal calling in life and that we just need to look inside ourselves and figure out what our calling is and start following it. I know I have always had a calling to deal with food, to give it away in some manner or growing it. So my early inspiration for the Free Farm Stand was to grow a lot of beautiful food (and flowers too someday) and give it away as a gift to those in need.
I was reminded this week that I have been having a hard time fulfilling that original dream of growing a lot of food and giving it away. Last week I visit the Pe’ah Garden in the Home of Peace cemetery in Colma (it is really an acre farm). I have written about this farm in the past that grows food that is donated to the San Francisco Food Bank. Also, Jonathan has been teaching free gardening classes every Sunday out there that I having been putting on my events column for the last month. I knew I would be totally jazzed visiting this farm and I wasn’t disappointed. I tell you something is genetically wired in me to get excited when I see large amounts of food being grown to feed the hungry. Thinking about it, I could see some possible improvements that could be made there in terms of the way they were growing things, but all the same there were rows and rows of beautiful organic broccoli, chard, tomatoes, and a big strawberry bowl with sweet strawberries ripe and ready to pick. I was literally overjoyed and feeling a definite pull towards that project. Plus Jonathan has use of a fabulous greenhouse. While I was there we planted two big trays of lettuce for the Free Farm Stand.
I started thinking that with my current situation of working in a number of small gardens, it is challenging to grow a lot of food like that (at least for the numbers of people that are coming these days…see below). I must constantly remind myself it is ok to not grow massive amounts of food. That I am doing the best I can with the space I have. And I have gardens that are small but still need a lot of attention (like my backyard that I have been trying to focus on recently). Anyway I am still meditating on this and am thinking about whether I should take Jonathan up on his offer for me to do some farming there at Pe’ah Garden or to stay more local. The advantage to gardening in the Mission or even Potrero Hill is that I can get volunteers more easily (Colma is a little harder to get to or at least more expensive if you take Bart which is only blocks from the garden/farm).
People lining up for produce seems to be the normal thing at the Free Farm Stand these days. It got really busy fast and I realized how spaced out I got. Fortunately we have some great volunteers that have been helping and I think things ran pretty smoothly, though it gets very hectic at the beginning.
On the local table I had 21 pounds of sweet purple plums that Erin and Asher gleaned in the Mission on Saturday. They also picked some lemons. I picked some lettuce and kale from the Secret Garden and yellow zucchini (also kale and zucchini from Esperanza Gardens and I think someone else brought some). From 18th and Rhode Island I picked about a pound of African Blue basil (which I left in my refrigerator hopefully for next week) and some chard. Page brought by a cauliflower and some spinach and a few artichokes from Holy Innocents. A woman brought some mint from her garden. The farmer’s market table was loaded with produce and the bread table which we moved further away from the produce table had more than the usual amount of yeasty delights. The plant table was a little skimpy though we did have some seedlings to give away. I still would like to see us have one person to staff that table and be able to be there full time, offering garden advice and information. I am thinking I could do that if I could just train someone to take charge of the produce table. What happened this week is that we had a lot of helpers at the produce tables, but no one person taking real charge and making sure all the food was being put out. At the end we had a lot of basil left that fortunately Maggie took home with her to distribute somehow.
On Saturday night I happened to be walking near Dolores Park where I ran into the Free Tea Party Bus (http://freeteaparty.org/). I met Guisepi who started the project and a friend Sarah who was helping (she had come in from out of town). They had been serving free tea all day and were packing up (it was a busy day with the Pride Weekend bringing a lot of people out in the hot sun). Whenever I see something like a free project I like to check it out. It turns out that they had just heard about the Free Farm Stand by people who came by to get some free tea. I thought it was a beautiful project and then he offered to come by the Free Farm Stand and serve tea. When I got home I looked up their website and found it also very inspiring and it seemed we were on the same wave length. Here is some of what they say on the tea party web page:
The Free Tea Party cultivates community and encourages dialogue about peace, environment, and health through actions like serving free tea.
To bring people of all classes and colors, shapes and sizes, political beliefs and philosophies together in order to foster a connection between those who normally would never have connected in conversation. In this way valuable ideas can be shared and a human face can be put on people who one may have never related to before
They did show up and serve tea and it was very wonderful. We also had a preview taste of apricot jam from the apricots from last week, served on bread. And the herbal tea was not only cool and refreshing on the hot day it was, it tasted great. I gave them some fresh picked herbs and some honey for further tea parties. Can you imagine meeting a young man who realized that his calling in life is to serve free tea? It only confirms my belief that the “times they are a changing” again. That there are a lot of great things happening all over the world and we all need to continue the revolution/evolution by doing what we can to beautify the world and serve the poor.
Here is a good news flash. The project of planting fruit trees in the park where we have the Free Farm Stand is moving forward. I met with three big shots from Park and Recreation today and they ok’d a plan to fence off the unused and neglected part of the park for the mini-orchard (extending the garden into the park). And they will support me in applying for a grant that is coming up to put in the fence. I do believe that any urban revolution must include planting more fruit trees. I was really happy this Friday to see a small round avocado fruit on the Lamb Haas tree we planted at 18″th and Rhode Island.