A number of months ago I was talking to a couple of people whose opinions I trust and they both told me that in July is when we will really see the effects of the economic downturn. This was when all the bail outs were happening and the idea was that we would see a trickle down effect of the economy collapsing and more and more people losing their jobs. Well here we are in the beginning of July and I can’t say I have seen a major meltdown yet, though a lot of people I meet these days either at the Free Farm Stand or coming out to help grow food and garden are out of work. I read volunteers have increased 35% in some places in the U.S. I have been unemployed my whole life and I wonder if I even have marketable skills. So to me this crisis is not something to be afraid of, though I understand that people are going to have big problems paying their rent if they don’t have some kind of income.
Right after the earthquake here in 1989, a lot more people were outside and talking to each other. It felt like neighbors were friendlier with each other and it was a brief moment of togetherness coming out of crisis. The Free Farm Stand provides a place not only for people to pick up some extra produce and bread, but is good for networking and making connections. I loved it this week when the sun was out and so many people were sitting on the lawn talking. An instant town square feeling. I would love it if we could see more people coming out Sundays to share something with neighbors and new friends, a Free Farmer’s Market.
This week I met a man named Sam who sits at the desk at Yoga Kula and we talked yoga for a while. I think we both agreed that yoga classes should be made available to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. He seemed to know about the free yoga classes available, including the Yoga to the People classes available in Berkeley and now San Francisco http://www.yogatothepeople.com/berkeley/sf-directions.shtml. They ask for a donation but supposedly don’t check to see how much you put in their donation box. I had the idea that we should have some stretching and breathing sessions at the stand on Sundays, a good fit with getting healthy produce and it would be available to people in our ‘hood.
The Free Farm Stand table was especially beautiful this week. Lauren from Produce to the People brought two high school students to the stand to help out. They had harvested about 100 lbs of plums and loquats, and lemons from local trees and brought it all to give away. I would love to put a produce counter on this site that would track the totals of produce that winds up on the table each Sunday. I am thinking we are probably giving out more than it seems, because every week the pounds of produce adds up.
Both Burton and Kevin were really helpful and I think they both had a good time (and it is cool that they are getting some money from the Mayor’s office to help them out this summer). We also had at least one new volunteer named Cristina who helped out and was really wonderful.
Besides the plums and other fruit, I harvested 3 1/2lbs of greens from 18th and Rhode Island, 4 lbs of carrots from Treat Commons, 2 ½ pounds of zucchini fro 18th and Rhode Island and the Secret Garden,1 ½ lbs. green beans from the Secret Garden, and about a pound of fava beans from 18th and Rhode Island. Steve our neighbor on Treat Ave. brought by some of his dad’s beautiful produce from the country…a bag of big Meyer lemons, kale, and spearmint. Margaret brought cauliflower from Holy Innocents and some other things too. I like having the very local table filled with things we grew or that people bring separated from the left over produce table. We also are separating the bread table now which is working out great.
Our plant and garden table was pretty weak this week and I am still looking for someone to staff that table while the stand is open, to give out seedlings, answer garden questions (perhaps having some gardening books available), and to take people’s names and contact information if they need help with their existing garden.
I am working on taking over the No Penny Opera non-profit organization which was just turned over to me. I worked with this group for years and the core group of us who ran it did a lot of fun projects, including CRUMZ soup kitchen and the Comida del Arte Food Pantry. The non-profit has been in hibernation for a while and recently I realized I needed a non-profit sometimes to get funds for some of our projects.
Here is a new development on the fruit trees in the park project.The Challenge Grant that Park and Recreation said would become available in July has been delayed until who knows when. So if we want to plant the fruit trees we will need to come up with a chain link fence around the area. It also sounds like they want to use green plastic coated chain link, instead of something creative, beautiful, and cheap.