Good Food Movement

Last week I did something I have not done before. I started writing a list of things I wanted to write about this week, because the exciting news ­­­­­­­­­­­­­related to local food growing kept coming to me fast and furious through my email in-box. It started with a link Christy sent me to a New York Times article about an urban farmer dude in Milwaukee named Will Allen: I have heard of this guy before and have checked out his inspiring web site with information and pictures about his non-profit: Another friend Nanda sent me the same link to the NY Times article earlier, but I didn’t check it out for some reason. She mentioned he is in this documentary movie called Fresh which I haven’t seen. The New York Times has a way of writing about these saints in such a way as to get a person like me totally worked up and it is like an Urban Farmer’s Wet Dream reading about this project. I almost thought of traveling to the Midwest to learn all I could from him about growing large amounts of produce and making tons of worm compost in the middle of the city. Though a lot of what he does is run a business and they have become quite big (I still believe small is beautiful), they donate food to organizations that serve families that are struggling or homeless. On his web site they say: “We believe that no one should have to choose between rent and food. Neighbors should help neighbors. We are always looking for partners who can utilize our excess bounty to support people in need through meals and prepared produce bags.

Guisepi from the Free Tea Party sent me a link that he ran across on Craigslist free section:> He said we are doing similar things and he was right: “The Marin Open Garden Project organizes weekly meetings of backyard gardeners to exchange excess fruit, vegetables and other goodies from their gardens in Mill Valley, Larkspur, San Rafael, and San Anselmo. Have a tree full of fruit? The Project will harvest unwanted fruit from your garden and distribute it to other neighbors and community food banks and soup kitchens. Let us harvest your fruit trees with our trained volunteers. Need a plot? Let us introduce you to a gardener with land to share. We are also working to expand the number of community gardens in Marin County and create a seed library tailored to Marin’s distinctive microclimates. We are also creating a garden tool library from which residents may borrow tools at no cost.” I got the title of this week’s blog from their blog where they mention the NY Times article as well and say he is part of the “good food movement”. I sort of like that name for a movement to describe all these great projects going on that mixes the ideas of growing healthy, sustainable, local food and neighborhoods and care for those people who are struggling to make ends meet. The local or slow food movement for me leaves out the poor in my opinion.

Last week I also learned that the Free Farm Stand got a mention in Buy Fresh Buy Local newsletter (put out by CAFF or Community Alliance with Family Farmers). Someone sent me the newsletter and there I read about another fabulous project in Concord, the Lemon Lady: “Fruit Harvesting For The Hungry & other Non-Profit Gardening Adventures. One-woman Campaign Against Hunger. 8,000+ pounds of local fruit harvested in only a few months! Meeting true angels along the way.. I feel the same way about always meeting angels in the work I do. I like it that besides harvesting fruit, she is also distributing seedlings and growing them, and giving out seeds to others who want to grow them too: . She also has another great project which is to distribute cups with soil in them that she gives out to schools for children to grow.

Then if that wasn’t enough overload for the week, I started getting emails about Mayor’s Newsom’s recent announcement: “All city departments have six months to conduct an audit of unused land – including empty lots, rooftops, windowsills and median strips – that could be turned into community gardens or farms that could benefit residents, either by working at them or purchasing the fresh produce. Food vendors that contract with the city must offer healthy and sustainable food. All vending machines on city property must also offer healthy options, and farmers’ markets must begin accepting food stamps, although some already do.” This from the July 9 Chronicle: The mayor traveled to West Oakland to visit City Slicker Farm, one of my early inspirations for the Free Farm Stand, to make this announcement. Maybe he doesn’t know about all the wonderful local food growing happening here, like at Alemany Farm (I just heard they arenot selling at the Bayview Hunters Point Farmer’s Market and are now doing a free/donation CSA to residents in the community and have 18 families so far). Or how about the efforts of our Free Farm Stand? Maybe this is all politics and getting attention in his bid for governor, but hey I like the ideas. I think we need to get someone’s ear and eye at city hall to help us get a mini-farm in the Mission so we can carry on the “good food” movement. Free Local Food for the Hungry grown in our neighborhood! I also heard that Project Homeless Connect is getting a garden on Octavia between Oak and Fell and I don’t know much more yet.

Here are some facts that we can use in our bid for land. I am working on putting a local produce counter on this site. andI have already created a spreadsheet, thanks to Daniel who just moved out here and visited the stand recently, and is helping me with technical issues. I calculated that we have collected and given out 1,231 pounds of locally grown produce since the beginning of this year (I don’t have the records for the first year). That includes all the produce we have grown or people have brought to the stand every week and all the fruit that has been gleaned and brought to the stand. This does not include the thousands of pounds of fresh, locally grown organic produce that comes from the end of the day left over’s from the two farmer’s markets, nor the bread that we give out. Two gardens are on lots that were vacant and were turned into mini-farms. These two vacant lots have grown 240 lbs. of produce so far (the Esperanza garden might be closed soon because the property has been sold and is in escrow). We need to tell the mayor we are doing the work now to make our neighborhoods more sustainable and food secure and we just need help getting some land (I understand that is a big need).

Farm Stand Update

Getting back to the world of the Free Farm Stand, we had another beautiful day out in the sun with lots of fresh local produce, great volunteers, and sweet shoppers. We had about 120lbs of super local food on the table including lots of summer vegetables…green beans, greens, a few tomatoes that went fast, plums (two kinds), loquats, lemons, herbs, and zucchini. Produce to the People provided the loquats and brought their 3 person crew of high school students to help. Two of them that came last week I think are enjoying the work of giving away the produce and one person noted that they seem to be developing a sense of empowerment and authority. At least two people came by with lemons. A fellow that went on the Neighborhood Fruit gleaning trip to Golden Gate Park did manage to bring a bag of cherry plums to the stand. It sounded like they got hassled by park rangers picking the fruit (I guess there were a number of them who showed up attracting attention). Here is the mayor on one side saying we need to grow more food, but the park rangers saying no…not in my backyard literally.

The other produce table was looking good also. Here is a new development. Last week I made a connection with Jack from Food Not Bombs. They have started reconnecting with Veritable Vegetables and getting food from them on Fridays. I guess they can’t use it so they asked me if I wanted it to give out at the stand. When I first started the stand I contacted VV to see about getting a connection with them for their donated produce. At that time they were all filled up with people they give surplus produce to. I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity to get more free produce so I said yes, since they have a sister who delivers it by bike cart. So the produce from them is what I call industrial organic, at least some of it coming from big farms and some of it quite a distance away. I got organic cherry tomatoes from Mexico, organic sprouts from Sacramento, both packaged in plastic, some lettuce, and a few red peppers. I realize it is a slippery slope I am tripping on, but I see it all as gleaning and putting good food that would otherwise go to waste feeding people. I have drawn the line from dumpster diving the food that the supermarket across the street from me throws out and bringing it to the stand (though I put it in my compost). Most of it is non-organic and pretty funky, though I did score some organic bananas there once that I gave away to friends for smoothies. At the end of the Farm Stand day Maria brought by some rice and beans that the volunteers and a shopper ate. A number of us sat on the lawn in the gorgeous sun and Maggie brought out this beautiful steel drum she got in Switzerland.It had the sweetest sound ever and it really made me high listening to both her and Jeremy play it. Next week she might bring it again and Jeremy said he would bring a flute and jam with her.

I again want to say how much I appreciate the great help we have been getting. Most of the photos this week came from Cristina and that takes a load off trying to document the scene and what comes in every week on the table. I also was glad that Maggie has started managing the plant table and I hope that will expand in the future, offering more advice, seeds, seedlings, and information. And Asher did a great job at our bread table.

Potato Towers Update

I forgot to mention that we had a few potatoes that were harvested this week from my back yard and the Secret Garden. From my backyard I harvested 2lbs. of potatoes from two towers (one a trash can and the other a 5 gallon black plastic pot). The other potatoes (4lbs) came from three trash cans and one wire tower. I feel pretty embarrassed to admit that the potato towers that I have grown so far were a total failure with very low yields. I suspect it all has to do with what I put in the towers to grow the potatoes. I basically used stuff that was easily available like fine wood chips form Bay View Greenwaste, straw, some compost, some manure. It seems like with this method you need a lot of something good to grow the potatoes in like maybe good dirt. Whatever you use it seems like it was a lot of trouble gathering the materials either to layer the potatoes as they grew or to make a tower using the lasagna method, covering the layers of potatoes with soil and other stuff in layers to the top of my container. I am waiting to hear results from other gardeners and then I have more tater towers that we will harvest soon. The kids I worked with at the Secret Garden had a lot of fun though looking for potatoes, though we didn’t have very much to find.

Plum Picking and Work Day at 18th and Rhode Island

On Friday we had a great turn out for the garden work day. We pulled weeds (actually pulled up nasty but beautiful bindweed and chopped and dropped other weeds for aesthetic reasons mainly, and watered. After we had a lunch break we harvested the plus from the yard neighboring the garden. I think humans have built in wiring to enjoy harvesting fruit. Everyone gets the most beautiful smile on their face when they pick fruit, sweet or sour. They jump for joy! We picked 90lbs of plums. My friend Eli made jam with about 30lbs of the fruit, but I didn’t get it until today so I will bottle it and give it away next week. It is really a shame that so much fruit growing on trees gets wasted. When I looked at our harvest yields, a lot of the harvest weight is do to the large amounts of fruit we have picked. The conclusion is simple. We have to plant more fruit trees everywhere and then learn to maintain them and pick them too. And to not get greedy and to share. Look for the fruit tree planting party in the park where we have the stand…it may take more months to make it happen but it looks promising.

Esperanza Harvest

I must mention that I got excited by the great yield I got from the Esperanza garden this week. I can’t believe I harvested so many greens (9lbs.). We could have planted the area much more densely and gotten hecka more produce, but I was working with people that wanted a place for a stage and for the audience to sit. I also haven’t put a lot of energy into the space because it has never been clear where the food goes that is being grown there. When it seemed that no one was doing anything with the crop that was ready to harvest, I got the ok to bring it to the stand. Now I am waiting to hear if the property is still in escrow and how much more time we have there, which will tell us if we should put in another crop.

My cartoon about bees and honey is now up (Beegan Beekeeping). Scroll down on the sidebar to the cartoon and click on the drawing to check it out. You can right click on the hive sounds and open in a new tab to hear the hive sounds and listen to our bees while reading the comic. Lyn has been helping me bottling honey to give away and I will also be printing up copies to give out with the honey at the stand (I have to finish the Spanish version). I just wanted to try to explain why a vegan is messing around with bees and honey. Also look at the “Dream To Do list ” of projects that I would like to see happen someday. I thought I needed a place to keep them until they come true.

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