I really enjoyed the summer diversity of produce on the home grown table this week and the colors were impressive. There were two small eggplant that were grown at the Esperanza Garden (a first for growing that hot weather loving vegetable). Page brought some beautiful okra from a garden that he tends at Stanford where he works and a big basket of beautiful tomatoes of different shapes and sizes. It really gets me high to grow these hot weather vegetables and fruits or to see them show up at the stand to be shared. Maybe this is all because of global warming, but it sure is fun and makes one feel like a real farmer (no slight intended to cooler weather crops). There were potatoes from the Secret Garden, fingerlings and a pinkish variety called Desiree. The different squashes were attractive, I especially felt proud of the big kobacha squash from 18th and Rhode Island and the trombone squash from Treat Commons. We also had two spaghetti squash from the Arkansas Community Garden. Lynn has been growing some tasty and handsome sprouts and this week she had sprouted amaranth. It is almost like a birthday party or Christmas and I never know who is going to show up with some gift. I didn’t see who brought the four pounds of lemons, Fred brought some produce from Langton St. Community Garden, and towards the very end of the day someone showed up with about 20lbs of the most beautiful and sweet orange cherry tomatoes (like Sungold variety) and 5 lbs. of green onions from a farm in Mendocino called Northstone Organics (a not-for-profit medical cannabis cooperative that grows herbs and food according to the web). I would love to put out a big thank you to the universe.

We had a large crowd again at the beginning, with lines out the gate and down the sidewalk, but at some point it slowed down and mellowed out a bit. We had a good garden table and we gave away a lot of seedlings, mostly collards. I also finally got my cartoon printed out and so gave away honey from our hive. This is the same cartoon I posted a while back and you can view or download it on the sidebar.

One of the main things that is happening at the stand besides a lot of really good organic produce being distributed is that people are sticking around and talking to each other. It is amazing all the connections out there, people who know each other or know someone you know. And I am excited that we got our first neighbor approaching us about putting in a garden in her backyard. Apparently she wants to have a garden in her backyard, but needs help because she is rather busy and doesn’t have the time to put in a garden, at least by herself. She contacted My Farm but said she doesn’t have a $1,000 to have them do it. My idea is to find people who want to garden, don’t have their own space, but they can help people put in gardens that do have space but maybe no time, and then they can share the surplus at the Free Farm Stand.

What is needed in this dreamy plan are people with some free time to garden. I am so glad Clara is now managing the Secret Garden and working with people who want to help grow food to share with low income neighbors. I might have found someone to oversee food production at Esperanza Garden and now we have a garden to build from scratch.

Last week I had an exciting conversation with David and Kevin who teach urban permaculture design courses in the city. There is this idea out there that we can realistically only grow so much food in the city to feed everyone. The next thing we could do is to have farms right outside the city that one could easily get to without being dependent on a car. At one time Kevin was looking into looking for land and forming a community in Castro Valley, an unincorporated part of Alameda County which is a gentle 3 miles bike ride from Hayward Bart (that is 3 miles to the rim of a canyon where there is agricultural land that was once part of a very big ranch. Also, apparently the land was never used for chemical agriculture). He thinks that there is some land there that would be ideal for a permaculture community/farm. The idea is somewhat modeled on the idea of Rotterdam Garden clubs mentioned in the “Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual which I haven’t read. Another part of the idea would be to have a city and a country branch of the community and people would do something like a time share and spend some of the time in the country and some in the city.

I love these kinds of dreams. I often get exhausted living in the city and overwhelmed with the noise, the crowded feeling, and distractions. I blame a lot of the problems on car culture. Then there is the fucked up system we have where we can be some of the richest people living high off the hog, but still have hungry, homeless, neglected people everywhere that we are supposed to ignore (while we look out for ourselves and Eat Real). But we are lucky to have so much opportunity to create something better and there is so much fun and beautiful work we can do. Starting by growing more of food in cities and nearby and sharing the bounty with those in need, and then building our own healthy communities is a good start.

Here are more pictures from last weeks stand:

The main thing that sticks out in my mind about the Free Farm Stand was the long line that formed now extending out the gate and down the sidewalk. I think we ran out of food early, certainly before 3pm. The super local table was full and we did extend its size because it we had a lot of produce. Zucchini and squash ruled the day. Page brought a large collection that he had grown and we had a lot of volunteer squash from 18th and Rhode Island (and zucchini too). I picked a neighbors apple and lemon tree and Produce to the People brought apples. . Nanda brought lemons and zucchini I think surplus from a community garden in San Jose. Someone brought some nice jam from the Secret Garden plums that we served on the bread table (more will be given out next week). Ray brought more ice tea. I continue to pick up a lot of donated food every week, including having a great connection with Green Gulch Farm, run by the Zen Center, where I have been getting flats of starts and some surplus produce. This weeks total super local produce was 174lbs.

The Garden table is going pretty well and every week people are taking home seedlings. We tried something else, which was Page’s idea, is that we gave away our first “instant salad garden”. A large pot with two lettuces and an arugula plant in it. So all one has to do it take it home, put it somewhere with at least a little sun, and let it grow until harvest time. Also, I am excited that I am finding people to help manage the different gardens growing food for the stand. If anyone wants to garden there is plenty to do. The slide shows have more pictures of the gardens which I hope inspires people who want to get their hands in dirt and grow food to share with neighbors in need.

I continue to hope that the Free Farm Stand can play a significant role in encouraging local food growing and sharing the surplus and wealth of our urban gardens and farms. That we are not just known as a place to get free produce, though I think that is always nice, but a place to share the surplus bounty. I heard the other day that Mayor Newsom contacted three groups to come up with a plan for farming the vacant land at Laguna between Oak and Fell Streets where the freeway was torn down. The groups he contacted were the Permaculture Guild, John Bela with Rebar Group (he/they helped organize the Victory Garden in front of City Hall and is now working on the setting up a Homeless Connect Garden), and My Farm. I am not on the radar of the city hall folks, and I have a lot of ideas about this project, but I think this is the most exciting news I have heard recently. I think a plan has been submitted already and we will see what develops. This is a big piece of land and could grow a lot of food to feed hungry people in the city. I hope it goes in that direction, like the victory Garden at Civic Center last year that grew food for poor people. I put in a vote for a large fruit orchard and food given away to food pantries and free farm stands in different neighborhoods.

I am still trying to move forward with the project of basically expanding our community garden in the park and planting more fruit trees. I am slowing exploring raising funds to put a chain link fence around the area and possibly adding a greenhouse too. As you might know, I am totally excited right now of planting more fruit trees wherever we can in the city.