Today as I was walking Bernal Hill for my daily dose of exercise and meditation two bumper stickers on parked cars seem to grab my attention. “What are you grateful for today?” and “Girls kick ass”. I love thinking about things I am grateful for and there is no short supply. I also have been thinking about all the great feminine energy that I have been around recently. One example, the Free Farm Stand has a cash crop of fabulous helpers these days and a lot of them are strong beautiful women. Not to say there are no strong beautiful men who have been helping, there are, but the women are out there in full force these days and they are mostly running the show.

On Saturday I attended the sweet memorial celebrating the life of Barbara Collier, one of the main love engines who ran the Martin de Porres soup kitchen and community. I could summarize some of that event as being about both gratefulness and kick ass women. Everyone was so grateful for Barbara for the way she touched their lives and grateful for Martin’s. She also had a special deep connection with women who were woven throughout her life. Besides the 30 plus year old women’s group she was a part of (it started out as a play group for their children and is still going strong), she had many close soul sisters that she loved and who loved her. She stayed in touch with them (one with regular phone calls to Germany), and she also worked with them at Martin’s. I also came away from the Martin’s remembering the lesson she taught by example, of doing things through our heart rather than our minds.

A funny thing happened this week in relationship to the Free Farm Stand. Because of the memorial happening at Martin’s, all food donations deliveries were canceled. Thanks to Green Gulch farm I was able to get a number of boxes of extra greens they gave to me. And I got some industrial organic food donated by Veritable Vegetable brought to me by Food Not Bombs. I was also feeling that we were doing pretty good with vegetables that we harvested from our gardens. I reminded myself that I am not running a food program exactly and that I want to emphasize growing our own if we can. I purposely did not try to collect more produce to make up for the shortfall we would have, considering the number of people who are showing up these days. As it turned out at 3pm on Saturday, an hour before I was to leave for the memorial, Food Runners contacted me and had a truckload of produce left over from the Ferry Building Farmer’s market and they were even willing to drop it off at my home.

So needless to say we had a ton of produce both on the super local table and the left over organic table. I had a huge harvest from the Esperanza Garden and the trombone squash were truly spectacular. They grew the best of all the locations we are gardening at, because the heat from the concrete wall reflects into the space. I also am excited by the eggplant growing there; it is such a beautiful plant besides being a tasty vegetable to eat.

The squash from the Permaculture garden is impressive in terms of how productive they are. I also actually brought some produce from my shady backyard, 3lbs of tomatoes. And talk about local, we had 3lbs of chestnuts a bunch of us harvested from the sidewalk kitty corner from the park where we set up the stand. A neighbor brought grapefruit from her backyard Tree on Treat that she said were sour, but I took one home and it made a delicious juice. Two others brought tomatoes they had grown. Lauren brought delicious and beautiful apples she had picked from nearby. L dropped off some of her delicious sprouts that she grew. I am hoping soon that we can offer sprout kits to people so they can grow their own sprouts. Autumn brought by olives and olive spreads from the farmer’s market, samples that they gave out and were left over at the end of the day. I love these gestures of sharing and it is really what makes the stand fun and about community. Also, she played violin with a beautiful brother named Jorge that played his homemade instrument out of recycled materials, like a bow with a gourd amplifier on it and a stick that he hit it with. Did I mention the return of the figs? I guess being a fig grower it is either use it or lose it. I had another 28 boxes of figs and because of the heat they some were starting to rot before we could even give them away. I am amazed thought that we had enough food for everyone that came, considering the line never really disappeared until way late in the day.

The plant/garden table was not happening much this week. I am really behind in growing seedlings and have been getting by on donations of starts from Green Gulch. We not only still need a consistent person at the plant table, but someone to help start growing seedlings for our gardens and to give them away at the table on Sundays. I think we could be offering people seedling starter kits and encourage help starting seedlings in homes in the area. Anyone got space in a small greenhouse or sunny window or porch?

I am excited because we will soon have two new gardens in backyards growing some local produce, some of which will be shared at the Free Farm Stand. It seems almost every week I meet people who are excited about what we are doing and they want to know how they can help. And a lot of people say they want to learn how to garden or just get their hands in some dirt. The sidebar on this page will list the garden work parties coming up and how people can help out and what we need. I just learned that a pile of manure on Bernal Hill is available to people who want some for their garden. I wonder if there is someone who wants to collect some for different gardens I know of that can use some?

Also, read about the fruit picking opportunity coming up next Saturday on the side bar. If anyone has a vehicle or even not, but may want to get out of the city for a trip to Clear Lake (2 ½ hours away), some guy is offering people to come up and pick his 1200 pear trees and give the fruit to the food bank or other groups like the Free Farm Stand.

I heard recently that My Farm went out of business, that they went broke (I do not know how to confirm this information though I got it from a good source). Someone described to me that their operation was run like a ponzi scheme, in that they were operating on the money that they got from installing gardens in people backyards, but they didn’t make enough to maintain the gardens or pay people. Although I have not been a big fan of My Farm, I do think that the more gardens growing food in the city the better. I hope all the gardens are kept going (I heard they had something like 70).

I also agree with my friend who told me about My Farm who says growing food to make a profit is not a good business. From my experience this last year or so, it is a lot of work to be a farmer. I know people trying to do that and live off their work, and I think good luck. Though getting $25 a pound for local grown lettuce sounds like a great way to make money, sort of like growing marijuana without the legal hassle. Time will tell with these operations how successful they can be and not getting burnt out. I know that most of us have to pay rent and that is a good question how to do that and have time too for repairing the world. The answer lies in being creative and committed to that goal, and it gets back to starting things with compassion in the heart.

Here we are with the Fall Equinox approaching and I feel like I need to catch my breath as this year rushes by. Gandhi had his experiments with Truth and I have been having my experiment with planting and growing a Free Farm Stand. Every week in the park it seems like there is an incredible amount of energy present like a love bomb exploding. First there are now large numbers of people showing up, standing in a line winding out the gate of the park and going down the sidewalk. Then people hang around after shopping, tasting some jam and bread, wandering in the garden, laying on the grass, or kids running around doing what they do. Everyone seems so friendly and cheerful; maybe it is just the sunny weather. Then we have all the hustle and bustle of the great crew of volunteers who show up who work at sorting through boxes of produce and arranging the tables so they look beautiful. And they do and the food itself gives off a vibe that pulsates with life force. I think people really feel it, I know I do.

I love harvesting food that I have helped to plant and grow, I was thinking that last Friday as I picked some of the produce for the stand at 18th St. and Rhode Island. I also really like meeting so many really sweet people that I am meeting each week, there seems to be an equal abundance of beautiful produce and people.

In the Bay Area seasons are most evident at a farm stand by seeing what is locally grown. Tomatoes and squash rule the day in the approaching fall season and we had our share this week. Dave who lives next door to the Secret Garden brought 10lbs of apples from his backyard tree and I had a 10lb bag of locally picked pears that I don’t know where they came from (they were dropped off anonymously at the soup kitchen where I volunteer). We also had another huge amount of figs, about 30 boxes, left over from the farmer’s market. Later in the day as we were running low on super local food Clara came by with 9lbs of produce from the Secret Garden.

A couple of other beautiful things happened all on their own at the stand yesterday. Lyn gave me about ten bags she had crocheted to give out to people at the stand to put their food in. Here is the note she wrote that we put in each bag (Pancho translated it into Spanish):

This bag has been handmade as a gift for someone who is a part of the Free Farm Stand community; in other words, you.
I give away a part of me with each bag I give out. I make these bags to help spread the feeling of being nurtured and at the same time to inspire people (you) to bring this when you come for the special produce you get here. I would also be thrilled if you could use this bag as inspiration to find your own way of making your own connections with our community.
In making these bags I have only used materials from thrift stores, friends’ leftovers, and other places that don’t involve new materials. No two bags are alike.
Enjoy your day, the Farm Stand, the bags, and the new paradigm that we’re creating.

I assigned Pancho the difficult task of distributing the bags since there were only 10. At the end as Pancho was giving the last bag to someone and another woman asked if she could have it , and Lyn offered to make her a bag to give that she would give her next week!
Another outstanding gesture of sharing happened when my friend Steve pulled up with his home made bicycle refreshment stand. He set up an umbrella and served aqua fresca with melon juice and ice. An act that was hard to beat considering it was pretty warm out there in the park and the line for that was almost as long as the line for the produce. He ran out pretty fast and he said he needed another large glass jar to store more aqua fresca in.

Things are moving ahead with two new backyard gardens coming to life. I think we have found Garden Anchors for the gardens and garden workdays/parties are being planned (see sidebar under volunteer opportunities and events). Yesterday a man who has lived in the neighborhood forever and actually helped us make this park a reality years ago told me he needs help with his garden too. He has an orange and avocado tree in his yard that he wants help picking too later in winter and he’ll share his surplus. And a friend just wrote me that he is moving into a place in the Haight where there are four backyards and no fences and the neighbors are into making a big garden and he is looking forward to doing just that.

Last week was an emotional week for me. The previous Sunday (the morning it rained shortly) a friend of mine name Barbara died totally unexpectedly in her sleep. She was one of the core leaders at Martin de Porres (the Catholic Worker soup kitchen I have been helping at for years). Her loss is going to be tremendous. Two things I was reminded of was how sweet and wonderful having a loving, caring community is that an individual can count on for support. It is probably the most important thing we can have in life and it seems worth it to put the time it takes and patience developing that kind of community. And again I am reminded that our time in this world can be very short so we need to make sure we don’t get caught up in distractions like dramas that can ruffle our feathers and make us sad or angry. I need to remind myself of this all the time, to take a deep breath.

At our Friday work day at 18th and Rhode Island Lyn brought some apples from Golden Gate Park and honey from our bee hive for us all to eat to celebrate the New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and so that our New Year will be sweet. Already things are moving in that direction.