I loved the produce table this week with all the variety of super local fruit and vegetables on it. It was like taking a holiday in vegetable land. According to the book Cornocopia II there are “approximately fifteen thousand species of plants recorded in literature as having been used as food by man.” The author of the book Stephan Facciola says that “most of the world is fed by approximately twenty crops…”. Here at the stand we strive to grow everything we can, the more diversity the better.

We had Yacón root (more on that later), Jerusalem artichoke, Purple Sweet Potato (just harvested from the garden), yellow and green zucchini (this may be the end of the harvest though the plants are still alive and growing despite it being December), winter squash, pineapple guavas, four kinds of sprouts, including red quinoa, red clover, black beluga lentils, and wheat sprouts, sunflower greens, Rocoto peppers, kale, chard, collards, lettuce, and oyster mushrooms. The mushrooms were picked from the FARM garden next to California College of Arts. They were really delicious (I sampled them to make sure no one got sick…actually I cooked one by cutting it up and sauteing it in Earth Balance margarine ). I have never gotten into growing mushrooms or eating wild ones before, but now I am hooked (a friend picked some chanterelles for me a few weeks back and that is actually what first got me excited). Mushrooms are great for our gardens too.

The selection from the farmer’s market was not bad either including grapes (where are they from this time of year?). We also had some industrial organic definitely not sustainable mangos. It was a nice day despite the slight rain we got and again the amount of produce was low and it wasn’t off the hook with a huge line that never ended. We had a lot of great volunteers helping as usual which I am so grateful for.

I have been giving away Yacón root starts for a few weeks now (someone came by a while back with extra roots) and it is a good vegetable to grow if you have the space. Pam Pierce writes about this plant on her blog, which by the way I highly recommend as regular reading: http://goldengategarden.typepad.com/golden_gate_gardener_/2008/04/yacon-or-bolivi.html. It is a perennial plant and is in the same Daisy family as Jerusalem artichokes or sunchokes. It has both a storage root that is sweet that you eat and a propagation root that you plant to clone it. Wikipedia also has a lot of information about the plant, including other parts of the plant you can use (like the leaves) and information on its religious and medicinal connections. Yacón is also known as the Bolivian Sunroot and is another plant grown in the Andes region, like the Rocoto peppers we had on the table too. Both plants are great to have around for winter harvest (the Rocoto pepper is still growing and fruiting).

We should all be giving praise and thanks for the rains that came to town the last few days. Speaking of getting out into the elements, on Saturday I put on my rain gear and grabbed some shovels and headed to Mission High to participate in a fruit tree planting there. The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (http://www.ftpf.org/) donated 15 or 16 trees and berries to the school to plant with the students. I was amazed at the big turnout of kids on a rainy Saturday to plant trees. The people from the foundation and the staff at the school were great too. Planting fruit trees and berries is one of my favorite things to do (even in the rain). Can you imagine fruit trees growing in a high school, not just in a garden adjacent to the school, but in a court yard within the building? I can imagine romantic scenarios of two high school sweethearts kissing under a persimmon tree like in the Garden of Eden.

This local food growing excitement and interest in urban homesteading that is taking over right now is like a sort of sixties revolution all over again. It’s a green love vibe, a red wiggler be-in, a sustainable and organic daisy chain, a local do it yourself tuning in (and a turning out of the compost). Time magazine just came out with an article on humane manure (http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1945764,00.html), holy shit!

I pray that this current revolution doesn’t get totally sold out, that we can focus our work on sharing and caring for others. I heard that the Homeless Connect garden on Octavia and Lilly St broke ground last week. I don’t know what the vision for that project is, but it has to be good just in the fact that they are reclaiming some earth by pulling up a parking lot. I also heard that the city has ok’d putting in some kind of sustainable, permaculture oriented garden/farm at Laguna and Oak where the freeway has been torn down. As I understand it the land can only be used temporarily whatever that means (they want to leave open the possibility of developing the land). I also heard that the city is giving $50,000 seed money towards this project, some of which is going into salaries for people to manage the project. Part of the plan is having a farmer’s market there for San Francisco farmers only. Another idea is to have all economic models represented at this garden. One the traditional capitalist model, one that is based on barter or a different currency, and one that is based on the free economy (I was actually invited to help set up another Free Farm Stand there). This could be an exciting project to see develop, but there are a lot of questions I have that I hope will be answered eventually.

I am leaving town Saturday December 19th and will return Jan 4th. When I get back I hope to have some fresh energy and clarity in the New Year. I sense that there will be even more food growing locally than this year. The stand this year has given away now 6200 pounds of hecka locally grown and gleaned produce (this is produce that I know who grew it or picked it within 100 miles of the city). Over 1000 pounds of vegetables were grown on the once vacant lot at 18th and Rhode Island St. and that is only a year that we have been developing that garden.

Vanessa will open the stand next Sunday the 20th of December and then we will be closed December 27 and January 4.

Look out for the blue moon coming up the last day of this month.

Last night winter was knocking on our windows and doors with a short burst of hail and later we had a small amount of cold rain. I thought about all the seedlings and potted young plants I have started and how I wish I could put more of them under cover, like in a green house. We did pull off another Free Farm Stand with cool and cloudy weather but it was dry, though we didn’t have as many people as usual. We are definitely in our winter season mode with less vegetables being harvested and less gleaning of left-overs from the farmer’s market.

We did have an impressive amount of greens that we harvested on Friday from the 18th and Rhode Island garden. We also harvested a handful of small zucchini. I am really impressed with this variety called Soleil (though it is a hybrid) that produces non-stop, is easy to find and pick, and gets less mildew than other varieties. I hear tonight there will be a frost so that might do in the rest on the plants.

Mentioning 18th and Rhode Island, we had a great work day on Friday. Mike a park director down the hill brought all these neighborhood 2 and 3 year old rug rats to help in the garden. I had seven varieties of potatoes that I thought it would be daring to try planting at this time of year. So the kids and parents had fun planting making tater towers until their attention span went elsewhere.

Jeanie who I volunteer with at Martin de Porres gave me a basket full of pineapple guavas that we gave out (it is always fun to turn someone on to a delicious fruit they haven’t tried before…especially kids). Lyn dropped off three bags of delicious sprouts that she grew. My sprouts are behind schedule because of my distracted mind. Being that we had relatively so little produce for the number of people showing up we ran out early like last week, like around 2pm we started getting pretty low on most things except bread. Then as we were closing up Clara and Bianca showed up with some greens from the Secret Garden and out of nowhere two people came by to take them.

Being the end of the year I am shifting to a more contemplative mode and have been thinking about all the garden/local food growing opportunities that popped up this year. People are calling who want help turning their backyards into gardens, schools are ripe with potential projects (there is a fruit tree planting coming up this Saturday at Mission High), new lots ready to turn into urban farms, existing gardens needing help, a fruit tree orchard itching to move into a park, etc. The bottom line is there a lot that we can do and a lot of dreams to be sowed and harvested. A lot of food can be grown to feed hungry people.

On Saturday I just happened to pick up the Bay Guardian, partly because the cover illustration and feature article caught my eye:” Out of reach: Organic, sustainable slow food is wonderful — unless you’re poor or a farmworker ( http://tinyurl.com/ycf4ejr). The illustration reminded me of my friend Lauren’s drawing on her web site Produce to the People. On hers there are arms and hands outstretched reaching for fruit in trees and some hands are holding the fruit they just picked. In the Guardian the arms and hands are reaching out for carrots that can’t get to. This article, especially the first paragraphs reflects some of my thinking and was one of the main reasons I started the Free Farm Stand: “Though organic grocery stores and farmers markets have sprung up on San Francisco’s street corners, it remains to be seen whether our current mania for sustainable, local food will positively affect the lower classes, be they farm workers or poor families.” I think we all do what we can to improve the current mess we have going now and I have always thought like Gerrard Winstanley and the diggers of 1649 that the “earth is a common treasury for all to share”. They dug up the commons or vacant lands and grew food on it to share with everyone.

Plans are starting to get firmed up for the rest of this month. I am leaving town on Saturday December 19
th and will return on Monday January 4th next year. So we will be open rain or shine December 12th and December 20th (I have at least two people committed to opening that Sunday I will be gone).We will be closed December 27 and January 3 I also am trying to focus right now before I leave on things other than gardening so don’t know how available I will be to work with people. The cold weather is not for gardeners, but gives much needed chill to our fruit trees.