Everything’s Coming up Gardens

What a glorious day of sharing! Sunday was on target of what I have imagined a neighborhood food sharing network would be like.  I really don’t have a lot of produce to bring to the stand these days. Everything is mostly coming from 18th and Rhode Island. The greens there are about over in terms of harvesting and we don’t have anything to replace them with so far.

Just as we started setting up, Ed a neighbor on Shotwell St. came by with 10lbs of lemons from his tree. Then a man and two women whose names I unfortunately have forgotten came by with two big bins of really beautiful baby kale and chard that they just harvested. I was so busy weighing the bounty that I didn’t get a photo, but truly it was like some angels had arrived with gifts from heaven. I brought some white sapotes from my tree that Mike cut up to give people a taste.  Wendy brought some more greens from the SPROUTS school gardens she teaches in. I heard Allison dropped off produce too.  We had about forty pounds of avocados that Lauren dropped off. Read about where they came from  towards the end of this blog. All the gardens that we have been encouraging and helping in some ways came by with some produce which made me feel great Spike brought green onions and greens,  Lisa brought some broccoli, and Clara and crew brought by greens from the Secret Garden.  The Secret Garden is really taking off and I am so happy that there seems to be a regular day of activity happening there on Sundays. Brooke and Courtney came by with some extra produce  from their local little business called Little City Gardens (http://www.littlecitygardens.com/).  Although I am in the free world I must say that Little City Gardens has charm and class.  I am also impressed that they raised over $15,000 I think in a couple of weeks on a website called kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1189103863/little-city-gardens-an-experiment-in-the-economic). Brooke told me they are working on getting a larger piece of land so they can expand and start a CSA, which I think is much better than just supplying fancy restaurants with expensive greens.

Urban Agriculture is so much in the air these days. I have even been invited to be on a panel to talk to some students at USF on Tuesday on the subject “URBAN AGRICULTURE in the 21st CENTURY…
Where art, commerce, education, politics and generosity meet to promote city-grown food”. Melinda Stone is a professor of Environmental Studies at USF who is hosting this panel discussion and is the one who contacted me. She asked if before the discussion I would check out their gardens.  My friend Justin is the garden coordinator at their garden on Turk near Masonic on campus. I have wanted to visit the garden for some time and finally did get over there last week. This is also the garden where some of our Free Farm Stand volunteers go to school. Melinda Stone and another professor actually started the garden and then got the school to hire a coordinator when the project started growing bigger. She has just recently gotten her foot in the door at another garden at Booker T Washington Service Center near Sutter and Presidio, not far from the university. Both sites are fantastic.  I was really inspired with what Jason and the students have done at this garden. This is also the place that has set up another Free Farm Stand on campus for students and neighbors. The Booker T Washington site is behind the Family Resource Center and is a former SLUG garden that has been sitting vacant and abandoned for years. Students are cleaning it up, laying down cardboard, and mulching. There are also some beds they are going to plant. Melinda said she was inspired by the idea that we have been promoting of creating a neighbor nexus of food growing. So with the growing interest in students wanting to get involved with urban agriculture she is expanding the gardens near the university that are growing food for the community. The Family Resource Center next to the new garden will be great because they already have a food pantry on Mondays happening there that can get fresh produce from the garden. Already some greens from the university garden have made their way to the pantry and people love them.

One of the things that really excited me was the number of fruit trees planted at the university site. This is an amazing resource for the city, besides the fruit it will produce for the “shoppers” at the USF Farm Stand. If everyone could keep a record of what they are growing and keeping notes think how valuable that would be to everyone interested in fruit growing!

The Free Farm is rocking! Did I mention our blog for this collaborative project: http://thefreefarm.org? On Wednesday more work was done on finishing the steps going down to the farm and the trellis was strengthened with wire.  On Saturday  two more pickup  trucks of compost were brought in and by the end of the day the pile was gone. Hopefully this Saturday we are getting 12 yards of manure, but I am sure we can use much, much more. Thanks to the generosity of Sunnyside Organic Nursery we got a lot of seedlings donated and we actually got one 4 x 25’ bed planted with lettuce. We have a lot more seedlings that really need to go in the ground soon, but we need the beds double dug. If the manure comes in we are ready to have a digging and moving manure party this Saturday. Sunday will be arbor day and but celebrations begin here in San Francisco on Saturday (see calendar). If you want to come by our Free Farm on Saturday we will be planting some trees as part of the celebration of trees.


Besides planting beds, more pathways got sheet mulched, a side of the hill got mulched and planted with some perennials and sunflowers, and we grafted some avocados. This is a whole story in itself. When Case and Lauren went to Sunnyside Nursery to get a donation of seedlings, there was a giant avocado tree next door. They got permission to pick the avocados and I suggested they take some scion wood. It turned out the avocados were some kind of Haas, though unfortunately they were harvested too early. It takes some experience to know when to pick an avocado. Haas avocados need to stay on a tree for a year before they are ready to pick and even then you pick them when they are hard. Ideally you want a dark green color on the Haas avocado when you pick it vs a light yellow green avocado.

Last week I sent out two grant proposals, one for a greenhouse for the site. As I was telling a friend if we get a greenhouse the revolution will really begin. What the urban ag movement needs is a big  greenhouse and a lot of manure (plus some free or cheap land of course).

In the meantime some great gifts are coming in for the Free Farm: tools, lumber, and all the drip irrigation supplies we will need for a lot of the farm (thanks to a generous donation from a landscaper named Palmer who got us everything on our list for  a drip system). Thanks!

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